Ku Li: BN power-sharing model broken, needs new one
( Taken from the Malaysian Insider)
MELBOURNE, Aug 9 — The ruling Barisan Nasional’s racial power-sharing model is broken with the races now polarised, veteran Umno politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah charged today, adding it needs to begin anew with “our common humanity”.
The Gua Musang MP also said race was just a constructed category and called for new ways of mediating conflicts among the races in the country, despite the recent shrill cries of Malay supremacy among his fellow Umno colleagues and Umno-held media.
“The racial power-sharing model now practised by Barisan is broken. It takes more honesty than we are used to in public life to observe that this is not a temporary but a terminal crisis. An old order is ending,” Tengku Razaleigh told the Kelab Umno Australia at the Melbourne University.
Umno stalwart Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has charged that BN’s racially-driven model can no longer work in today’s society. — Picture by Jack Ooi
He noted the major races remained polarised despite the country’s economic growth and progress towards multiracial politics although the government and opposition are still largely mobilised along racial lines.
“It is not yet time to herald a new dawn. Instead, we are in a transition full of perils and possibilities,” the Kelantan prince said in a copy of the speech sent to The Malaysian Insider.
He told his audience Barisan Nasional was put together to ensure that every community had a place at the table but it was not a permanent solution and the coalition has to wake up to the fact that it no longer worked.
“It was designed as an interim work-around, an early stage on the way to ‘a more perfect union’ and not as the desired end-state. Over the years, however, we have put up barricades around our system as if it were a fore-ordained and permanent ideal.
“In doing so, we have turned a half-way house into our destination, as if we must forever remain a racially divided and racially governed society,” said the politician popularly known as Ku Li.
He said the ideal should be a free and united society in which individuals can express their ethnic and religious identities without being imprisoned in them, adding “We must aim for a society in which public reasoning and not backroom dealing determines our collective decisions.”
Tengku Razaleigh, who lost out again for a shot at the Umno presidency last year, said the power-sharing model in Malaysia was an elite style of government justified by the virtue and competence of natural leaders of the communities.
“It does not work when political parties are led by the ignorant and the corrupt who have no standing in the communities they claim to represent,” he said bluntly, saying the country now has top-down rule and power had become increasingly unaccountable with Umno beholden to the executive.
“Our decades under highly-centralised government undermined our power-sharing formula, just as it undermined key institutions such as the judiciary, the police and the rule of law.
“Our major institutions have survived in appearance while their substance has eroded. Seen in this light, the election results of March 8, which saw the Barisan Nasional handed its worst defeat since 1969, was just the beginning of the collapse of a structure which has long been hollowed out,” Ku Li said.
He told the Kelab Umno Australia that they are generation of transition and would play a key role in determining the country’s outcome.
“We need a new beginning to racial relations in Malaysia, and you must pioneer that beginning. We need to re-design race relations in Malaysia, and you must be the architects and builders of that design,” he told his audience.
He advised them to take advantage of the perspective of distance in overseas education to reformulate questions and come out with answers for the nation.
“Begin with our common humanity. Respect for our common humanity must override all lesser affiliations, including race,” he said, noting one of Islam’s most powerful contributions to human civilisation has been its insistence on the equality of all human beings.
“Islam tolerates no notions of racial superiority or inferiority. All human beings are equal before God. That same principle of equality is absolutely fundamental to democracy, and democracy is a foundational principle of our Constitution.
The veteran politician said democracy is part of the nation’s make-up and although the citizens can gravitate to racial groupings, it should not overshadow the allegiance to the constitution and the claims of equal dignity.
“Political parties based on race or religion must never be allowed to do or say anything contrary to justice and equality,” he added.
Bucking the trend in his party that espouses Malay supremacy, Tengku Razaleigh said Malaysians must anchor themselves in the constitution and restore its primacy as it establishes the equality of citizenship.
“It gives us the framework of law and order within which we become a nation. It establishes the primacy of the rule of law, the sovereignty of Parliament, the independence of the judiciary and civil service and of our law enforcement agencies. These are the institutions which guarantee the freedom and sovereignty of the people,” he added.
Ku Li has challenged the young generation, which he calls the “generation of transition”, to move beyond making race their sole identity. — Picture by Jack Ooi
Speaking on race, he noted that while it united people in a common feeling, it can also divide and said that Malaysians are not just diverse in race but diverse in different ways, including location, class, social status, occupation, language and politics.
“We would be terribly impoverished as persons if our identity was given ahead of time and once and for all, merely by our membership of a fixed racial category. I would be a very dull person if you could tell who I was simply by looking up my race,” he said, adding it was not the most importance category in the world.
He pointed out that race would retard growth as individuals and hence as a society, apart from turning people into stereotypes and maintain a view of the world bordering on racist.
“I want to urge you, as the makers of the new social landscape we need in Malaysia, to reject taking race to be a unique and fixed categorisation, to reject race as a central category of social and political life,” Tengku Razaleigh said, reiterating it was just an identity and a constructed category.
He railed against the politics of race saying it will always divide, “and the ultimate solution to intra-racial problems it leads us to is, in the end, violence.”
“It is easy to identify the practitioners of this kind of racial politics. They will rely on veiled threats of communal violence even as they take part in democratic politics,” he added.
The Umno veteran also called for new ways of mediating conflicting claims between the races, new ways of bringing people to the table, of including everyone in the decision-making process.
“These new ways must be based on more open conceptions of who we are. Malaysia’s major races have lived together not just for decades but for centuries. Their cultures have interacted for millennia. In that time there has been mutual influence, mixture and cross-pollination at a depth and on a scale that our politics, popular culture and educational curriculum have largely pretended does not exist.
“It is time to embrace this real diversity in our political and personal lives. Our racial identities are not silos in a cornfield, forever separate, encased in steel, but trees in our rainforest: standing distinct but inexplicable without each other and constantly co-evolving,” he said.
Tengku Razaleigh pointed out that he was not recommending anything novel to the audience as it was cardinal principles in the constitution and the faiths, including Islam.
“Let us have the sense of perspective to see our ethnic identities against these cornerstone principles of religion and ethics, and let us now educate our young, apprentice our youth, and conduct ourselves according to these principles.
“And then let us have a new beginning for Malaysia,” he said when ending his speech.