It’s a rollercoaster ride for political reform in the country, the thrill of anticipation largely dampened by the fact that we can’t get off the car nor the seemingly pointless loop. I do not have any illusion that change is a-comin’ just because of March 8; we are a long way off and some entrenched attitudes about race, religion, and rights, continue to have a stranglehold. So I continue to breathe with difficulties.
The latest statement from the Conference of Rulers was little comfort. I know that parties and individuals left and right of the political divide have hailed it as a vote for the Constitution, etc, but that’s not saying much is it? Here’s the bit that got to me:
The rulers also called on the Malays to remain united, saying that this was more important than political or factional interests.
They said: 'The Conference of Rulers also calls on the Malays to be united to safeguard the privileges, position, eminence and greatness of the Malay rulers, safeguard Islam, Malay as the national language, and the genuine interests of the other communities in Malaysia as enshrined in the federal Constitution.
'It has to be emphasised that this agenda is more important and foremost than political or factional interests.'
It would have meant more if there was an explicit call for all Malaysians to be united. After all, shouldn’t this above all, be “more important than political or factional interests”?
I think no right-thinking Malaysian would deny the institution of the rulers or Malay rights. What I am concerned about is how such a position squares with a guarantee that the genuine interests and rights of non-Malays are 'safeguarded,' since the interpretation and practice of these guarantees are so fickle?
It appears that as a non-Malay born on Malaysian soil, I do have a rightful place under the Malaysian sun, but with one caveat. I only have to accept that my rightful place will never be equal nor – heavens - larger than those of the Malays. Going by this interpretation, it also appears my legal rights and my social rights will never, ever be reconciled.
I’m thinking to myself: what then is my political struggle all about?
If it is not for equal standing with my Malay brothers and sisters, what cause have I to call myself an Anak Malaysia? Or as some people seem to imply, if non-Malays would only be happy with their 40%, everything would be nice and wonderful.