Peaceful Malays and gangster ‘pendatangs’

– S. Thayaparan, November 12, 2017.

“A society gets the criminals it deserves.”
– Val McDermid, “Killing the Shadows”

COMMENT | I never really understood this whole idea of “gangsterism” bandied about in the press. I get that crimes are gang related, or that there is organised crime – with the specifics of both not being mutually exclusive – but this shorthand of “gangsterism,” which normally points to a specific race, is really rather juvenile.

Not because it is not true, but rather because in a country where non-Malay citizens are told to be mindful of their place, of course the most marginalised communities would reflect the inequalities of the ruling hegemon.

To be honest I was a little bit disappointed that Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy was the one who demanded an apology from the Terengganu police chief Aidi Ismail (photo) for his “race and crime” remarks.

Although the Terengganu top cop implied that the majority-Malay communities were exempt from “gangsterism” – in Terengganu, anyway –he did not mention a specific non-Malay community.

I mean, I get it. You mention “gangsterism” and you immediately think of the Indian community. This is why I was a little disappointed that an Indian opposition politician responded. Mess with their heads a little. It would have confused the establishment bigots if a Malay opposition politician was the one demanding an apology from the Terengganu top cop for racial profiling.

That would have blown their minds and maybe offered a short respite from the usual horse manure that flows freely from establishment types.

Some folks have been sending me statistics and PDFs about race and crime in this country, and as far as official statistics are concerned, I am of the opinion that the statistics are skewered towards political motives, and to reflect progress in whatever KPIs the civil and security services are encumbered with.

More importantly, this is not really about racial profiling. This is really about how a majority of the Malay community, be it urban or rural, view non-Malays – Indians in this case – and the belief systems foisted on them through years of indoctrination and partisan politics, that they are a peaceful community, whose way of life – courteous, religious and sedate – is always at risk because of non-Malay presence on Tanah Melayu.

When inspector-general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun (photo) says that Aidi did not have any intention of making a racial remark, what he was getting at was that Aidi was merely promulgating the greater narrative that Malays are a peaceful religious people, who would be living in religious harmony were it not for the influence of the “other” races.

I mean look at how some Malay-Muslim activists keeping reminding people who live in Malay-Muslim majority areas to respect the sensitivities of the majority in the way they behave and dress in public. Do you get non-Muslims who are the majority in a specific area ever telling Muslims to respect their sensitivities?

It also points to the mindset of the state security apparatus. This belief that the Malay community is peaceful and that crimes are what “others” do, reflects the operating procedures which has resulted in deaths in custody, the refusal to carry out the orders from civil courts, and an unwillingness to submit to independent bodies when it comes to the way how they operate.

Will this change anytime soon? I doubt it. The reality is that mainstream politics in this country is race-based, and while many people, especially those who support the opposition, use this in an extremely cavalier manner, the reality is that the rot goes much deeper.

A reader sent me this snippet of a past article I wrote when she read what the Terengganu top cop said. “The police force has become a culture of its own succoured by religion, racialism and handouts, riddled with corruption and sharing a symbiotic relationship with the criminal underclass of Malaysian society and beholden to political masters who have always been engaged in protracted internal power struggles.

But yet I can say without hesitation that there are still those within the ranks of the PDRM, and those who have retired, who are honourable and understand the value of a functional police force but whose ranks are slowly dwindling over the long Umno-BN watch.”

Well yes, I did write that. However this is also not just an Umno thing. Umno may profit from this narrative, but I really believe that this is what a vast slice of the Malay community, especially those without access to information and do not interact with non-Malays in their daily lives, actually feel.

Take away the “gangsterism” meme and you have the stereotype of the honest Malay civil servant bribed by the unscrupulous Chinese businessman. This narrative of how the Malays were gracious enough to share their lands with interlopers and are now in a state of chaos because of different cultures fighting for space in this beautiful country is rehashed in so many variations that it has become part of the emotional make-up of a large slice of the voting demographic.

And these odious memes are needed, because how else to explain the quagmire the Malay community finds itself in. Writing of the futility of Malay privilege, I said, “Those other communities who seem to profit from this land, although they do not have but more importantly, do not need those special rights and privileges which were supposed to elevate the Malay community but instead has left them trailing in the wake of the progress of the non-Malay communities.”

What’s the point of demanding an apology form this particular police officer? Forget about messing with the crime statistics, or redefining crime, or even that the state is mired in financial corruption. What we are really talking about here is an idea.

The idea that if only they were not these pendatangs, holding back our religion, corrupting our race, attempting to take our power, we as a nation and people would be better. This is propaganda that money can’t buy.

Nobody, certainly not proponents of mainstream Malay politics, will ever apologise for that.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.