Cabinet reshuffle raises racial concerns

Mustafa K. Anuar

The writer says if a political leader of an ethnic background would be the most suited person to represent the interests of his or her own community, then the large majority of the Malays would have reaped huge gains from the wide representations since independence. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 15, 2023.

Commentary by Mustafa K Anuar

THE much-awaited cabinet reshuffle that finally took place recently predictably satisfied some people while others have beef with the new composition.

While some observers commended Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim for having managed to get the right mix of new and old faces, there was disappointment expressed over the retention of under-performing ministers as well as Anwar remaining the finance minister, among other things.

A complaint that also caught the public’s eye was one about certain races, particularly Indian, not being represented in the new cabinet line-up.

Such a concern prompted a response from Parti Sosialis Malaysia deputy chairman S. Arutchelvan, who felt such criticism suggested that the country’s political landscape was much under the sway of identity politics.

He rightly argued that Indian representation in the cabinet did not necessarily mean that the Indian community would be well served.

This partly explains why many in the community are still afflicted by socio-economic woes despite being represented over the years by Indian politicians and Indian-based parties.

Indeed, if a political leader of a particular ethnic background would be the most suited person to represent the interests and concerns of his or her own community, then the large majority of the Malays, for instance, would have reaped huge gains from the wide representations in the federal and state governments since independence.

It’s not that the Malay community as a whole has not progressed over the years.

Many more Malays would have made greater strides in terms of economic advancement, entrepreneurship, educational achievement, intellectual development and general prosperity had their political leaders conscientiously focused on uplifting the living standards of the collective, particularly the needy and the marginalised.

It is also telling that there are still pockets of poverty and ignorance within the community in this day and age.

In fact, a lack of basic amenities, such as clean piped water, in a Malay-ruled state, for example, would be laughable if it was not the harsh reality that persists till this day.

What Arutchelvan was alluding to, is that political leaders, irrespective of their ethnic origins, should be able to represent all Malaysians and not merely their respective communities.

This is the way forward if we are to aspire to be a united, progressive and democratic nation.

What should be of utmost importance are competency, compassion, dedication, integrity and inclusive outlook of the people’s representatives. Not the colour of the skin.

Having said that, it would seem that such a scenario would be a distant reality as long as there are politicians who are bent on exploiting race and religion for their own ends.

Worse, there are politicians who have no qualms about pitting one ethnic group against another so that they would emerge as heroes or protectors of their respective communities at the expense of national unity.

Bogeyman is created and foisted upon the people these politicians purportedly dedicate their lives and careers to.

It is not that there are no challenges or issues in a diverse society such as ours. Problems should be addressed amicably, without having to polarise society in terms of “us versus them”.

Society can be disunited when race-baiting politicians prosper on the backs of ignorant people they supposedly lead and protect.

Some of these politicians are adroit enough at making their vested interests look similar to the people’s so as to avoid or reduce possible awareness of cognitive dissonance. Hence, the mantra that the action they take is made in the name of their respective communities.

Of course, not all of these politicians have dark designs. There are those who genuinely aspire to help uplift the living conditions of their own people, but there are also the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing.

It is hoped that whoever has been chosen to be part of the reshuffled cabinet will perform to the best of their abilities and be answerable to all Malaysians, regardless of their ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Malaysia should be shaped differently for the better of all. – December 15, 2023.

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  • Very well written piece. I agree that those who propagate bigotry and prejudices must be weeded out for Malaysia to truly become a progressive nation.

    Posted 5 months ago by G Tan · Reply