The scramble for Malays

[Aliran published an edited version]

So who are the rural Malays?

We need to stop using the term, ‘rural Malays’, to refer to people who don’t know anything, who stand in our way, who are convertible (by tactical means) but unteachable. ‘Rural Malays’ simply means Malays who live in rural areas, full stop. It has nothing to do with bus loads of people paid to attend UMNO or PAS events, or paid to vote for UMNO or PAS.

They are not a group of people to be tackled, to be fixed, or to be zoomed into the bull’s eye. Those strategies are rather samseng. Can victorious Malaysians be a little more civilised and honourable?

‘Rural Malays’ are neither illiterate nor the poorest of the poor. That is a false narrative painted by the campaigners, masking the reality of urban poverty and non-Malay hardcore poverty. That goes to show the Ubah team’s lack of sincerity in eradicating poverty.

‘Rural Malays’ are not mired in child marriages either. As pointed out by WAO vice-president, last year’s statistic showed that 52% or 968 from the total applications for child marriage were non-Muslim. If we are concerned with gender abuse as sex objects, we ought to be checking our wealthy politicians and royalties who have been picking up beauty queens they had limited interactions with — females they did not get to know as university mates sharing years of campus life — rather, recommended or identified from catwalks — females of ethnic origins deemed ‘sexy’. The practice is a serious reduction of females to sex objects, so are these politicians, kings or sultans ‘rural Malays’? So what has the abuse of the female gender got to do with ‘rural Malays’?

‘Rural Malays’ are not policemen and policewomen waiting to check our dress-code either. If they find us in the neighbourhood they will welcome us into their homes with no judgement whatsoever on the shorts we are wearing. Don’t use ‘rural Malays’ to refer to narrow hearts and minds who are unable to embrace any joint heritage — unless we find that recent decree on road signs (to remove 民众会堂C路 from Jalan Balai Raya C) comes not from an urban palace but a rural Malay kampung?

Speaking of the inability to embrace any joint heritage, we’ve got Chinese fighting against having Bahasa Malaysia as a mandatory subject too. So are these ‘rural Malaysians’? Or ‘rural Chinese’? Why do we keep hearing ‘rural Malays’ but not ‘estate Indians’ or ‘kampung Chinese’?

Future generations will find this gross stereotyping the sins of their fathers — which are clearly not the sins of our fathers. Our fathers didn’t hand this down to us. It is the signature invention of the GE13-GE14 generation — an invention our future generations will struggle frantically, in shame, to reach for an eraser to rub off.


The term ‘rural Malays’ was coined as a device to redraw our social patterns — a rumusan (formula) to overpower without having to increase the birth-rate of a minority. It’s a new system of classification, broadening the base and winning over head counts by sourcing anyone (regardless of ethnic origin) who identifies himself or herself as educated and classy.

That the Ubah crowd welcome members of any ethnic origin is tooted as non-race-based. Over the other side of the coin, however, we get the ruthless split of the Malays which should not have happened at all. Pakatan and Ubah are at least as guilty as UMNO and PAS in splitting the Malays.

Ours has been ‘a scramble for Malays’ rather than ‘a scramble for Africa’ (a term frequently used to describe the historical invasion, occupation, colonisation and annexation of Africa by European powers). Malays are targeted just because they hold the key to the rise and fall of political parties.

There are very valid reasons for some quarters to feel anxious. It is time for healing. Stop poking at wounds still fresh.

We need to stop talking about a section of our society as if they will never hear, read or understand what is being said about them. Anyone needs to know how that feels? Imagine getting old and becoming frail, when our kids start talking about us right next to us, without any eye contact with us, referring to us as he or she rather than papa or mama, deciding on our every move and every step without taking the faintest cue from us.

If we got that minimal Malaysian value we haven’t yet lost, we would instantly recognise that behavior as biadap and kurang ajar. We can’t talk about people as if they will never hear, read or understand. So let us stop doing that to whichever selection of Malays the Ubah movement singled out as blocking its way.

It is time to stop that ‘scramble for Malays’ and that campaign against each other. Can we stop right here and right now?