THERE was recently a move by the two Malay opposition parties to rouse the Malays with the call, ‘Melayu Bangkit’.
It is quite ironic that the same people who cast the Malays into a stupor are now trying to wake them up.
The Malay minds of yore were encased in the enchantment of the bygone era suffused with legendary musings of the bravado and adventures of the fictionalised heroes as portrayed on the wayang kulit screen, the makyong and bangsawan stage.
They somewhat woke up during the Japanese occupation that momentarily jolted them from the slumber induced during the British colonial period when the British by design labelled them as lazy natives only good as fishermen and farmers.
This was accepted as a norm by their feudal mentality which emphasised subservience to rulers and authority.
However, in the early 20th century some Malay leaders woke up to the reality of the situation and opposed the British.
Among them were Mat Salleh, Dol Saip, Rentap, Tok Bahaman, Tok Janggut, Maharajalela and Haji Abdul Rahman Limbong.
But they were all either incarcerated or killed as traitors by the British for challenging imperial authority.
After this episode of Malay resurgence, they again lapsed into a slumber to be partly awoken by the Japanese atrocities and communist insurgency.
That galvanised them to fight for independence.
This was the time when the Malays were unshackled from the feudal subservience and the awe of British imperial supremacy.
For this brief period, the Malays woke up to the reality that the British were not unassailable.
The Malays had to fend for themselves and they rose to the occasion charting the path towards independence and even thwarted the British-sponsored Malayan Union that would have reduced the rulers to mere ulama and the people recolonised.
After independence, however, the Malays let down their guard and once again began to slumber with the onset of neo-feudalism extending reverence to the leaders of Umno.
The Islamic party, on the other hand, used religion to lull its members into submission to the dictates of their leaders, who convinced the stupefied members to accept their economic and social predicament as a test from Allah rather than the result of the incompetency of their leaders.
Both the secular Umno and the Pas religious chauvinism entranced the Malays into an illusionary world of submission and loyalty with the leaders vowing to fight for and maintain the supremacy of the Malays and Islam.
They abide by the Quranic injunction of being loyal to the ulul amri (leaders), which is always emphasised by the leaders to the masses. But they mute the part that qualifies this injunction, that leaders must be just, morally and ethically upright.
The efforts of the Malay opposition parties to provoke ‘Melayu bangkit’ are not to cause a mental awakening but merely to support the neo-feudal agenda of unquestioned loyalty to the leaders who have manipulated the 3Rs — race, religion and royalty — to serve their agendas at the expense of the masses.
They are lulled into a state of nonchalance and regaled with false notions of inalienable rights, ownership, pride and bravado.
These unscrupulous leaders cannot afford to see the Malays wake up and unshackle themselves from the feudal-religious attitude and see that the world has changed.
They want them to live in the past and to be beholden to the rulers or ulul amri; to be shackled by tradition that perpetuates servitude to the ruling class.
Those who freed themselves from this mental psychosis and awoke to the reality of the situation and are no longer bemused by the neo-feudal trappings are branded as traitors to race, religion and rulers and in cahoots with enemies to erode Malay supremacy.
Alternatively, they were brought in line by coercion or gifted to toe the cohort’s line and agenda.
Thus this is the raison d’etre of the alliance of two oldest Malay political parties whose grip on power was broken by the partial awakening of some Malays.
They need the Malays to somnambulate in the dreamy world of pretense and false assertions and continue to hallucinate the unrealised grandeur of Malay supremacy to enable the leaders to manipulate them.
These defeated cohorts need docile and unquestioning masses who are subservient to their dictates to regain power by playing on race and religion as well as posing themselves as the saviour of Malay rights and supremacy even at the expense of national unity and integration.
Malays must wake up to the new political and economic realities, and cast off the traditional mindset of subservience and patronage as well as the illusionary world of Malay supremacy.
They need to dispense with the notion of inalienable rights and embrace a paradigm shift towards an attitude of sharing and cooperation.
At the same time, they must disengage from the subsidy mentality and be willing to stand on their own and chart their future not based on privileges but on equitable participation.
The Malays must realise that their lives and future are inextricably woven into the political, economic and social matrix of a plural society that demands an integrated equitable effort.
Likewise, the other races must abandon their chauvinistic sentiments and acknowledge the constitutional rights of the Malays as the original indigenous people of this land and to integrate into the melting pot of Malaysian potpourri to be together in the pursuit of peace, harmony and prosperity.
The writer is lecturer at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang