The talk about Chinese-Malay participation in Bersih 4

As a Malaysian who has lived overseas for most of his adult life, the last two decades spent in Indonesia, Unspun cannot help but marvel at the racial divide in Malaysia, even during a unifying event such as Bersih 4, that took place over this weekend.

For those not familar with Malaysian politics Bersih 4 is the wildly successful and popular rally of Malaysians over the weekend to protest the rotten system of political patronage and corruption among the elite in Umno entering on its leader and Prime Minister Najib Razak (for a primer on this issue see here).

So  hundreds of thousands of Malaysians turned up for the rally in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend. Smaller groups of Malaysians all over the world also gathered in their cities to show support and solidarity with their compatriots. This included Jakarta that held their gathering at a restaurant at Epicentrum (see photo below).

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Malaysians in Jakarta demonstrating support for and solidarity with the Bersih4 protests in Kuala Lumpur

What’s interesting is how one major threat of the conversation about Bersih 4 is going. And it’s all about race. There are those that say that most of the protesters in Kuala Lumpur are of Chinese descent, and that those of Malay descent were under represented. (But I do a disservice to the Malaysian nomenclature – careful phrasings of Chinese descent, ethnic Chinese and ethnic Malays are all abbreviated into Chinese and Malays).

Just Google Bersih4+Chinese+Malay and you will see how obsessed with race Malaysians have become
Just Google Bersih4+Chinese+Malay and you will see how obsessed with race Malaysians have become

Such observations have given rise to inferences and polemic. Some say that this reflect the political conservatism of the Malays, others say that the Chinese have now become politically dominant at the expense of the Malays; still others disagree and say that the Malays were actively participating, that the overwhelming population in Kuala Lumpur is Chiese, and that many Malays earned less and therefore they had to work serving everything from KFC to McDonalds to Starbucks to the bearish 4 protesters.

Without getting into the merits of their inferences, Unspun  it is telling about Malaysian society how race remains the single most important factor of their lives. It is difficult to imagine such conversations gaining so much play in Indonesia, where protests can happen often and often with the numbers that can make even the Bersih 4 rally a middling event.

That Malaysians are so aware of their race is a testament of how damaging and polarising the Government’s policies have had on the populace. Everything revolves around race and interpreted through the racial prism. Even the most well meaning Malaysians who proclaim that they did not see Malays, Chinese or Indians among he protesters but only Malaysians belie the fact that they are conditioned by this polarisation to have such mindfulness of race.

So where does this leave Malaysia, assuming the Bersih 4 protest achieves its objective and they get rid of Najib?  A bit of a better place but still sitting on a powder keg. Race is polarising, emotive and easily stoked as an issue. It is so entrenched that it will take much effort and many years to undo the harm that the Umno-led government (beginning with Mahathir Mohamad) has done.

But it needs to be addressed. So perhaps when Najib is shoved aside the focus should move toward a depolarisation of race, rather than anything political on the agenda?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have blogs will protest: Free Burma action this Thursday

Here’s a way to use your blog to good effect.

clipped from www2.free-burma.org

Take part in this action for a Free Burma!

Taking part in the Free Burma! campaign is as simple as possible:
If you are a website owner or blogger you just have to post one entry on the 4th of October 2007 on your website/blog with the title/text Free Burma! and include one of the graphics from this page or from our Flickr group to sync our global voices. Please use the tag “free burma” if possible. For bloggers, our slogan is: “One blogpost for Burma”, for website owners: “One text for Burma”.

If you have no website or blog we need you even more: Please help us to spread the word while commenting on other blogs with our message/link, posting on forums, guestbooks and message boards, tell your neighbours, friends or kids and first of all: Sign our list of participants! Furthermore you can visit our Wiki for more information and organisation.

  blog it

Have internet will protest: join the online petition on Burma

The folks at avaaz.org is organizing an online petition against the military junta in Burma for cracking down on monks and other protesters.Do something about it now. Join the online petition and add your voice against the assholes of this world.

clipped from www.avaaz.org

Stand with the Burmese Protesters

After decades of military dictatorship, the people of Burma are rising – and they need our help. Marches begun by monks and nuns have snowballed, bringing hundreds of thousands to the streets. Now the crackdown has begun…
When the Burmese last marched in 1988, the military massacred thousands. But if the world stands up and supports their struggle, this time they could succeed. We’ll send our petition to United Nations Security Council members (including the dictatorship’s main backer China) and to media at the UN, while also alerting the Burmese to our support:

To Chinese President Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council:
We stand alongside the citizens of Burma in their peaceful protests. We urge you to oppose a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, and to support genuine reconciliation and democracy in Burma. We pledge to hold you accountable for any further bloodshed.

  blog it

Have Facebook will Protest

Another avenue of objecting to the men of SLORC or whatever they call themselves these days. If you’re in Facebook (some of you are not? where have you been) then join the group “Support the Monks Protest in Burma“. It’s got 10,694 members so far. Sadhu. Sadhu. Sadhu.

Separately, it is an interesting way to use a social media network for a cause or an issue. Just imagine if someone started a Watching Suhato’s Wealth Group, Walhi Watch Group or  Kablvision Sucks group where everyone with any news about these subjects can post…what are the implications?

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