Zaid Ibrahim: I Salute Wong Yan Ke

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If the purpose of education is to teach us values, develop a stimulated intellect, understand tolerance for disagreeable beliefs, and contribute to the growth of human society, then the recent display by “educated” Malay professors falls far short of the minimum threshold.

What on earth were they doing organising the Malay Dignity Congress, knowing full well some Malay politicians were using the occasion for their own personal agenda? What do they get (besides live coverage) for lending their precious name for a cause that means little to the well-being of the country?

The language they used in the speeches does not reflect well on the educated class. It was strewn with factual errors and incendiary tones. It was provocative and smacked of deep racial prejudice, if not hatred.

This was not the way professors speak – with careful choice of words, thought-provoking content, and calmness in delivery.

Naturally, it provoked nationwide protest, and the one I liked best was by this student, Wong Yan Ke, who carried out a marvellous display of courage to shame the vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaya during his convocation.

I say “courage”, because it takes real strength of character to stand up to racists and bigots in our country. It takes a 23-year-old student to show the country that we have to stand up to racist ideas and are not afraid of them, before they will burn this country down.

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FIFA, at least, showed more determination and consistency than us in combating racism in football, but our leaders, including professors, are using the cover of defending Malay privileges and Islam to hide their true character and purpose.

I call on all Malaysians to realise the gravity of the problems sowed by these desperate politicians to divide this country.

The people must stand up and be counted, to express that they reject racism, that they want to reduce race-based policies, and abhor public prejudice, segregation and division in our country. It’s not going to be easy when our leaders think they can only survive by pandering to the fears of the Malays.

To Wong Yan Ke and family, I say you have done well.

They may deny you your scroll, and make life difficult for others who supported you, but you will be remembered as someone who stood up to oppose racism. You may even go to jail since they consider you a threat to public order and charge you for intentional nuisance.

For our country’s sake, it is a small price to pay, Wong. Others have paid with their lives.

They say that the convocation is not a proper place to protest; on the contrary, it’s the best place to make the point.

The fact that Universiti Malaya is running helter-skelter putting the whole educational establishment under siege for a symbolic peaceful protest by a single student proves you have been successful. They have been shamed. You have exposed their true colours.

I just hope a Malay will undertake the next protest against racism. Otherwise, they will say Cina kurang ajar. Show them that you can defend the legitimate interests of the Malays and Islam without becoming racist or fascist.

This way, we can show the bigots that we are Malaysians, regardless of race, and that we oppose racism. We come in different shapes and colours, but we are united and reject racism and fascist ideas from making their way into our national consciousness.

Along the way if we find leaders who are desperate to cling to power, by still crudely using Malays and Islam as a weapon to whip up support, we must reject them. The dangers of racism are real, and it will be a mistake if we do not deal with the problems of race with urgency and seriousness.

To the more enlightened Umno leaders (there are many) who represent the largest Malay bloc, I urge them to reject racist politics. Any attempt to cobble together a workable coalition because some people want DAP to be out of government is unadulterated racism, and this must be opposed by Umno.

DAP, for whatever there is, must be defeated at the polls; that is how we show respect to democracy. That is how we show respect to the people who voted for DAP. And DAP is not harmful to the Malays; I know because I am an ordinary member.

Attempting to bring together some Malay leaders to replace DAP in government is cowardly and shameful. It shows the same low-class attitude we see in the way the university has treated the student protester. – Malaysiakini

The views expressed here are those of the author.