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MGG: New Rules for Naming Roads And Buildings After Non-Malays
By M.G.G. Pillai

22/3/2002 11:16 pm Fri

An insiduous counter-attack by Malay civil servants is to remove, by fair means or foul, the names of buildings and institutions named after non-Malays. Officially denied, but it happens all the time. Many a departmental head is now under pressure to leave his department more Islamic or more Malay or both. So, the Ipoh city council, with the active help from UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan councillors, renamed Jalan Koo Chong Kong, named after a Malaysian hero killed by the communists, to Jalan Tabung Haji. In the resultant furore, the change was annulled; the mayor's excuse that he did not know the man was a Tan Sri! It is a matter of time that name would disappear.

Now even Tuns are not exempt. In Malacca, the Akademi Kastam di-Raja Malaysia (The Royal Customs Academy of Malaysia or Akmal) has renamed its first hall from Dewan Tun Siew Sin, named after Malaysia's long-serving finance minister, to Dewan Serbaguna (Community Hall). Why? Akmal wrote to Tun Tan's widow, Toh Puan Tan that its halls should not be named after dead persons. In other words, Akmal has decided, as policy, it would in future only name its institutions after living persons, and rename them after they are dead. It is as usual a stupid excuse, one that demeans whatever Akmal is there to provide. Dig deeper, and you would find that the names of buildings or roads renamed invariably are non-Malay.

In the general view of Malay cultural and religious activists, Malay names live on after their death, but not the non-Malay's. An unmentioned but insiduous attempt is in full lswing to disparage the role of non-Malays, especially historical, from the Malaysian heritage. Officially, it is denied, but the petty actions of civil servants and appointed National Front politicians, especially from the Gerakan, MCA and MIC, reveals a conscious attempt to deny it.

Removing a dead man's name from a public building, if extended, would put Malaysia in total confusion. Jalan Tun Razak or Jalan Bukit Tunku should not be there. Every historical name attached to Malaysian roads and public buildings should be renamed. But it would not be. Only non-Malay names would change. It is not confined to roads and public buildings. This hobbling of the non-Malay and his cultural and political heritage is in full swing.

Coincidentally, a government-appointed committee of retired Malaysian academic worthies have found, despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary and without asking the public to testify, that claims of racial segregation in Malaysian schools are false. The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) alleged it, but the teachers are now told that what they noticed in the classes are a mirage, that they ought to get their brains and spectacles examined, and racial segregation does not exist in Malaysian schools.

Does not Malaysia fight hard for racial unity in Ougadougou, and South Africa? Is not its commitment to racial equality elsewhere in the world proof of its policies at home? But its rhetoric outside has no relevance to its policies at home. The National Front (BN) government would not address this deliberate downgrading of the non-Malay in national politics. In almost every government department, one or two Malay officers hold it to ransom to ensure the non-Malay is boxed in his seat, denied his promotion, forced to accept they are there under sufference. The senior (Malay) officers who disagree are sidelined or forced out. This small group behaves as the the UMNO Youth education bureau undergraduate spies to report to it of professors and lecturers who do not support UMNO and its vision.

Non-Malay officers in every branch of public administration face a glass ceiling, which they cannot, except as a token, break through. The MCA, MIC, and latterly Gerakan, slept through the deliberate hobbling of the non-Malay civil servant to promote him not on merit but on the same quota of four-Malays-to-one non-Malay as when he was recruited. The May 1969 racial riots refined it to become policy as the MCA and MIC in the governing Alliance tied itself in knots, frightened and unable to make sense of the hurricane over their political heads; the non-Malay civil servants' rights now further eroded by a small committee of civil servants which denies non-Malays their role in public administration. Curiously, the general civil service perception is that despite these handicaps, the non-Malay is the more reliable, hardworking and focussed than his Malay counterpart.

The government is hoist on its own petard, and it knows not how to reverse this disastrous development in racial politics. It is racial quotas not merit or relevance that determines the position of the non-Malay. He is occasional brought into prominence, as Dato' K.J. Ratnam, brought out of honourable retirement, to head a committee to assert that no racial segregation exists in Malaysian schools. It does not prove anything. Go to the same schools the committee investigated -- that they did in a few months is a remarkable achievement of these retired individuals' industry -- and see if the report bears any relation to reality. For one thing, the heads of the 210 schools would take it upon themselves to prove the report wrong, angry at being second-guessed. The government is in no position to avert this, for it has a problem with the Malay community it does not know how to deal with.

So, the names of Malaysia's non-Malay heroes would be removed as surely as night follows day, justified with creative reasons that show nothing but cynicism for the contributions of any but the Malay. This must only increase. The BN and UMNO is now wedded to an Islamic, not a Malaysian, world, in which the non-Malaysian Muslim gets preference for a Malaysian non-Malay. This is already so in several areas of public administration. With the BN declaring Malaysia an Islamic state, but refusing to have it debated in Parliament, it blinked. It shows its fear of wanting to debate it with its political enemy, PAS, and forces it through. When the government itself shortchanges its people over such an important change to the country's status, other unconstitutional means would be used by civil servant Malay and Islamic activists.

One university vice-chancellor was drummed out of his post because he thought the non-Malay professors and lecturers should be given their rightful due. No non-Malay is vice-chancellor of a Malaysian university. Non-Malay headmasters are becoming a rarity in Malaysian schools. The government has allowed it to go on that it can only reverse this at its cost.

The Malay cultural ground is not with it, and if it tries to give the non-Malay a fair deal, its Malay ground would erode further. It must espouse Malay and Islamic issues for its own survival, and for that survival, it allows the extremist Malay to point a loaded gun to its head. In the long run, this would cause political consequences one dare not think about; but that they would come is a certainty, if the present trend continues unabated. For what the BN has created is a society that would rebel at any move to return to Malaysia's constitutional basics. So what happened to Dewan Tun Siew Sin is not unexpected. Distressing as it is to those non-Malays who hold Malaysia in high regard. What happens now to the minorities in this Malay Islamic world of Malaysia under the BN?

M.G.G. Pillai