We need to accept the fact that ours is a plural society – with all its good and bad. Our leaders must remember that they are leaders of all Malaysians. They must win the hearts of all races, not just one.
NOT many Chinese in Malaysia would want to hear this, nor can they accept this reality, but it is a fact that the community by itself cannot overthrow the Barisan Nasional government or more precisely send Umno into the opposition.
After failing to capture Putrajaya in the 2013 general election, there are many who now think the Sabahans and Sarawakians will deliver the votes to the opposition, which the Malays in the peninsula did not and probably will not in 2018.
It is wishful thinking that is based on an unrealistic dream. No matter how many planeloads of Chinese voters return from overseas to support the opposition, there can be no change unless the predominant Malay electorate goes along.
The 2013 election clearly showed that the majority of Malays kept their faith with Umno and last year’s Bersih rally was clearly dominated by the Chinese. In short, it was a yellow affair.
Sure, many diehard protestors would still insist there was a Malay presence and of course, there was, but the numbers were so insignificant they hardly stood out.
The lesson was clear enough – the absence of Malay protestors was because PAS stayed away and PKR could not deliver the numbers.
The demographic reality in Malaysia is that the Malays will never lose their grip on political power and Umno will remain to strengthen that hold.
Out of the 222 parliamentary seats, 166 are in the peninsula of which 70% are Malay-majority seats. There are only 22 Chinese-majority seats or merely 13% while there are 29 mixed seats. There is no Indian majority seat.
But even the demographics may change over the next two general elections in these 22 Chinese-majority seats.
In simple mathematics, even if every Chinese in Malaysia voted for the DAP, they can never make the party rule Malaysia.
And if we think that all the Chinese are so politically keyed-in, the latest statistics by the Election Commission on unregistered voters are an eye-opener. There are more than a million Chinese who have yet to register.
Of the 4.2 million unregistered voters, the Chinese account for 1.2 million and the Malays 1.8 million.
Malay politicians who create the fear that the Chinese will rule Malaysia via the DAP are also talking rubbish, creating a scenario that will never take place.
While the DAP has tried very hard to sell its multi-racial platform, it is essentially a Chinese party. That is not different from the Gerakan, which is Chinese majority, although its membership is open to all.
Amanah, the splinter group of PAS, may want to see non-Malays as members, but we can be sure the party won’t see any traction from the non-Malays.
As much as DAP strives to get more young Malays into the party, it does not help when Malay entrants are not voted into the party’s state committees except for a few.
The grassroot members in the DAP are still unable to see the value of these Malay members nor do they know how to work with their Malay partners. They kicked out PAS, quarrelled with PKR and harsh words were used by the DAP against Amanah over some pathetic councillor seats.
Such brashness and even arrogance is something the DAP leaders need to work on if they want to be part of an opposition pact to topple the Barisan.
Some of the DAP leaders, who are already in state government, still use the language of street fighters, forgetting that as state government leaders now, they need to speak with some finesse and decorum, befitting their status.
There is little wonder why a recent study by the Darul Ehsan Institute revealed that the Malays, especially in the rural areas, perceived the DAP as anti-Malay.
The study revealed that after the break-up of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition in June, the campaign to demonise the DAP as anti-Malay has become more effective, with Umno and PAS working together in the anti-DAP campaign.
In the survey by the institute conducted between Nov 13 and 15 last year, involving 1,716 Malay respondents throughout Selangor, almost two-thirds of respondents (72%) agreed that DAP was a racial party and that it was only looking after the interests of the Chinese community. Only 12% disagreed, while 16% said they were “unsure”.
More than half (64%) also agreed with the statement that “DAP is an anti-Malay and anti-Islam party”. Some 18% disagreed while 19% were unsure.
To be fair, the DAP has fielded more non-Chinese – Malays, Indians, Kadazans to Portuguese – which no other party can claim to. It has also contested in non-Chinese majority areas.
But the inability to change the perception after its formation in 1965 and having contested its first elections in 1969, is also a big failure the party must admit.
The DAP can blame Umno and PAS for its campaign but that’s what politics is all about.
The party leaders have to look at themselves and perhaps also measure the degree of interaction with the Malay community including how much they understand the Malay language, Malay customs and Islam as a pillar of the community.
Perhaps, they can take a leaf from Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Azmin Ali, who has displayed courtesy and respect when he talks to federal leaders and the royalty.
Against this backdrop, the DAP must surely realise that it will never be able to win Malay votes on its own, if it lacks and fails to appreciate the Malay voters sufficiently.
When Malaysia achieved independence, the Chinese population stood at 45% but it now stands at 24% and the prediction is that in the next decades, it will go down to 10%.
The Malay fertility rate is at 2.8 children per woman against the Chinese’s 1.8 children per woman and Indian’s 2.0 children per woman.
It is reported that Malay fertility rates are 40% higher than Malaysian Indians and 56% higher than Malaysian Chinese. In 2010, the Malays and Bumiputras were 60.3%, Chinese 24.6%, and Indians 7.1%.
Sin Chew Daily, the country’s biggest Chinese newspaper, has correctly reported that “Chinese Malaysians will be reduced from a minority to a very small minority in the long run. And demography is all about politics and economics.
“The drastically reduced population ratio of the Chinese means their political power is poised to take a further beating and this will also have some bearing on its economic strength. In short, Chinese Malaysians must brace themselves for eventual marginalisation.
“On the one hand, Chinese families yearn for smaller household sizes in a bid to maintain the quality of their spiritual and material lives; on the other hand they must also come to terms with the possible consequences of marginalisation.”
In short – the lack of strategic political behaviour and voting, fanned by emotions and unrealistic hopes will put the Chinese in the back seat of power, or worse, totally out of government with Penang as the only base.
The Chinese daily further added, “we can no longer expect ourselves to compete with the mainstream community on an equal footing in numbers, especially when it comes to politics.”
“Chinese Malaysians must learn to get along peacefully with the majority community in this country, trying to understand their insistence on their ethnic attributes and religious faith, as well as their sense of insecurity towards the existing living environment. We have to learn to accept our common grounds in reducing exclusionism and confrontation as we attempt to make up for the broadening number gap.”
Politics can only work if there is consensus and readiness to share power, and to accept the fact that this is a plural society, with all its strengths and weaknesses.
If Malaysian politicians want to consider themselves leaders of all Malaysians, they have to win the support of all races, and not just one ethnic group.
Then there is hope for Malaysia.