Mukhriz Mahathir: "The objective of the 1Malaysia concept mooted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is not achievable if there is no unity among the Malays."
Like other UMNO ministers, the Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister is equally attracted to the idea of Malay unity as the mother of all solutions to our woes and weaknesses. Interestingly, this idea of Malay unity was mooted and enthusiastically supported by a party in distress.
The UMNO-led BN coalition has seen its multiracial support dwindled to a historical low level. The massive lost of support and five consecutive defeats in by-elections would have jolted any political party to reconsider and revamp its political rhetoric and platform.
For UMNO to continue harping on Malay unity has surprised many observers, including myself. The electoral impact of such unity call is almost similar to PAS' Islamic state ambition. It will drive away many non-Malay supporters. The outcome would be an untenable BN.
The next surprising moment is the reactions from BN component parties. MCA's Chua Soi Lek has given contradictory opinions on this issue. He supported a unity talk between PAS and UMNO but insisted that this should not be done to marginalize the non-Malays. Chua, despite his experience and seniority, has failed to learn the lesson of Malaysian politics.
Can Chua assure us that the unity talk will not lead to a more race-centric and myopic government?
His president's reaction is even more confusing. Ong has repeatedly asked the DAP to draw its line with PAS but did not react comprehensively to the idea of Malay unity talk. He even proposed that MCA could similarly hold talks with other opposition parties, including the DAP. The latter has rejected the idea of a Chinese unity talk - which is a right thing to do.
SUPP has rejected this proposal. Even the Pakatan leaders were divided over the issue and the majority of them saw the proposal as a threat to the nascent coalition.
However, we must not be too quick to demonize the idea of Malay unity talk. If the notion of Malay unity can be carefully expanded and clearly defined, it should be able to persuade and catalyst a meaningful discourse on the future direction of Malay community.
Clearly, there are many issues and questions which are faced by the community. One major question is the continuation of the NEP which has clearly not benefited a large segment of the community. So far, the Najib administration has not been able to provide a decisive answer to the continuation of this policy. Instead, he has chosen to liberalize some 27 sub-sectors in the services industry which did not create much impact on the Malaysian economy.
A Malay unity cannot avoid discussing the socio-economic impact, weaknesses and challenges faced by the community. Can NEP continue to protect the interest of the community? Is NEP a good remedy to make the Malays more competitive in the global arena?
It is evident that both UMNO and PAS leaders were short of alternative proposals. The political ding-dong between those who supported and against the continuation of the policy did not result in a more refined solution.
The next question the community should ask is if the two parties are fit to lead the community into the 21st century?
The insistence to continue with the aging and outdated policy is a good example of how incapable these political parties are in leading the Malays into the era of globalisation.
The Malays cannot forever depend on a protectionist policy to safeguard their socio-economic interest. The worse thing which had happened is the policy does not even play this basic function anymore. Distribution of wealth and opportunities hinges more on know-who than need-based.
A well defined Malay unity talk should be able to tease out a comprehensive discourse on the future of the Malays. They should start to ask themselves if their political representatives are qualified and sincere enough to continue looking after their interest?
Next, any society hoping to thrive and survive in the current capitalist system should fear stagnation. Being stagnated means you will be left behind by other emerging societies. A Malay unity talk should also address the issue of stagnation and regression in a number of areas.
While the Malay participation in the civil sector is profound and meaningful, has it done them well?
Should the community continue to strive on numbers and quotas or on real skills and knowledge? Are the Malay youths more progressive and innovative compared to their parents' generation?
If the Malay unity talk is set on the need to conduct an introspection of the Malay psyche and needs, then the talk should be encouraged to proceed. Mukhriz is only half right. If the majority race in the country can courageously face their weaknesses and flaws and seek to strengthen their capabilities, it will contribute positively to the nation.
If the outcome of unity talk is to project numerical political prowess to score some psychological advantage over other minorities, then it will be a disastrous event for the nation.
The Malay community should also look at the current education system, judiciary system, economic system and others to ensure that they are benefiting from the nation's developmental agenda.
So far, the calls for both UMNO and PAS to pursue the unity talk have failed to convince us that the agenda of this talk is well defined and its outcome will result in a stronger, more resilient and competitive Malay community.
This is a Malaysian dilemma. Our politicians and policy makers are unable to think beyond the surface of a concept.
Eventually, the Malays and all other Malaysians must seek to answer this question: Where to, Malaysia?