The indefinable meaning of dignity

pic by BERNAMA

FOR those who opposed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad attending the Kongress Maruah Melayu or Malay Dignity Congress, some are probably quite relieved that he did, though they may find it difficult to admit.

Those who were keen for him to attend may have regretted that he did and they seemed quite prepared to express their unhappiness.

In the first part, those who opposed Dr Mahathir from attending the gathering were of the view that the congress was racist in nature and organised by those who were right wing nationalists.

They may be so or they may be not. But to oppose Dr Mahathir from attending is as racist as those they accused to be.

Lest they forget, when Dr Mahathir was working out the strategy for the 14th General Election and proposed to set up a Malay Bumiputera party instead of a multiracial one, quite a number of the Pakatan Harapan leaders were agreeable and in fact supported it.

To them, without a Malay-based party, the Opposition coalition would not be able to win over a substantial number of Malay votes which would then diminish any hope of winning the election, or that the results would at best be as it was in the 2008 and 2013 polls.

Hence, the preparedness to accept a race-based party and they went on to join the Pakatan Harapan coalition, henceforth, won the polls.

At that time, during the campaign period, Dr Mahathir campaigned to all and sundry, Malay rights groups, religious mullahs and non-Malay organisations that are deemed racist by some Malays, Hindraf and the DAP included.

But at that time, there were no restrictions as to which Malay groups and organisations that Dr Mahathir chose to meet or congresses and forums he wanted to attend.

The purpose was clear — they needed to be convinced that voting for Umno and Barisan Nasional that was supporting Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, is an anathema to the nation’s wellbeing and future.

As it turned out, some were convinced and voted for Pakatan and Dr Mahathir became the prime minister.

Now, into the second year of the new government and three more years before the mandate expires and the general election to be called, a group of Malays — disgruntled and unhappy maybe, directionless more likely, angry seemingly, helpless and hapless somewhat — organised a congress and invited Dr Mahathir.

Obviously, they felt that he was the most senior and highest positioned leader from the community and he would probably be able to attend to their wants.

But when Dr Mahathir agreed, voices from within Pakatan opposing his decision were publicly pronounced, giving rise to views that Dr Mahathir and the current government are not to entertain any demands or unhappiness raised by the community.

That being the case, those unhappy with Dr Mahathir attending the congress should have probably put a caveat to their opposition that he should only attend such a congress when the general election is around the corner.

But that is three years away, so it can wait.

As for now, their fear is based on the personalities organising it and that it may turn into a racist taunting event and Dr Mahathir pandering to them and giving legitimacy to the event.

It turned out that Dr Mahathir did not pander to race-baiting and instead he pursued what he had consistently been doing, criticising the Malays for not working hard, looking for shortcuts and dishonest when given the opportunities.

That led to the rise of the second group — Malays who were unhappy and insulted that Dr Mahathir, instead of “rising” to the occasion to be the hero and saviour of the community and agreeing with them that the non-Malays are the bane to their dignity, had chosen to “self-flagellate’ the Malays.

While some agreed that the Malays had to dig deeper within to restore their traumatised dignity, others felt that Dr Mahathir was replaying an old record and failed to see the realities of racist considerations affecting almost all aspects of the Malaysian life.

Whether Dr Mahathir is the one playing his old record or his critics are actually the one is a debate that will continue to rage until the next congress and to last until the next polls.

However, while the congress had yet to turn into a cadaver, Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan was quick to move in for the political kill, stating that Dr Mahathir could form a new government with Barisan Nasional, PAS and allies from Sabah and Sarawak, if Dr Mahathir was sincere in wanting to dignify the positions of the Malays and Islam.

Among the conditions set was that, Umno and PAS must be given significant roles in the new government. Mohamad added that it was up to Dr Mahathir to decide but added that the majority of Malays/Muslims rejected Pakatan.

He also agreed with Dr Mahathir’s call for Malay Muslim unity, but in what form and logically the smaller party (Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia) must join the bigger Malay body, the Gagasan Penyatuan Ummah — the Umno-PAS union.

It sounds quite simple, at least for those with simplistic notions — that for the sake of Malay/Muslim dignity, Dr Mahathir and Bersatu should abandon Pakatan and join Umno/PAS to form the new government.

Notably, Mohamad chose to ignore the dignity of the Malays compromised by scandalised leaders who are accused of having robbed the nation blind. Basically, blamed everyone but themselves.

Dr Mahathir rejected Mohamad’s offer saying given Malaysia’s multiracial character, it cannot be ruled by a single race. Surprisingly, Dr Mahathir had a supporter in PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang who echoed similar sentiments, though some may question the level of altruism attached to it.

And Abdul Hadi, who attended the congress, did not share the sentiments of the second group who were unhappy with Dr Mahathir’s speech, contending that the Malays should be open to criticisms from their own kind, especially when the illness afflicting the community required urgent attention.

It seems for Abdul Hadi, the doctor is already in the house.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.