THE Congress on Malay Dignity held recently looks more like a gathering for political posturing rather than a soul-searching effort on the dignity of the Malays.
Most Malays do not really understand the concept of dignity (maruah). They equate it with their so-called birth rights that must not be challenged. As such the congress turned out to be more about claiming rights rather than an effort to revisit the tenets and manifestations of dignity as in the behavioral pattern and the demeanor of a dignified community.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad struck the right cord by emphasising work ethics and the need not to depend on others as well as to be able to stand on one’s own merit (berdikari). He stressed the need to maximise usage of available opportunities, the dignity of hard work, the willingness to accept challenges and not to hold on to crutches.
But what transpired at the congress was not so much as rectifying weaknesses that are not reflective of a dignified community but demanding exclusive rights as reflected in the five resolutions, which are not consonant with a plural society. This is evident in the remarks made that Malaysia fully belonged to the Malays who had been here for over 5,000 years. The speaker was reminiscing about the ancient past and is oblivious of the current realities.
Rather than showing fortitude to seize opportunities through merit and a competitive spirit, they put caveats on various aspects of governance, claiming exclusive ownership. It clearly shows that the Malay mindset is not in tune with the realities of current political, social and economic scenario.
One would expect that the intelligentsia of academia to put forth a plan for a paradigm shift in the Malay mindset to grapple with the realities of the modern world in a dignified and respectful manner.
Lest we forget, Malay dignity is entwined with the dignity of the other races. All together must forge for a truly Malaysian dignity that transcends political and ethnic schisms.
Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin
Centre for Policy Research and International Studies
Universiti Sains Malaysia