Pribumis, Bumiputras and the politics of race

Let’s be honest: when the word Pribumi is used, it is code for anti-Chinese. This is the same in Malaysia where the word Bumiputra is used to mean anti-Chinese.

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Lining Anies’s passage to his inauguration: Not enough that you have to be a Pribumi but a Pribumi Muslim. No protection even if you’re a Pribumi.

The parallels do not stop there. The champions of the the racial ideology – Anies Baswedan in the case of the Pribumis and Mahathir Mohamad in the case of Bumiputras – are also shapeshifters. Both are of immigrant stock fashioning themselves as the torch bearers of the indigenous people.

 

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Never too Arab to champion Pribumi rights

 

Mahathir who championed Bumiputraism hailed from Indian Muslims in Kerala in South India.

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Mahathir’s identity card before the makeover: Never too Indian to champion Bumiputra Rights

Anies is from Arab stock and he is now claiming to champion the rights of pribumis.

Both seek to exploit the politics of race against a community that has proven easy pickings – the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Mahathir wrote his The Malay Dilemma in 1970, a year after racial riots tore through Malaysia. The cause of the riots was that the ruling Alliance (forerunner of the Barisan Nasional) for the first time lost its two-third majority in Parliament in the 1969 national elections. It was more a psychological defeat rather than a real one. They were still in power but they had lost the majority ended to amend the constitution. They also lost most of their seats to the DAP, a Chinese-based party.

Tensions rose after the elections and on May 13 1969 a riot broke out in Malaysia. The next year Mahathir came out with his book that essentially said that the Malays were the indigenous people of Malaysia; that they were too  nice and had been taken advantage of; and that affirmative action was needed to balance out the dominance of the Chinese Malaysians in the economy and commerce.

This hate mongering was effective. It propelled young Turks like Mahathir into power and allowed them to oust the Old Guard typified by Tunku Abdul Rahman, who stood for decency and moderation.

The take out from Mahathirism is that race is an easy card to play and it can be devastatingly effective. The Barisan Nasional has been in power ever since and each time it is threatened it trots out the racial card and that is enough to get it though one election after another. Even Najib, tainted as he is by the 1MDB scandal and the murder of Mongolian model Alantuya, remains in power through the Machiavellian use of racism and money politics.

Anies is embarking on the same path. His campaign was racist and he is now fashioning himself as a champion of the Pribumi. That is, as we say in Indonesia #kodekeras for anti-Chinese.

As he and Saracen have demonstrated during the gubernatorial elections, playing the racial card is effective. Ahok is now in jail and Anies-Sandi is sitting in the governor’s chair.

Like the Barisan Natsonal  who will play the race card each time there is anything to threaten their grip on power they will do the same.

What is a threat to Anies-Sandi now is accountability. They made a lot of wild promises to get elected. If they fail to deliver, even the masses that vote them in will begin to turn against them.

They need to distract the attention of the hoi polloi and redirect that energy into something else – and hating the Chinese “colonizers” of Jakarta is as convenient a target as it can get. Similarly what threatens Najib is accountability over 1MBB, so what does he do? All sorts of racial distractions such as the nonsense about Ketuanan Melayu while he quietly hocks the nation to the Chinese Chinese.

So what are the rest of us to do with such an inexorable force as racial politics?

Indonesia can be different from Malaysia where the Bumiputra is synonymous with Malay. In Malaysia the predominant non-Chinese group are the Malays (an artificial construct as most of them are keturunan Orang Jawa, Orang Minang, and even the present Prime Minister Najib is keturunan Orang Bugis – but they are all manipulated to be in one “race” the Melayu or Malay).

Non-Chinese Indonesians are so diverse in ethnicity and religions that nobody can claim to speak for them. And this is where Indonesia’s strength lies – in its diversity. #Notmypribumi seems an appropriate hashtag for anything racial Anies utters from now on.

Indonesians should also b aware of the devastating effects of racial politics. Go to Malaysia and see the harm that Mahathir has done there. People there are so polarized that they eat in different restaurants, make friends mainly only with the same “racial” groups. Each year that passes there is less tolerance and more absurdity – like the Muslim launderette owner in Johor that would accept only Muslim clients to prevent pollution from other races (race and religion are synonymous in Malaysia, thanks again to Mahathir).

The situation is so bad that parents (even Bumiputra ones) tell their children not to stay in Malaysia and to work and live overseas if they can help it.

Indonesia can do better than Malaysia and the time to act is now by refusing to fill into Anies’ scheming. Avoid giving his racial politics much credence by discussing it at length but keep focusing on what he actually does as a Governor against his election promises. At best it would force him carry these promises out – which would be the benefit of everyone. At worst, it would starve his intent to use racial politics of the reaction it needs to create a Malaysianization of Indonesian racial relations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do pribumi Indonesians think about their Chinese counterparts?

Not much that is good. That’s what the Singapore-based  ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute found in a survey titled  Chinese Indonesians in the Eyes of the Pribumi Public,

If the survey is accurate it suggests that after decades of living cheek by jowl with the pribumis, they still harbor stereotyped perceptions about the Indonesian Chinese.

Among the most glaring stereotyped are that the Chinese Indonesians tend to be more wealthy than the pribumis. Over 60 percent of respondents in the survey felt this.

Astoundingly almost half of the respondents, 47.6 percent, believe that the Indonesian Chinese  harbor divided loyalties between Indonesia and China.

The survey, which was conducted in May 2016 after the anti-Ahok protests, did not say whether these sentiments were as intense before the demonstrations.

Several questions come to mind from the survey results:

  1. Does this mean that no Chinese Indonesian can ever stand for high office and win, because all the opposition has to do is to fan the racial flames?
  2. Can pribumis be so oblivious of the many, many walthy-off Pribumi officials and  businesspersons that are so visible in everyday Indonesia?
  3. Does it mean that Indonesian Chinese should prepare for a difficult year ahead and until the 2019 presidential elections are over before letting out their breath? Will Indonesia be a racial powder keg all primed?
  4. Should Indonesian Chinese try harder to disabuse their pribumi counterparts of their prejudices? Or are they better off letting things lie than run the risk of stirring things up?
  5. The would the results of a similar survey, if conducted in neighboring Malaysia, show a lower, similar or higher level of prejudice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who let the dogs out? Malaysia vs Indonesia’s Amazing Race to the Bottom

Most of your would be unaware of it but there is a relentless race between two neighboring and competing nations Malaysia and Indonesia.

It is a race to the bottom of the IQ ladder by its religious wallah. You know the type, using the name of religion to to impose their stupidity on others.

 

The state of play yesterday was this: Malaysia fired its first salvo when the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) said pretzel store franchise Auntie Anne’s change the name of its “Pretzel Dog” to “Pretzel Sausage” lest it confuse and alarm Muslims.

The dog is an unclean animal, according to some Muslims, so using its name would make things unclean. Presumably Jakim will soon order name changes to Hamburg and hamburgers, Swine Fever, pig iron and order a revision of the nursery rhyme featuring three little piggies.

Rename ‘Pretzel Dog’ to ‘Pretzel Sausage’, Jakim tells Auntie Anne’s – Nation | The Star Online

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has recommended that pretzel store franchise Auntie Anne’s change the name of its “Pretzel Dog” to “Pretzel Sausage” in order to receive a halal certification.    “It is more appropriate to use the name ‘Pretzel Sausage’,” said Jakim’s Halal Division director Sirajuddin Suhaimee.    “The improvement process is being conducted from time to time.  “Malaysia’s good name as a pioneering ‘halal global’ figure needs to be improved.  “To avoid this issue at the global stage, the panel has decided not to use such a name,” he said via WhatsApp Tuesday.   In a statement earlier, Jakim clarified that the body did not label Auntie Anne’s as not halal.  Jakim explained that Auntie Anne’s food products were in the process of getting a Malaysian halal certification.  It said that this was done after some improvements to the franchise’s application.  This week, Jakim’s rejection of Auntie Anne’s halal certification application went viral on social media and blogs, with many Muslims questioning the halal status of the food items.

Read more

Not to be outdone,  the Indonesian team represented by the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa against speed bumps.

Its rationale: Speed bumps because they are “harmful.” It is unclear whether the ulemas have mistaken the word bumps with humps because Unspun’s been told that if you’re going at reckless speed while humping it may result in injury.

Indonesian Ulema Council in Samarinda issues fatwa saying speed bumps are haram

As the sole independent entity entrusted to inform Muslims in Indonesia as to what is or isn’t forbidden, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has issued many questionable fatwas (rulings based on an interpretation of Islamic law by a recognized authority) in the past, which have included everything from theprohibition of playing Pokemon GO to being homosexual, which they said should be punishable by death.

Some might argue that the MUI is doing what they believe is in the best interests of all Muslims with their fatwas, which is why this one is oddly counterintuitive.

The MUI branch in Samarinda, East Kalimantan issued a fatwa against road speed bumps of all things, because they are supposedly harmful.

“If a speed bump disrupts road users, then it’s makruh (advised against but not sinful). But, if it claims lives, then it’s haram,” said MUI Samarinda head Zaini Naim, as quoted by Tempo on Sunday.

Read more…

With the score being 1-1 we are all at tenter hooks on what the outcome of the race will be. Will Malaysia counter with another stab stupider than this dogged approach? And if so, will Indonesia strike back with a big fatwa?

Only time will tell.

A Malaysian newbie in Jakarta

What would you make of Indonesian working life and the people in general if you’re a Malaysian, newly graduated and looking for some work experience? Andrew Seow took the plunge and tried his hand in public relations at Maverick and this is this story:

 

Time passes when you are having fun. So after what felt like mere days I realized that my four-month work experience with Maverick in Jakarta had reached its inevitable end.

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Just prior to joining Maverick I had, like so many in my generation, been given lots of encouragement to do well in school and then getting a degree from a recognized university as the jumping off point with which to launch a respectable career.

When I left university at the end of last year, however, I realized that I was rather clueless of what I would like to do next. I was beset by a sense of emptiness, not knowing how my life would turn out, and what my next moves should be.

Realising that the best course of action was to begin immersing myself in the real world of work, I reached out to a family friend whom I grew up referring to as Uncle Hock Chuan, but whom I later learnt was referred to as Pak Ong, the well-known PR consultant in Indonesia.

When Maverick decided to accept me I quickly packed my bags and headed for Jakarta with few expectations except to fulfill three goals – to learn as much as I could about the industry and country, make as many new friends as possible, and have a damn good time doing it.

The first thing that struck me on arriving at Maverick was its creative working space concept. It was a huge relief being in a cool working space as I’ve never liked being contained in claustrophobic cubicles.

The open office environment was comfortable to work in, dismissing the usual hierarchal tension between senior and junior co-workers. Also, how often can people brag about their office having a Tatami room? The beanbag and pillow-filled Japanese-styled room ended up being my most productive working space, especially for Gen Zs like me who do our best work away from chairs and desks when working…read more

Surprises in Malaysian Health Care

My impressions about public health care in Malaysia were shaped at last three decades ago. Then, it was the choice you made if you could not afford to be treated elsewher

This was because the hospitals were run like government bureaus with the civil servant acting like the rest of us were servants. Many were incompetent, many rude and a lot of them embraced both qualities.

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Someone’s doing something right at University Malaya Hospital. I like the fact that they have signs like this in the hospital asking its staff to say no to harassment. When you value your people they get energized and get a boost to their self-esteem

 

 

So when Unspun’s mum had to have a major operation in the University Malaya Hospital, because being a former civil servant entitles her for free treatment, Unspun was all girded up to do battle with the obtuse. Little did he know, however, that he was in for a pleasant surprise.

Each patient has to share the room with three others. No exception as they do not have classes. The downside of this arrangement is a lack of privacy. There is also no TV set for the convalescent to tune out. And the facilities are a bit worn out – the shared toilet in my mother’s ward had a broken shower head and a leaky sink.

But apart from these drawbacks the medical attention she got, the professionalism, courtesy and efficiency of the doctors, staff and nurses was second to none. Unspun has been in private hospitals before and can attest first hand that the team at UMH rocks, not only in the surgical ward but also in the other sections such as biting and administration that we had to deal with.

There were two more surprises in store as my mother got discharged from the hospital. The first was the speed of processing the discharge. The doctor in attendance told us he would complete the paperwork that morning and when he did he dropped by the bed to tell us that he had done so and we could check with the central desk for the rest of the documentation required.

The nurse at the central desk took less than an hour to process the rest of the papers, I took a slip from her and went down to the cashier. Here lay another surprise.

The cost of the operation, that involved a mastectomy, ward charges and other associated costs, came up to a whopping RM1,250. That’s about Rp4.25 million! And because my mother had been a teacher in a public school, she did not have to pay a cent or as they say in this country sen. A woman who had had a previous mastectomy at a private hospital told us that she had hers done for RM20,000.

This set our family and friends discussing the merits and demerits of seeking treatment in the public vs private sector and this was our unanimous opinion: Sure the private hospitals have prestige and comfort but the motivation of the private hospitals is to make money.

The doctors who work there are caught in the system. They have to feed the beast – make money or else. So they end up prescribing expensive treatments that the patient do not necessarily need. We all recalled first hand stories of how a hospital insisted on propping a friend who had been brain-dead, against the wishes of the family – and then charging them a whopping amount for healthcare after that.

A cousin of mine tells me of how a private hospital was harassing him to commit to collecting the bod of his father – when the father was imminently dying but not dead yet.

Another friend tells me of the elaborate and expensive procedures a doctor in a private hospital administered on him – to lance a boil. Just because the doctor knew that he was insured and the hospital can claim from the insurance company.

This contrasts with the doctors working in the public hospitals. Unmotivated by the need to make lots of money to cover their high salaries and bonuses, the doctors actually give the patient what they want. They would not rush into a treatment until they are sure.

Another plus point with public hospitals is that they apparently have the best medical equipment in the country because of government funding.

So when Unspun was walking his mother out of University Malaya Hospital he was smiling because there was something good to say about Malaysia. In a country where the politics sucks and racial segregation seems to be worsening, and professional standards dropping, someone is doing something right at University Malaya Hospital.

 

 

 

 

 

The Bomoh’s back with five watermelons to keep things cool

The Malaysian bomoh(shaman, medicine man, con man whatever you call them) Ibrahim Mat Zin, who won notoriety for his antics involving a magic carpet, several coconuts and some nuts serving as acolytes in the search for the missing MH370 is now back.

Never mind that his methods did not yield any results in the search for MH 370 (the plane is still missing and nobody in the temporal or spiritual realms seem to have a clue of its whereabouts), the good witchdoctor remains undaunted and altruistic.

The bomoh at work trying to find MH 370

Like the caped crusader who cannot resist doing good whenever calamity strikes, the Bomoh has now trained his spiritual sights on the dry and hot spell affecting Malaysia.

This time, the Bomoh, who seems to have a penchant for local fruits has enlisted the help of five watermelons and four funny looking acolytes.

Will the Bomoh succeed this time when rather bureaus and modern science has failed? Only time will tell but Unspun, in his communion with the spirit realm, has divined that after the Vernal Equinox, where the sun gets closest to the earth and therefore makes it the warmest day we’ll experience, tomorrow, things will cool down.

The spirits, however, are silent on whether it is The Bomoh’s handiwork that will result in the cooling of Malaysia, out of professional courtesy.

 

 

 

 

The incredible silence and welcome to China’s effrontery to Malaysia

Something incredible, unprecedented and potentially dangerous happened in Malaysia last Friday that most Malaysians do not seem to have paid much notice to.

In fact many of the Malaysian Chinese actually welcomed it, fed up as they were by Malay hooligans trying to stir up Malay supremacist and anti-Chinese sentiments in Malaysia.

Photo from Free Malaysia Today: “He was there to assure Chinese traders that they will be safe tomorrow and that the police were watching over them in the event there was trouble.”

The incident took place in Petaling Street, an enclave of Chinese traders and shopkeepers right smack in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, that has become the symbol of Chinese presence in Malaysia ever since the Red Shirt Rally on September 16.

Before we go on, a bit of context for those that don’t follow Malaysian political developments closely. The Malaysian Prime Minister is in trouble, not least because of his own stupidity. Already unpopular, he was caught with a smoking gun – US$700 million deposited in his personal account.

His refusal to explain how a large sum come to be in his account, apart from it being from a mysterious Middle East donor, has added to the attacks on him and his government. Adding on the pressure was a huge rally of about 500,000 people that was organised by Bersih, originally an elections watchdog grouping on August 29.

Besieged, Najib or his followers retaliated with a Red Shirt Rally on September 16. The Red Shirts ostensibly were rallying to protect “Malay dignity” and the disrespect the Chinese (the predominant ethnic group in the Bearish rally) have shown to the Malays and their leader, Najib. During their rally a group of the Red Shirts attempted to enter Petaling Street but they were stopped by Malaysia’s Federal Reserve Unit, a specialist division of the police that deals with crowd control.

They were left licking their wounds but threatened to stage a comeback on September 26 where the Red Shirts would enter Petaling Street to stage a protest and demand better conditions for Malay traders so they can also do business there. That was the ostensible reason but in the meantime the organiser Jamal Yunos threatened violence and was, rightly arrested by the police on September 25, a day before the planned rally.

In the meantime, though, the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Hui Kang made a bizarre visit to the traders at Petaling Street on the evening of September 26 where he calmed the nerves of the traders by saying, as reported by Free Malaysia Today:

PETALING JAYA: China’s Ambassador to Malaysia has stated his firm belief that all Malaysians, save a handful, already enjoyed racial harmony and appealed to those bent on causing trouble tomorrow, to kindly refrain from doing so.

At a press conference, after distributing mooncakes to those present, Huang Hui Kang said, “I believe that 99 per cent of the Chinese and Malays live harmoniously and only a small number of them want to cause trouble tomorrow.

“We told businesspeople here that they can open as usual tomorrow if they want but if they feel unsafe, the choice is theirs to close instead.”

He also said that the traders at Petaling Street only wanted to carry out their business in peace and that for those who chose to open tomorrow, the police would be on standby to offer security in the event there was trouble.

“So far, about 50 per cent of traders, which equals to around 600 in number, are still fearful of opening tomorrow. However we will keep abreast of the news and act accordingly,” he said.

If you look at the social media feeds, his actions have been lauded and praised. The Chinese welcomed his comments and visit as a show of solidarity and brotherhood. Some even gave the impression that they would welcome China being their benefactor.

Others, including Chinese and Malay leaders in the Government and Opposition have been strangely silent. Only Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry, Wisma Putra, seems to be concerned by this development and has leaked the news that they will be summoning the Chinese Ambassador  for a discussion.

Where foreign relations go this is an incredible development on some levels.

On one level you have China blatantly meddling in the internal affairs of another sovereign country. The ambassador was making statements more appropriate for a Malaysian Minister than an envoy. Who begs the question of whether his message and gesture was sanctioned by China’s government. If it had been we should all shudder as you ask what China has to gain by stoking the racial fire. If it had not, was the Ambassador totally out of line and why has he not been recalled yet? The Chinese Embassy’s explanation sounds as credible as Mao doing a hip hop song. 

On another level, the Malaysian Chinese are making a grave mistake by accepting the Ambassador’s words and deeds as a sign of solidarity and empathy. The ancestors of the malaysian Chinese have been migrating out of China for at least the last couple of centuries – and for good reason, China is not a place that they would want to live in because of the socio, political and economic hardships. IN the intervening years, whole generation of Malaysian Chinese have grown up in a different political and social environment. The last thing they would want is China dictating their politics and social norms. China’s interest is not necessarily the same as those of the Malaysian Chinese and they should never forget that. Yet no prominent Chinese leader has come forward to denounce the Ambassador’s blatant assault to Malaysia’s sovereignty. And why? Because what’s popular now among the Chinese is anything slamming Najib and Umno. They won’t do the right but popular thing. 

 

On the third level is the response of the government. Has it become so weak that Wisma Putra has to leak stories to the media that it was summoning the Ambassador to chastise him? His offence has very clearly broken diplomatic protocols. Will this weakness lead to even bolder moves by China? The only criticism so far has come from the Government mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia and Umno Youth but no officials?