On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Malaysia belongs to all of us

THE announcement by an unknown, newly-set up Malay group challenging the citizenship of 1.75 million Malaysians granted between 1957 and 1970 failed to get any traction and rightly so too, as most found it ridiculous.

Most media organisations ignored this racist group, with one writer describing it as being part of a lunatic fringe but it was given a breath of life by online portals and before long, it was discussed on social media.

Frankly, they should not be left unchallenged because what the obscure Barisan Bertindak Melayu Islam (Bertindak) has proposed is downright seditious – the tone of its proposal smacks of racism. Surely, they must be called up by the authorities, including the police.

Obviously, it needs to be reminded that under the definition of sedition and seditious tendency in our legislation, anything uttered which upsets a group of people along racial or religious lines is seditious. The term may be broad but that’s how it goes, people.

Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz, the secretariat head for Bertindak, reportedly alleged that granting the said status had violated stipulated terms under the Federal Constitution, warranting a review.

And what’s their logic (or the lack of it) here? A flimsy technical argument that “Schedule 1 of the Federal Constitution stipulates the taking of an oath of loyalty before citizenship is granted to a person here”.

He alleged that this procedure, however, was bypassed between 1957 and 1970, enabling 1.75 million people being eligible for Malaysian citizenship during that period.

Oh, come on, please. This body can do better than that, surely? Mohd Khairul Azam further claimed that as this was not done, “we will check whether this process is in violation of the Federal Constitution, and we want to review the granting of citizenship to non-Malays, which were given at that time”.

“This is a legal issue which needs to be brought to court and we want the court to decide,” he reportedly added.

Let’s be honest and upfront here. We know this is complete nonsense. This is undoubtedly a frivolous case, if the group actually manages to bring this matter to court.

What this group is doing is subtly questioning the loyalty of the Chinese and Indians of this country, the people who have contributed enormously to the building of this nation.

The aim is to create uneasiness among Malaysians. It cannot be denied that the suggestion was an insensitive, highly disturbing and provocative one.

Together with their Malay brethren, the Chinese, Indians and those in the minority groups have made Malaysia prosper. We are all Malaysians. Yes, our forefathers came from China and India, and others from Indonesia and the Philippines.

It’s tiring to argue or even to remind some feeble-minded racists of these historical facts as they are completely ignorant or blind to this as a result of their bigotry and racist nature.

Some of them choose to close their eyes to reality, preferring to stoke racial flames to fulfil their ugly agenda at the expense of race relations and the nation’s future.

And all this angry response was over a foreigner – none other than controversial Indian preacher Dr Zakir Naik, who was given a permanent residence status by the Government.

And in an incredible and almost childish response, equally controversial Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who heads the recalcitrant Perkasa and who was present at the press conference, reportedly said: “If you disturb us, we disturb you la,” seemingly as a warning to the non-Malays.

It is amazing how groups and individuals, who thrive on racism in the name of defending their race and religion, could set aside so much of their time and resources on such unproductive activities. They seem to be well funded and given the background of these doltish personalities, surely they can’t have been driven by commitment to some lofty principles.

In an article on the same subject, retired Malaysian diplomat Datuk Dennis Ignatius eloquently wrote that “this is a country where racism and religious intolerance has run amok, where morally and intellectually bankrupt racist and extremist groups masquerade as patriots and righteous men and get away with it.

“It’s easy to dismiss them as part of the lunatic fringe but sadly, they are the cheer-leaders of a deeper malaise that stains our nation’s honour – the acceptance, adulation even, of racism and discrimination as an organising principle.”

He lamented that 60 years after independence, and more than 100 years after the last significant wave of migrants came to Malaysia from China and India, “there are still groups that are offended by their presence, unwilling to accept the ethnic, religious and cultural diversity that has defined our nation from its genesis”.

“They think nothing of welcoming newer migrants from Indonesia, the Middle East, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Bangladesh by the thousands, make them “sons of the soil” and even vote them into high office but cannot find it in their heart to accept the dwindling Malaysian-born minorities in their midst.

“They wholeheartedly defend the granting of PR status to foreign extremists but harden their hearts to those who were born here and have lived here for as long as many of them have.”

Irritated as we may be with such groups, I believe most Malaysians still believe in Malaysia. It’s simple. This is our country. Our ancestors may have come from different parts of Asia but we don’t belong there. We are simply not like the nationals of China, India or Indonesia.

The continuous attempts to make non-Malays the bogeyman, giving the illusion that the majority Malays risk losing their grip on political power is pure hallucination and quite frankly, merely a scare tactic as the general election approaches.

Most Malaysians including the Malays can see that the Chinese and Indian population is dwindling – and fast.

In 2014, the Department of Statistics reported that the ethnic Indian population as at the end of Sept 30, 2014, stood at 1.98 million against the over two million registered foreign workers. There are no Indian majority state or parliamentary seats in Malaysia.

Another report stated that based on current trend, the population of migrant workers may overtake the number of ethnic Chinese.

In 2034, the migrant population would have overtaken the number of Chinese by 7.5 million to 7.4 million. According to the reported projection, the migrant population will make up 24.2% of Malaysia’s population by 2040.

These figures suggest that the Chinese population, the second largest ethnic group after the Malays in Malaysia, will drop to third place after the bumiputra and foreign migrant workers.

The Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute’s (Asli) reported prediction is that the number of ethnic Chinese would drop to about 19.6% of the Malaysian population by 2030 if their emigration trend and low birth rates continue.

The Department of Statistics, however, projected that the Chinese proportion would drop to 20% of the population by 2040 from 24.5% in 2010. The ethnic Indian proportion is expected to reduce by 0.9 percentage points to 6.4% of the population by 2040.

The Bumiputra population, however, is expected to grow by 4.8 percentage points to 72.1% by 2040 from 67.3% in 2010.

The likes of Ibrahim and Bertindak shouldn’t rejoice at such a scenario, if they are rational.

Analyst Khoo Kay Peng has rightly said that the trend of ethnic Chinese emigration from Malaysia will result in a smaller private sector, less tax monies for the Government and a reduced professional workforce.

But there is still reason to be optimistic. The fact that Bertindak’s proposal went nowhere says a lot but as Ignatius noted, it would be appropriate if the national leaders speak up in defence of the minorities when such ugly incidents surfaced. After all, many of these Malay leaders say they represent all Malaysians and not just Malays.

But the stand taken by the Malay ground was not the only regrettable episode. A video went viral, purportedly showing a group of supposedly Indian rights activists inciting a crowd and making clearly racist slurs.

If the translation is correct, inflammatory overtones were clearly made and they, too, deserve to be hauled in by the authorities.

Racial overtones by any Malaysian, regardless of their race and religion, must not be allowed, condoned or allowed to go unchallenged as it would set a dangerous trend.

As we celebrate our National Day in August, we must not allow issues of pre-independence days to dominate national discourse.

These are settled issues and not to be rekindled for political expediency. Malaysia has no place for racists.

Malaysia was founded and built by founding fathers who were all moderate forces and they believe in power sharing because Malaysia remains multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-religious. Let’s keep it that way. This is our country, full stop!