After another agonising wait of a week, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced his new Cabinet of ministers. Quite obviously, the tedious delay was due to the back-room deals needed.
I was at the Penang airport waiting for a flight to Kuala Lumpur when the announcement was made on national television. Literally, everyone around me was on some device trying to watch the prime minister’s statement.
As PM10 read out the names, so many people let out gasps of disbelief and seemed visibly distressed. Across from where I was sitting was a Malaysian Indian man. After the prime minister finished, he looked up and asked me if he had heard the announcement correctly.
There were no Malaysian Indian ministers?
Of course, it turns out that the PM had inadvertently skipped the name of the one Malaysian Indian minister he had chosen. In the 10 or 15 minutes before news filtered through that V Sivakumar from Pakatan Harapan-DAP was in fact made a minister, I too, was deeply disturbed.
Even after it was confirmed that there was indeed a Malaysian Indian representative in cabinet, I continued to be distressed. It felt like the ministers that PM10 picked were a strange motley crew to helm the rocky road ahead for our country.
And of course, being a Malaysian of Indian heritage myself, I kept thinking that ‘my people’ were once again marginalised, and relegated to being an inconsequential 7% of our population.
Only the next day, did it dawn on me about how flawed my thinking was the night before.
Before I elaborate further, I think it is right at this juncture to reiterate that I am a fourth generation Malaysian of undiluted Indian heritage. Culturally, and with my religiosity, food preference, and penchant for Rajnikanth movies, in my private and personal space, I identify strongly with being of south Indian heritage.
But my nationality, patriotism and sense of belonging is, and will always be Malaysian. I have been, and will always be Malaysian first.
But why am I and so many others still harping on our race? Why do we hide behind race and religion in the public domain? Are we saying that only a Malaysian Indian minister can be entrusted to look after the needs of the Malaysian Indian community?
If this is so, shouldn’t there be a ministry of Indian Affairs that specifically looks after the needs of the 2.01 million Malaysian Indians? Wouldn’t this be a more appropriate demand, rather than just sulking and riling the community up?
We have a ministry of Religious Affairs, specifically looking after Islam. We have the ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, and now, we have a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Sabah and Sarawak Affairs. So, forming a ministry to look after the needs of 7% of the population isn’t too crazy a demand, or is it?
I am of south Indian heritage, but I want to live in a Malaysia for all Malaysians. And, for this dream to be realised, I know I must break away from the shackles of years of indoctrination that only Malaysian Indian members of the government can ‘save’ my community.
If we stick to this archaic belief, then only the ministry of human resources is ‘safe for Malaysian Indians’ as we have one of ‘our people’ at the helm there. Because all other ministers will only serve their respective communities, right?
‘Sacred cows’ like this must be broken and ‘kolot’ thinking eschewed.
In my home state of Penang, a DAP-led government has since 2008 allocated more money to Islamic schools, mosques and religious events than any previous state leadership. The Malaysian Chinese-led state government has cared for the Malay-Muslim and Indian-Hindu/Christian communities with equal fervour.
Of course, there are ‘sacred cows’ in Penang too that must be dismantled. Penangites must lead the way in showing that there is no need, in this day and age, for a Malaysian Chinese to always be the chief minister of the state.
Why can’t current second deputy chief minister P Ramasamy, or younger leaders like Zairil Khir Johari or the parliamentarian with the highest majority in Penang, Ramkarpal Singh be considered for the post of chief minister of Penang?
If we want real change in Malaysia, the Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian communities must also learn to be less parochial and narrowminded in their thinking. We cannot demand that the majority race be inclusive, yet behave in an exclusive way ourselves.
Impatient Malaysians must understand it is not ‘business as usual’ in Malaysia.
You don’t like the composition of the Cabinet? Well, this is what you get when you have a ‘hung’ Parliament. For national stability, coalitions need to put their ideological differences and personal hatred of each other aside, and force themselves to work together.
I know it is bizarre to see Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the BN chairman campaigning for the PH candidate in the Padang Serai by-election, or making weird statements that political parties must all be like the DAP. This is quite cringeworthy and comical.
But for this ‘unity’ government to sustain its five-year term, this is the new norm. As long as errant and corrupt politicians are brought to book through due process, Malaysians need to rally around PM10 and kick-start our economy for everyone’s well-being.
Enough of the sanctimonious comments about PH doing U-turns again and again. Every politician has made one-eighty turnabouts in their decisions. We are naïve if we think that any politician is ‘purer than pure’. Every one of them is a political animal.
So now we only have one Malaysian Indian minister. So, what? The alternative to this government is an ultra-nationalistic and religiously dogmatic one.
Remember, this cabinet is to ‘save’ Malaysia from the throes of extremism.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
How does your work-life balance compare to other working parents?
Sacrificing the conveniences of urban centres for sustainable, green, communal living is now a thing of the past.
Panasonic’s Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner is compact, lightweight and efficient.
This ranking endorses Monash University’s reputation as a world-leading research and educational institution.
A powerful and convenient machine designed with thorough house cleaning in mind.