The dust has yet to settle after the 12th General Elections when the question of ethnic quotas raised its ugly head again. While observers seem to think that the Malaysian electorate has finally had enough of ethnicity based politics and were willing to give the alternative a try, we saw Umno organised demonstrations against the newly elected state governments for allegedly not having enough Malays in their EXCO lineups, folks upset because certain parties were not given their due rewards in terms of representation (I read it as having not enough Chinese), and now in Malaysiakini’s Vox Populi today and apparently e-mails sent to KeADILan’s HQ (so I heard); people upset that the Makkal Sakthi movement was not rewarded with enough Indian representation in the Selangor EXCO line up.
Granted that due to the fact that we have had to endure more than half a century of ethnic identity based politics, certain contructs remain difficult to dismantle overnight. A lot of these contructs are embedded in our constitutional setups (like the requirement for a Malay Muslim to be appointed Menteri Besar in the Malay states) and many more remain embedded in our psyche. Many still find it impossible to fathom the possibility that perhaps a Malaysian would stand up for the rights of another Malaysian who happens to be of a different ethnic or religious background.
Seeing gripes about not having a Hindu Tamil represented in the Selangor EXCO is dumbfounding. What would happen if I started griping that there’s no Protestant Christian Teochew Chinese represented (we did; after all; embark on a public education campaign to get our fellow Christians [about 2 million of us of the Protestant expression] to vote wisely) or if someone else were to remark on the lack of representation of Taoist Hainanese, Theravadist Ceylonese, Mahayanist Foochows, Pure Land Hokkiens, Bahai Eurasians, Ahmaddiya Bengalis, Sikh Punjabis, yadda yadda yadda.
So I reckon that just because Teresa Kok is a Roman Catholic Hakka she won’t stand up for the rights of this Lutheran Teochew? Or that Yaacob Sapari is a Sunni Muslim Bugis (I’m just taking a wild guess here) that he won’t stand up for the rights of Hindu Telugu vegetable farmer?
I have shared some concerns earlier about how ethno-religious movements like HINDRAF could end up playing the same game; perhaps inadvertantly; as Umno. I hope that this isn’t true but the increasingly knee jerk reactions from people who are using HINDRAF as a bargaining chip seems to indicate otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not very happy about the fact that M. Manoharan was not given any positions in the Selangor state government. I did, after all, help campaign for Mano way back in 1995 when he stood as a candidate for the DAP in Kampung Tunku and remembered him sharing candidly his experiences with the late V. David and how he considered V. David his mentor and example.
However, I am not upset because Mano did not get selected due to his ethnicity or his religion. In fact, I think I’d be more upset if he was selected just to fill in an ethnic quota. I am upset because I know Mano has put in his all for the downtrodden and would be a great holder of the public trust in whatever role he is put in and the Selangor EXCO is so much the lesser without his contribution.
I think its wonderful that a good 46.75% (or 3,796,464 to be exact) of the voters who came out on polling day voted for change. Its just a pity that some forgot that change first has to come from oneself. The politicians we elect merely reflect the attitudes of the electorate. If we cannot start the change within ourselves, do we honestly expect the politicians to change?