Bilahari’s comments on Malay dominance in Malaysia; Are Singaporeans the ones who cannot detract from race politics?

Now that the Malaysian election results are done and dusted, it allows us to delve into the deeper issues that led to the toppling of UMNO. Of course, there is no denying that Najib and Rosmah’s flagrant corruption played a large part in their downfall.

However, the writing was already on the wall and the movement to topple UMNO was already in the works long before the 1MDB’s smoking gun.

Given Malaysia’s geographical proximity to Singapore, it is not surprising that Singaporean politicians are watching the events in Malaysia with great interest. One such commentator has been Bilahari Kausikan, a diplomat has just retired this month.

In his 2015 opinion piece “Singapore is not an island”, Mr Kausikan had made much on the issue of race and Malay supremacy.

He opined, “It is my impression that many young Malaysian Chinese have forgotten the lessons of May 13, 1969. They naively believe that the system built around the principle of Malay dominance can be changed. That may be why they abandoned MCA for the DAP. They are delusional. Malay dominance will be defended by any means.”

He seemed to allege that there is an agenda on the part of the government to promote Malay interests above all else. While that could arguably be true, is it an issue of race or an issue of majority rules? While the effects may well be the same, the intentions are more nuanced. Racial proportions could change – majority rules, however, is a concept as old as time.

One might argue that Singapore promotes Chinese interest above the interests of the other races too?

Besides, if the overriding issue is about race, Najib should have won the election. In the lead up to the election, Najib had made no secret of the fact that he was gunning for the Malay vote. Yet, it was Pakatan Harapan (a coalition of many races) that won the election, beating the Malay centric UMNO.

Ultimately, despite all of the different races that make up Malaysia, the biggest unifier was a vision for a corruption free Malaysia that benefitted all Malaysians that won the day.

Has Mr Kausikan made too much of an issue about race? Or is he viewing events in Malaysia through the eyes of the situation in Singapore? Are we the ones who are making too much of issue of race?

Something to think about…