The racially charged narrative used against Pua

Former prime minister (twice) Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s attack against DAP’s Tony Pua smacks of the usual racist dog-whistle politics that defines the Umno way of doing political business. “Arrogant” is a racist trope that has been used against the DAP for decades.

It really does not matter if you think that Pua (above) did something wrong or not. I submit that whatever Pua did or did not do is normal behaviour between the political and business apparatus of this country.

Of course, nobody really knows what really goes on in the corridors of power and we should be sceptical whenever political operatives air their versions of the “truth”. Furthermore, this really goes to show us how servile the DAP was in the presence of the old maverick.

Lim Guan Eng in revealing that the old maverick threatened to sack him three times from his finance minister post, does not exactly inspire confidence merely because it demonstrates how two-faced Pakatan Harapan political operatives were in their reassurance to the base that Mahathir was steering the good ship Malaysia on a proper course.

Mahathir’s swipe at Pua is not really about how the bureaucracy works or should work but rather a reliable strategy for revising history to suit his ethnocentric narratives. And it’s all really bizarre.

The old maverick said he was pro-big business for obvious economic reasons but remember all of this is based on some sort of racial demagoguery especially when berating the Malays, which he does often, the most toxic of which, when in 2002 he said this:

“If we take out the Chinese and all that they have built and own, there will be no small or big towns in Malaysia, there will be no business and industry, there will be no funds for the subsidies, support and facilities for the Malays. Learn from the Chinese.”

‘Chinese arrogance’ trope

Every time a Malay political operative and governmental minion wants to delegitimise the DAP, he or she resorts to the term “arrogant” to signal intrusion into Malay provinces be it political, social or economic.

The “Chinese arrogance” trope is used as a means to not only control the narrative but also to define the working relationships between Malay power brokers and non-Malay power brokers.

Non-Malay power brokers have to show the proper deference when it comes to dealing with “Malay” institutions otherwise they would be construed as stirring up racial and religious sentiments.

The image of an arrogant young Chinese political appointee is more acceptable than the banal reality that Harapan (and Mahathir) failed because it made stupid mistakes and aligned with political cretins.

Not to mention, it is a very reliable strategy to demonise the DAP as arrogant and Malays working with or in the DAP as mere slaves to Chinese overlords. 

Former DAP member Norhizam Hassan Baktee attempted to play this card (thankfully it backfired only because there was a veritable plethora of Malay uber alles candidates to pick from in the recent Malacca elections) when he said this:

“Today I am acting for the interest of the Malays… I have worked hard, said I want to serve but I became a barua (lackey), I was really a barua. I am coming back to the right path.”

All this furthers the narrative which claims that non-Malays in positions of power means that Malays will be subservient to non-Malays, which means that all these uber alles parties would of course make use of such nonsensical ideas in their rather effective propaganda.

And of course, the Malay political operatives in Harapan will not come to the DAP’s defence because this is not like wearing a tudung (headscarf) but involves a host of other issues which includes how the political structures are linked to commercial interests to the detriment of the average rakyat.

Perpetuating the DAP bogeyman 

What the old maverick is doing now is merely reminding his base or whoever supports his rinky-dink political party that it is the same old racist outfit that would demonise the DAP in the hopes of populist Malay appeal.

Indeed he is giving more credence to all those Malay uber alles political parties, who will now use what the old maverick says as propaganda that nobody can work with the DAP because they are chauvinistic and arrogant.

And this is propaganda because as Mahathir’s son Mukhriz confirmed that whenever Umno could not address a specific problem they resorted to this kind of propaganda to deflect and obfuscate.

“Looking at Umno, when there were big issues which we could not address, we would talk about DAP, Chinese chauvinism and how (DAP stalwart) Lim Kit Siang becoming prime minister would destroy Malaysia, that the Malays would disappear, and the mosques can no longer air the azan. 

“I admit that I too have said such things in front of a 100 percent Malay audience. Thinking back, I feel guilty and a sense of regret,” Mukhriz said in a 2018 interview. 

Now recall in 2013 when DAP’s Teresa Kok accused Mukhriz of the politics of vengeance in punishing the Chinese community in Kedah when they did not support BN. Mukhriz said that he would not entertain requests for Chinese schools in Kedah because the Malays were the majority and he could not neglect them.

In 2008, Mukhriz called for the abolition of vernacular schools in order to foster greater unity among the people. He said a single school system was the only way to check racial polarisation in Malaysia, which is now an issue again because Malay power structures are warring amongst themselves.

All of which points to the reality that non-Malay political operatives are not only judged by different standards but working within the ketuanan (supremacy) bureaucracy presents challenges that are nearly impossible to overcome.

Is it any wonder that some folks decide to leave Malaysia truly Asia?