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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So is Malaysian Defense Minister Hamidi a pendatang as well?

So when Malaysian Defense Minister claims he is bumiputra or Malay in Malaysia, is he lying? Is he actually Malay (an anthropological impossibility as there is no such race except in the Malaysian Constitution and the minds of the cynical politicians) or an Orang Java (an ethnicity).

His family migrated to Malaysia from Jogjakarta in 1932. My family migrated there from Fujian Province at least over 120 years ago. Yet he is able to claim himself a bumiputra and all its privileges, yet my family and my kind is often given the disparaging label of pendatang.

Ditto with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak who’s openly declared his Bugis roots, yet remains chauvinistically Malay. Is it a wonder they will lose the next general election?

Malaysian defense minister visits ‘home’http://m.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/03/22/malaysian-defense-minister-visits-home.html
The Jakarta Post | Fri, 03/22/2013 11:11 AM |
Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi revealed his Javanese heritage on Thursday in Yogyakarta during his state visit.

He said he had Javanese blood as his paternal grandparents originally came from Kulonprogo in Yogyakarta.

“I am coming home,” Zahid told The Jakarta Post, adding that he would be staying in Yogyakarta for two days with his wife, having attended the Jakarta International Defense Dialogue (JIDD) on Wednesday.

While in Yogyakarta, Zahid plans to meet relatives including Yogyakarta Mayor Haryadi Suyuti and friends including the Yogyakarta sultan’s brother, GBPH Joyokusumo, as well as visiting the royal cemetery in Imogiri, Bantul.

Zahid said that his grandparents moved from Kulonprogo to Malaysia in 1932, while his mother’s grandfather had come from Ponorogo, East Java, and later married a Malaysian woman. He added that the fact that he had Indonesian blood made it easier to handle political disputes with the Indonesian government.

“Complications can be solved because of this closeness,” said Zahid, who was previously Malaysian deputy tourism minister.

Among the Indonesia-Malaysia issues that he was attempting to resolve included problems relating to Indonesian migrant workers working in Malaysia and the dispute over the Ambalat sea block.