I do care about Malays
Of late I’ve been receiving harsh retorts and brickbats from some Malays. They are upset with my views about Umno policies, especially my argument that Malays don’t need special attention or preferences to empower them or to make them successful. They say I am ungrateful since Umno made me rich.
The thrust of my argument is that Malays just need fair policies, right attitudes and a good work ethic.
We need a government that gives us fair and equal opportunities to do well. In fact, I think the present preferential policies are too arbitrary and will make Malays fail at their endeavours – with the exception of a lucky few, of course.
Today, I want to reply to the propaganda that I am rich and ungrateful to Umno. Such attacks are an easy way for Umno to whip up emotions without acknowledging – let alone responding to – any of my arguments. They like to “shame” their enemies in the eyes of the public so that real issues are forgotten.
I want to remind Malays that they don’t need to be “enslaved” by Umno. There is no need to feel that our whole existence depends on the party. It’s this mental slavery that is keeping Malays downtrodden and impoverished. So here is the truth:
I was never a high-ranking official in Umno despite being a member for 25 years. The best I could achieve was Division Head of Kota Bharu, and that was after 10 years of trying. Three years after that, I was suspended. I was not given a chance to contest the Kota Bharu parliamentary seat in the 2008 elections although I was the incumbent and the first Umno candidate to have won the seat (in 2004) after 15 years of opposition rule.
As an Umno Division Head you get to be a Datuk; and yes I got mine from a former Chief Minister of Melaka. So it’s true that, if not for Umno, I would probably be an Encik (or Mr) today.
It’s also true that I was made a director of Tenaga Nasional Berhad for three years, and it’s probably true that if I had not been an Umno MP I would probably not have been given this opportunity. It’s also true that I was a minister for nine months, which would not have happened if not for Umno. But all these appointments did not make me rich. I have never been rich.
I was never an “Umno lawyer”. Yes, legal work for the North-South Highway concession was handled by my firm, but that was because of the kindness of Tan Sri Halim Saad who wanted to help a poor fellow from Kota Bharu start something useful. I did not get Umno to pressure Halim to appoint me because I didn’t know any of the top leaders. I was a nobody.
Yes, I used the opportunity to build the firm Zaid Ibrahim & Co., but I was not (and have never been) an Umno lawyer. If you want to know the real Umno lawyers when all the deals were done, you should talk to Tun Zaki Tun Azmi, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Manaff, Tan Sri Zulhasnan Rafique, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Tan Sri Cecil Abraham and the other big names.
During the 2010 Hulu Selangor by-election (which I lost) the same attacks were thrown at me: I was an ungrateful Melayu (Malay) who bit the hand that fed me. I asked these accusers to present the list of shares that I allegedly received from them, as well as the projects, concessions, APs, licences and monopolies I supposedly enjoyed. They also claimed I owned some listed companies.
There was no proof because I owned none of these things. So how on earth could I be rich?
What was I supposed to do with APs, concessions and projects anyway? I’m not a businessman. I’m a lawyer with a penchant for getting into trouble. I’d have had to ask a Chinese businessman to run these projects for me, thus contributing to the Ali Baba syndrome that Umno leaders were railing against at the time.
Similarly, I wouldn’t have been able to bear the guilt of depriving genuine Malay entrepreneurs of the opportunity to grow. I really believed then that Umno wanted to make Malays economically and educationally as strong as – not “stronger than” – everybody else in the greater Malaysian community. To deprive Malays of that opportunity would be a terrible fraud. I’d be guilty of hypocrisy at best, treachery at worst.
So that’s why I’m not rich. I like to tell myself that I’m happy, at least.
But the truth is I’m not. The fiction that I’m rich perpetuates the mantra that any Malay who has achieved anything in life owes it all to Umno. The enslaving of the Malay mind is important for Umno, so that the whole existence of a Malay is predicated on being subservient to the party.
The Malay psyche is nurtured and developed by this false propaganda so Malays are convinced that they are unable to survive on their own. In other words, Umno’s continued existence depends on Malays being enslaved in this way.
This makes me extremely unhappy.
My criticism of Umno, including its philosophy of mental slavery, stems from my strong belief that Malays have been “spoilt” by Umno’s false values. Umno teaches values that will keep Malays dependent and poor while making them greedy and utterly paranoid. What does this do to the Malay soul? What does it do to the Malaysian soul when the largest community is so terribly afraid not just of other communities but of its own shadow as well?
I care about Malays and that’s why I want an open debate to discuss how to really empower the Malay community in the correct, “unbigoted”, and “non-racialised” way. I see changes in values, educational reforms and cultural progress as critical to the development of the Malays. What doesn’t work is the mixture of handouts, chest-thumping and looking for imaginary bogeymen under the bed.
If you want to empower Malays, be sincere and do it properly. It’s in the interest of Malaysians that all our communities progress together. Empowerment, which must start with Malays, must end by being for all Malaysians.
However, Umno isn’t interested in changing the Malays, let alone Malaysians. They just want to rule forever.
And here’s a parting note:
I’ve been in semi-retirement for some time now. If you remember, I resigned from Zaid Ibrahim & Co. and gave up all my shares when I became a Minister. The upshot is that my savings are depleting quickly and, as such, I plan to go back to work in 2014 by opening an office to do some consultancy.
This means I’ll be running around getting things done for clients. Like everyone else, I’ll appreciate any business that comes my way, but I hope to be paid promptly and that not too many people ask for discounts that I can’t afford to give.
So much for the life of a man made rich by Umno, eh? – December 12, 2013.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.