Challenge and response – between the timid and robust

By Ariff Sabri, MP for Raub

sakmongkolPeople want to know why- despite the UMNO led government committing a lot of transgressions- corruption, abuse of power, land grabs, economic mismanagement, intimidation; it continues to rule the minds of Malays. They continue to support UMNO despite their loathing of the abusive and high handedness and even bestiality of UMNO leaders.

How can we explain this?

In the past, we explained this fixated allegiance to UMNO because Malays as a whole believe that UMNO can save the Malays, their religion, their culture and the Malay rulers. UMNO has succeeded in etching into the minds of Malays especially, that UMNO is indispensable. Continuity is better than unknowable change. The known better than the unknown.

Even hard headed Singapore thinks, it’s better to have UMNO in Malaysia as the government. That is because Singapore places its interests above everything else and this overriding interest is unavoidably linked to the continuance of UMNO.

To me this is surprising because the interest of Singapore ought to be attached to a government (any government) in Malaysia that upholds the rule of law, advocates pragmatic realism, honour its obligations toward neighbours and parties to contracts. These qualities are diminishing under UMNO.

I have also used that rationale. But how do we explain that there were many Malays who voted for Pakatan Rakyat in 2013 General elections.?

I have to seek the answer/s elsewhere.

On the first day of Ramadhan, I walked around Raub’s Pasar Ramadhan. Since it was the first day of Ramadhan, the tempo has yet to pick up. All the same, it was a merry affair but made a little sombre by rising costs of inputs.

A medium sized ikan bakar of a variety that is commonly found is Raub, sells for RM12 a piece. The standard price of whatever kueh is 5 pieces for RM2.

Come to Raub if you want to sample some traditional Malay dishes- sambal hitam, jeruk maman, some veges that I have only recently come to know the names of. Simple, ordinary and kampung type of dishes. Tasty nonetheless. And of course Raub is quietly famous for its ikan gulai tempoyak- Patin of course.

The price of inputs such as sugar, cooking gas, cooking oil has all gone up. Chillies, spices have increased in price. The basic ingredients- fish, meats, and vegetables have also risen in price. One kilo of rubber cannot buy you one kilo of kangkung despite being hailed as cheap by the PM.

But as I have observed, the Malays who are Muslims have a very high tolerance level of life’s misfortunes. In many instances, this has been their undoing. They will suffer and endure in silence. Probably this has something to do with their fatalism. Whatever is willed, so be it.

While the Malays complain about rising cost of living reflected in the price increase in almost everything they use and consume, they view these things as a natural development. Perhaps this is the answer- resign and accepts as natural development whatever comes. Malays do not respond to the challenge by overcoming the challenge but submitting and accepting. They fail to mount a robust challenge.

Those Malays who have mounted a robust challenge have advanced better. They become diplomats, doctors, engineers, get themselves better educated, got themselves into higher paying jobs. At one point in their lives, these Malays have responded robustly to life’s challenges by exercising control over their own fate. Those who do not, have regrettably slid behind.

We now know the basic nature of the problem. We must teach Malays to overcome the fear of changing and mounting a robust challenge. Our inability to break-this is a natural development syndrome- has hampered the emergence of the required awareness to enable change to take place. Malays either cannot or will not comprehend that there is nothing natural in these man-made social and economic disasters.

The dysfunctional state of affairs is caused by dysfunctional leadership, bad management of the economy, failure in the branches of government. If we desire change, then we must work towards the political education of the Malays.

Let me give you an example. Raub has endured interruptions in water supplies ever since I came to Raub one year ago. Each week, there will be dry-outs. A Malay village may suffer water outage for 4 days- yet Malays make no issue out of that. They will reconcile the water outage by assuring themselves that this thing will soon come to pass. In any case, we can always go to the nearest river or something. Malays thus respond by submitting tamely.

Not so the Chinese. They will call you immediately and demand supply of water and we will accordingly be calling the Perbadanan Air Pahang ( Raub chapter) to do the needful. The poor manager has been receiving incessant calls from us. A very decent and helpful person, this Encik Azri.

What is my point here? Malays and Chinese have different ways of looking at how we manage affairs. In the water outage case, the Malays ignore the possibility that the water outage may be the result of previous poor investment in infrastructure, that the problem may be caused by inefficient water asset management- use of inferior pipes, inferior water pumps, failing logistics and plain mediocre infrastructure. It cannot be attributed to low water levels- we have plenty of rain and catchment areas. Refusing to see the problem from this aspect has resulted in Malays being seen as pliable, compliant and submissive.

In a sense that attitude has been the Malay undoing. Water problem? – No problem just be patient. Rising cost of living? – This will soon come to pass. The government is doing everything possible. BR1M is here. RM1.70 a day- that is all right. At least we are getting something.

Pay for education fees. That’s ok. We can always beg around. Pay for the AES summons- RM 300. That is also ok. We will crush all those who sabotage the government’s efforts to get more money. GST- why are you people preventing the government from getting more money. More money means better spending on the public. More money means more frequent BR1Ms.

This is an important lesson to all political parties. To the DAP, it will not be sufficient only to cultivate Malay support. It must be accompanied by raising the awareness and the reality that responding to any challenge robustly can only bring betterment.

*This article was first published in sakmongkol.blogspot.com

 *The views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the author 

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