Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Seeking Justice and Equality: Chandra Muzaffar replies

I wrote an Open Letter to Dr Chandra Muzaffar in response to his article in The Star (see post before this), and this is his reply. I'm glad he did reply. But after reading Obama's speech on race, I know that there has to be a way that does not divide us. His readings on race in America has everything to do with Malaysian issues on race and unity. Read/watch and be inspired. Anyway, without bias, I present to you Dr Chandra's reply to my Open Letter:

1 comment:

Helen said...

Dear Dr Chandra,

I have no strong objections to most of your analysis of the possible factors which affected the recent electoral outcome. I think it presents a plausible analysis of the dynamics at work but as the reactions of Jules Ong indicated, that only captures part of the picture.

Nonetheless, I hope one day you may revise your perspective on the Malaysian national history and identity, which inject so much bias into your.judgement of the legitimacy of the expressions of “ethnic concerns”, especially on the part of non-Malays.

Your critical comments are especially directed to the non-Malay communities, in which context the expression of “ethnic concerns” is implied as “communalism”. While we could discuss whether these reactions should be interpreted as expressions of “ethnic discontents” or otherwise, what is so wrong about it even if many non-Malays voted against BN in protest against racist behaviour exhibited by the ruling politicians? Why is it illegitimate to protest against the many unfair treatments you have listed experienced by the non-Malay communities?

Is it wrong to wish to do away with the “NEP” if it means doing away with “all the ethnic discrimination and ethnic privileging that they resented so much”? If you are being fair, you would acknowledge that many non-Malays have no objections against helping needy Malays, but rather how such arguments have been abused. There are also Malays who feel that the “NEP” should be discarded because the way it operates no longer helps the community but affects the community in a negative way. You yourself have also criticised some of the negative impacts of the NEP in your past writings.

But I feel that the most serious flaw in your argument is your use of “history” to justify everything. Which history should be given greater consideration: the future to be charted by our nation or the past? The way we read history is very much defined by our present concerns. I believe that if we want genuine national unity, we need to discard the way you interpreted the history. Do you mean that Malaysia should remain a Malay nation, forever? If so, how do those Malaysian citizens designated as “non-Malays”, including non-Muslim Bumiputera, identify fully with this nation? How does a non-Malay Malaysian citizen feel that Malaysia is where s/he fully belongs?

As an academic, you should be aware that the concept of “nation” is just a political myth, a fiction. In reality, many a time, it is even problematic to distinguish an ethnic group from a nation. When Stamford Raffles first referred the Malayu people as a “nation”, he did not even mean the entire local population of the archipelago, but just the pockets of maritime polities. Such perspective has also persisted in Indonesia till today, and Melayu is regarded as just one of the ethnic groups in Indonesia. Even as Ibrahim Yaacob would like to believe that the whole population of the archipelago belongs to the “Melayu nation”, he laments that people would rather identify with their specific location or island of origin!

I don’t deny that history does have an impact on the present. However, we should not be prisoners of history but be brave enough to make history.