Is racial superiority


a myth?


Halimah Mohd Said

“It is true that the Malays have a lot of headway to make, but there is no justification for them to despair of ever achieving the goal that their political leaders have set for them provided of course they are prepared to meet the challenges which the future has in store for them.

“The time factor is of course important. The Malays are a relatively young race compared to the Chinese and Indians with their more than four thousand years of civilisation during which they have evolved to their present cultural, educational and economic superiority.

“However, given the goodwill, understanding and sympathy of the two other races towards the Malays, there is no conceivable reason why their progress cannot be further accelerated. The present state of racial imbalance can finally be eliminated and a peaceful and united multiracial nation wielded from its diverse elements.”
(Dr Mohamed Said, Memoirs of a Mentri Besar 1982)

THESE were the observations of Dr Mohamed Said, the first elected mentri besar of Negri Sembilan who served the state for two terms of 10 years (1959-64, 1964-69).

Like most Malays of his generation, he was born and raised in a typical kampung at the turn of the 20th century when Malaya was under British rule. Growing up he saw rural life and the Malays at their best and worst – at their best when the price of rubber was at an all-time high, and when rural boys like him were invited to partake of the English secular education in Malay College Kuala Kangsar which was par excellence.

Paradoxically they were at their worst when resisting western medicine, disease and death struck often and hard in the Malay communities steeped in religious rituals and traditional healing practices.

But survive the Malays did amid attempts by the British and rich Chinese towkays to alienate their land and establish new economic activities.

There was no feeling then of superiority as economic need drove them to sell their lands at knock-down prices. They were to lose more and more the tuan punya tanah status of their forefathers when they moved to the towns and accepted jobs as teachers and government servants.

There was gratitude, goodwill and accommodation aplenty from the Malays at the thought they were being helped out of their vicious circle of poverty.

Is this the price that the Malays have to pay for being modernised? Have the 50 years of post Merdeka modernisation made us lose our tapak tanah and our spiritual footing as we dance to the rhythm of rapid economic development?

Is the fear of losing the ketuanan status and heritage justified when more and more we are willingly caught up in worldly matters? Are we ourselves to blame for not rising to the occasion?

Like Dr Mohamed Said, who despite his poor rural background, went on to become one of the first batches of Malay doctors to graduate from King Edward VII College, Singapore, I believe in the equal spiritual, mental and intellectual capacities of people when they are given equal educational opportunities. Education will be the saviour of the Malaysian people including the Malays.

Much against our traditional beliefs we have to accept the fact of life that people are unequal in their physical endowments and worldly endeavours – there will always be the disadvantaged and deprived in any society. In Malaysia, abject poverty has been eliminated but relative poverty will always exist as the rich become richer with more opportunities.

The rural-urban migration of the 60s and 70s created pockets of modern kampung in low-cost housing and inner city areas, while the urban kampung are being targeted for big-time development. The rural-urban gap is being diminished but can it be closed completely? I think not.

Therefore, it is for the Malays to develop their inner resources of which there are many admirable ones. Among outstanding Malay attributes are their rich language, literary and learning traditions inherited from Islam as well as the other great philosophies, and embodied in the works of outstanding writers and thinkers.

They have the innate capacity to live out their customs and traditions and inspire high ethical standards. They have a deep sense of aesthetics and creativity be it in the arts or the more dynamic forms of architecture and technology.

Rather than forever gripe and grouse the fact that the Chinese are superior in business and commercial enterprise or that the elite Malays are super-rich, the Malays as a whole can add value to their modern undertakings by focusing on their strengths.

If political engagement is one of them, ensure that they give their best in informed, educated and ethical ways. If business endeavour is their interest ensure that they succeed not through patronage and corrupt practices but through hard work and innovative thinking.

This is indeed the way forward!

The Sun ON MONDAY September 26, 2011


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