On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Standing tall together

IT’S a little more than a month away from our National Day celebrations, when the nation turns 62, but ironically, instead of proudly celebrating being Malaysian, some of us are continuing to preach about race and religion.

In negotiating with the British to earn our independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman took with him Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun V.T. Sambanthan on that fateful trip to London.

Tan was the founder and first president of the MCA and Sambanthan, the MIC president.

The multi-racial team was to show the British that people from different ethnic groups were united, effectively making the entourage Team Malaya on its trip to London.

With that display of solidarity, the British agreed to return freedom to Malaya, even though the Alliance’s (comprising Umno, MCA and MIC) ability to govern the country remained in doubt.

But six decades later, we have proven that Malaysians can keep the nation at peace, except for that blot in 1969.

And even with the collapse of the Barisan Nasional in the 2018 general election, we can hold our heads high that the contenders and voters respected the democratic process and allowed the transition to take place without pandemonium.

Indeed, we have every reason to be proud of ourselves – we can show the world that for all the difficulties and challenges the country has faced, Malaysians have always succeeded in showing tremendous patience, restraint and acceptance of each other.

But we still can and should do better.

The question, though, is, do we still want to emphasise race and religion after six decades in a bid to win votes in the next elections, and why would anyone want to play this card and stoke the fires of controversy?

According to 2017 figures, Malaysia has a population of more than 31 million people, of which bumiputera comprises 61.7% (Malays and indigenous peoples), Chinese 20.8%, Indians 6.2%, others 0.9%, non-citizens 10% (living in Malaysia).

Muslims make up 61.3%, Buddhists 19.8%, Christians 9.2%, Hindus 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 1.3%, others 0.4%, none 0.8%, unspecified 1% (2010 est.)

According to the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, based on Public Service Commission statistics from 2015 until June 2018, Malays made up the highest number (79.66%) of people in the civil service.

“This is followed by Sabah bumiputeras at (7.84%), Sarawak (5.59%), Indians (3.21%), other races (1.84%), Chinese (1.6%) and natives (0.25%),” he reportedly said.

Looking at the country’s 1.6 million-strong civil service, Bernama reported in 2016 about then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim saying that as of December 2014, the ethnic composition of the civil service was as follows: 78.8% Malays, bumiputera Sabah (6.1%), bumiputera Sarawak (4.8 %), Chinese (5.2%), Indians (4.1 %), other bumiputera (0.3%) and others (0.7%).

In the case of the powerful police force, then Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in 2016 that the police need more non-Malays to enlist as they currently comprise only 5% of the 133,212-strong force.

“Of the total, 80.23% (106,871) are Malays, while Chinese make up only 1.96% (2,615), Indians 3.16% (4,209), Punjabis 0.21% (275) and others 14.44% (19,242),” he told Parliament.

The Malaysian Army, Royal Malaysian Navy and Royal Malaysian Air Force are also overwhelmingly populated by Malays.

According to a news report, the Malaysian army comprises 98.3% Malays and only 0.2% Chinese, with officers making up 96.2%, out of which 1.4% are Chinese.

The bottom line is that Malays and Muslims could never be under threat – that is just a ridiculous assumption. But that hasn’t stopped Umno, PAS and even Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia politicians from repeating it.

PPBM chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has invited the Malays to unite under PPBM, saying this was important as more Malay parties were being formed, which in turn reduces the potential of Malay parties winning in the elections.

Adding further, Dr Mahathir said the existence of the four Malay political parties, namely PPBM, PKR, PAS, and Umno, was sufficient in championing the Malay agenda, advising against the formation of more Malay-based parties.

Every one of these Malay-based political parties has called for Malay unity, giving the impression that the community is under siege and had better come together in one of these parties to safeguard their interests, including carrying out affirmative action.

The fear mentality is ingrained in the minds of the Malays, and the common bogeyman has always been the DAP for Umno and PAS.

The reality is that the number of Chinese – the second largest ethnic group after the Malays – in Malaysia will drop to third place after bumiputeras and foreign migrant workers by 2030, read a news report in 2016.

A huge dip in the birth rate of the Chinese to 1.4 babies per family in 2015 from 7.4 in 1957, and a sharp rise in the number of foreign workers, are now threatening the Chinese’ position as the second larĀ­gest grouping in Malaysia.

The report, quoting projected data from the Department of Statistics, said the population percentage of local ethnic Chinese would shrink to 19.6% in 2030 from 24.6% in 2010 and 21.4% in 2015.

The Chinese percentage is also projected to fall further to 18.9% by 2035.

In the report, Chief Statistician Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said that although the Chinese population will increase to 7.1 million people in 2040 from 6.6 million now, the percentage compared to the Malays and Indians might decline to 18.4% in 2040.

Basically, there are now more foreigners than Indians, and soon, there will be more foreigners than Chinese.

At some point, the population of Indonesians, Bangladeshis, Nepalese, Rohingyas and others will increase, and their growing presence will have an impact on the demography.

Our politicians must be committed to a multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia because our unique plural society, for all its complexities, has proven to be an asset to this country.

Malaysia should be celebrating this multi-racial and multi-religious make up – it shouldn’t be done merely as branding exercises for Tourism Malaysia.

We need our leaders to instil an inclusive approach in Malaysians, and if politicians only want votes from the Malay and Muslim community based on issues of race and religion, then we are hurtling towards a disastrous future.

What we need is to remain committed towards Malaysia as a plural nation for the country to practise progressive and multiracial politics.

Malaysians need not fear each other, but instead, should be mindful of racist, religiously extreme and corrupt politicians, who can come in all skin colours.

Malaysia belongs to all of us of various ethnic groups and religions. This is our Malaysia. Kami Anak Anak Malaysia.