Anwar, Loke & the triumph of Ketuanan Melayuism

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Anwar has turned out to be just another Ketuanan Melayu champion and Islamist.

For a man who used to routinely condemn the DAP as a racist party that could not be trusted, UMNO supreme council member Puad Zarkashi’s recent endorsement of DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke as a “realistic” leader is hugely significant.


To Puad and other Ketuanan Melayu leaders, a “realistic” non-Malay leader is one who does not challenge the Ketuanan Melayu narrative and accepts the subservient role that is expected of them. In Loke, they now appear to have found the perfect partner – the most accommodating, deferential and acquiescent DAP leader ever.

Loke quickly accepted the Anwar-Zahid argument that if the unity government is to gain Malay acceptance, the DAP role must be kept to a minimum despite the party having more seats in parliament than any other party in the unity government. He even stayed quiet when Zahid made the outrageous claim that he had finally persuaded the DAP to accept the position of Islam, the institution of Malay rulers and Malay rights – as if the DAP was ever against those constitutional provisions.

Subsequently, in order to please the Anwar-Zahid leadership team, the DAP backpedalled on most of the ideals it once fought for. Loke has even been quick to castigate his own leaders for saying anything that might be construed as challenging the Ketuanan Melayu narrative.

Though books have been written extolling the heroic struggle of DAP leaders for a Malaysian Malaysia, and DAP leaders make reference to it from time to time, the reality is that Loke has made a Faustian bargain with Anwar and Zahid – in exchange for position, power and privilege, the DAP will support their Ketuanan Melayu policies. With the DAP – arguably the last champion of the Malaysian Malaysia ideal – now a willing enabler, Ketuanan Melayuism has finally triumphed.

And this is when the DAP is at the zenith of its power, with more support than MCA, MIC and Gerakan ever enjoyed in their heyday. With such a sizeable presence in parliament and with such widespread multi-ethnic support, the last thing voters expected was that the DAP would compromise its principles so quickly. It appears that they have learnt nothing at all from history.

The same can also be said of PKR, a reform-minded multiracial party that once used to fight for the rights of all Malaysians. Remember Anwar’s rejection of Ketuanan Melayu in favour of Ketuanan Rakyat? Today, in order to shore up Malay-Muslim support, Anwar not only defends the ‘social contract’ narrative of Malay supremacists but has repositioned PKR itself as a “Malay and Islamic” party.

Since coming to office, Anwar has assiduously upheld Ketuanan Melayu policy positions while expanding the role and power of JAKIM in national affairs. The great reformer has turned out to be just another Ketuanan Melayu champion and Islamist.

Who would have thought that the heady days of Reformasi, the rapturous Bersih rallies and the euphoria of the Pakatan Harapan GE14 election victory would end in the triumph of Ketuanan Melayuism?

Malaysians must now reconcile themselves with this new reality, either make peace with it or leave. – Dennis Ignatius