Matters of opinion that enables me to understand or make some sense of my country- Malaysia


Zaid Ibrahim


Datuk Zaid Ibrahim founded Malaysia’s largest law partnership before focusing on politics. He was a minister in the Abdullah administration, was in Umno, PKR and last in KITA as its president.


The search for lemang (glutinous rice baked in bamboo) can be trying during the fasting month. Most lemang sellers only operate their stalls at night and usually open for business a few days before Hari Raya.


So my search took me to many areas in Datuk Keramat, Keramat Dalam and parts of Setiawangsa.

At last, I managed to find one along Jalan Kelang Genting, manned by a sweet Malay lady in her 60s who was being helped by her grandson. I was so happy about finding the stall that I ended up buying most of her stock. She was pleased-you could tell she ended the day happy with herself.

Driving around Keramat is always enjoyable. The Malay in me is elated whenever I enter this traditional Malay area, which is also what happens when I am in Kampung Baru.

The modest homes, the mosques and surau and of course the quintessential warong and food stalls selling kuih, tom yam and sup tulang make these neighbourhoods unique and bring back memories of our own kampung far away.

Then reality sets in: the sight of old and crowded flats, low-grade shoplots, clogged drains and unkempt playgrounds always brings back the reality of Malay life in the city.

The urban Malays have not changed much over the years. In the meantime, the Chinese keep up their pace of acquiring and developing the great city of Kula Lumpur.

Our leaders always speak of Malay rights and promise to defend them at all cost. These promises are really just opiates that dull the Malay senses. Other opiates include our leaders’ habit of rewriting history, instilling fear of the Chinese, and making the people believe that the Malay Rulers are being threatened and that Islam itself is under assault.

These are false and meaningless slogans, but they have the desired effect of redirecting the Malay consciousness away from examining just how dismal their lives have become and economically neglected they truly are.

These leaders prefer to stoke Malay emotion rather than deal with the hard facts of life. Preoccupied with enriching themselves, they have grown lazy. They focus on beauty contests, YouTube videos, and telling the Malays that shariah law will solve all problems, including crime.

Instead of teaching Malays how to develop skills, create jobs, control their household debt and be competitive in schools and universities, they take the easy way out by giving the Malays their daily dose of opiates.

The British did the same to the Chinese by giving them the real stuff – opium – and for a long time the Chinese did not care about anything about their lives until Mao Tse Tung woke them up from their stupor.

Whenever we have had good Malay leaders, they were either beaten or politics prevented them from undertaking the hard task of uplifting the Malays economically.

Datuk Raja Nong Chik’s proposal to develop Kampung Baru was a good idea that was long overdue, but he could not carry it through. Malays in the city generally do not trust Umno and the Pakatan Rakyat took advantage of the situation and objected strongly, although I doubt any of their leaders had better ideas.

Malay leaders have made all kinds of announcements about Kampung Baru but today, the neighbourhood remains a high-class ghetto.

Keramat, Setiawangsa, Sentul and other areas can also do with a massive injection of capital and new developmental ideas. There should be close cooperation between the Federal Malay leaders and Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim of the Selangor state government to find ways to uplift the Malay community.  That is not possible as politics always get in the way, and so they continue serving opiates.

Leaving Kampung Datuk Keramat, it struck me that Malays like the word keramat. It means having magical powers. Even the names of new housing schemes and roads have keramat in them.

My friends in Umno also told me that Umno is parti keramat.

All I want to say before signing off is this: for as long as the Malays are not prepared to go into rehabilitation, stop taking opiates and start thinking for themselves, keramat will abandon them sooner or later.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri. – August 5, 2013.


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