Standing tall together

IF we were to believe the hype whipped up by some politicians following the formation of the new government, the Malays in our country are in danger of losing everything.

Planting fear and, using race and religion, has always been an effective emotional political weapon.

Throw in threats of racial riots and soon, the temperature shoots up. It doesn’t help when counter arguments come in the form of equally distasteful racist remarks.

These shenanigans usually only involve a handful of desperate politicians, likely the ones who lost in the general election, or are being investigated for corruption. Then there are some very loud co-operatives – presumably paid – who amplify their voices through social media.

Only the ignorant would believe the incredible claims made up by these politicians.

In Malaysia, almost all the institutions are dominated by Malays, including the civil service, police, army and the government. Just take a cursory look at the racial makeup of the Members of Parliament and senators at the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara.

Of the country’s 30 million-plus population, more than 60% are Malays, and those numbers will continue to grow while that of the Chinese and Indians keep shrinking.

The Chinese population in Malaysia has consistently been declining from the early days of independence, from 37.6 % in 1957 to 24.6% in 2010, and 21.4% in 2015, due to a lower birth rate as well as a high level of emigration in recent decades.

According to a news report in 2016, by 2030, the number of Chinese – the second largest ethnic group after the Malays – in Malaysia will drop to third place after the bumiputra and foreign migrant workers.

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 numbers of foreign workers, are now threatening the Chinese’ position as the second largest grouping in Malaysia.

The report, quoting projected data from the Department of Statistics, said the population percentage of local ethnic Chinese will 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% in 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.

In terms of numbers, the other two ethnic groups are projected to rise, with the bumiputra outdoing everyone else.

The bumiputra population is anticipated to increase from 19.2 million in 2015 to 26 million by 2040, and Indians from two million to 2.3 million.

The bumiputra population is anticipated to increase from 61.8% to 67.5%, and Indians from 5.5% to 6.4%.

This huge Malay demographic simply means that the Malay electorate will be significantly broad.

Looking at the country’s 1.6 million-strong civil service, Bernama reported in 2016 of 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 needed more non-Malays to enlist as they currently make up 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 0.2% Chinese with officers making up 96.2%, out of which 1.4% are Chinese.

That’s a far cry from the pre-independence days when the police, especially, had a decent number of Chinese, which was instrumental in our successful thwarting of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) insurgents and urban terrorists.

It was the infiltration of these Chinese policemen into the CPM, with the many dangerous and highly classified covert operations of the police Special Branch and military intelligence, which defeated the CPM.

From the 1960s to the late 1970s, non-Malay armed forces personnel comprised about 30% of the total manpower while the navy and air force, excluding the army, had a higher percentage. Over the years, this figure gradually dropped to the current 5%.

Certainly, no one is blaming the government for this situation since it has openly encouraged non-Malays to join.

The responsibility of defending the country and the people should be shared by all Malaysians, so, it would be terribly unfair if this mammoth burden is only shouldered by the Malays. However, a combination of factors, including perceived low chances of promotion, has deterred many non-Malays from joining the ranks.

Despite the tiny representation of the non-Malays in the services, especially the police, the men and women in uniform have performed professionally.

Non-Malays feel secure and protected, even in the wake of incidents involving Malay attackers, and this must be remembered.

And in the case of the economy, despite the large number of Chinese businessmen who continue to be listed among Malaysia’s richest, it has long been acknowledged that the Malays are now firmly in control of major banks, government-linked companies (GLCs) and top posts in the private sector.

According to Prof Dr Terence Gomez, the GLCs hold sway over some RM1 trillion ($333 billion) worth of investments. According to his research, the seven GLCs control 35 of the top 100 listed companies in Malaysia, whose combined market capitalisation accounts for 42% of the market cap of all the listed companies on Bursa Malaysia.

Many of these companies operate in key sectors of the economy, such as utilities, infrastructure, property and telecommunications. For example, some of MoF Inc’s key assets and investments include Petroliam Nasional Bhd, Khazanah Nasional, UDA Holdings Bhd, Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd, MRT Corp Sdn Bhd, Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd, SRC International Sdn Bhd as well as several development financial institutions. Khazanah Nasional’s investments include CIMB Group Bhd, UEM Group Bhd, PLUS Malaysia Bhd, Iskandar Investment Bhd, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Axiata Group Bhd, Telekom Malaysia Bhd, TIME dotCom Bhd, IHH Healthcare Bhd, Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd, Malaysia Airports Holdings and Malaysia Airlines Bhd.

But while these Malays, on the surface at least, seem to be enjoying power and high income from government-linked companies, many ordinary Malays in the rural and urban areas, sadly, still struggle daily.

The years of affirmative action have created a broad base of the middle class, which is crucial and essential for a stable Malaysia, but many of the effects have not fully trickled down to the destitute.

It’s these Malays who need help the most, and surely, they are the most deserving, too, but wealth has been plundered and looted by corrupt politicians who are now preaching the politics of hatred to their audience.

Cut off from the access of rational and sound arguments in Bahasa Malaysia, the rhetoric of race and religion has found faithful listeners who buy into their bluff of Malays being threatened and in danger of losing their rights in the country, a privilege belonging to them solely, and no other Malaysians.

Having a Finance Minister of Chinese ethnicity and an Attorney General of Indian origin are enough to trigger fears, never mind the fact that the government machinery is entirely Malay. And suddenly, ICRED has taken over 1MDB as the prime issue of the country.

Never mind if their listeners can’t even pronounce the acronym and are largely clueless to what it’s all about, but for some reason, they seem convinced it takes away Malay rights and Islam.

Politicians in this country, including those in power now, are no angels, although they would like to be viewed as the new breed of Malaysian politicians supposedly blind to race.

Many have used the race and religion card themselves, even staging massive protests, but are now criticising the opposition for the same thing. It’s a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

In some ways, some of our new ministers have also failed to handle the civil service well, given the crass way they have dealt with the more experienced and knowledgeable senior government officers.

Instead of winning them over – as they, too, settle into the new political dynamic and culture – some inexperienced ministers, with their new-found power and authority, ignore their advice.

Malaysia has been drained of copious amounts of money as a result of looting, so, we really have no time for any hysterics, as we need to get back to the economy race and lift our heads high again.

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