by Datuk Mohd Fauzi Patel
Veteran journalist who served the Sabah Economic Development Corporation (Sedco) in various capacities and was also Press Secretary to former Chief Minister Datuk Harris.
The Datuk's piece was published in Daily Express (printed media) 13 February 2011. As of 16 February 2011, the folks at Daily Express have yet to update their online content. Hence, I am reproducing it here with all credits to Daily Express and Datuk Patel. Good article should be shared and served while still hot.
Lots of dust has been kicked about in Peninsula Malaysia by those who are offended by the latest provocative remarks by former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who says that Malaysia belongs to the Malays and other races, therefore, are expected to respect Malay sovereignty.
No political party, association, NGO or guardiansof State rights from Sabah has commented on the issue that was of great concern to the nation's founding fathers from the State.
Does this mean that people of Sabah, particularly those leaders claiming to protect State rights, accept that their State is part of Tanah Melayu as Tun M claims and not an autonomous State that they believe it is.
Tun M's remarks came during his talk entitled the "Malay race and the future" on February 1 at the Tun Hussein Onn Memorial when he also said, "This country belongs to the Malay race, Peninsula Malaysia was known as Tanah Melayu. We must be sincere and accept that the country is Tanah Melayu".
He ignored the fact that the Constitution does not refer to Malaysia as "Tanah Melayu".
It is a historical fact that Malaya was known as "Tanah Melayu" before the formation of Malaysia. Nobody will take any offence if this is the case.
However, people of Sarawak and Sabah will not be comfortable if anyone says Malaysia is "Tanah Melayu".
People in the urban areas do not care what Tun M thinks, believes or says because he is nobody in Government. However, he is a "nobody" who has great influence over the Malay masses in Peninsula States.
Simply by single utterances that the concept of 1Malaysia is confusing and that the New Economic Model in its present form is unsuitable because affirmative action policy such as NEP is still needed to lift the economic status of the Malays, he has also caused considerable damage to PM Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's reform agenda.
He is a hero to the conservative Malays and, therefore, if Tun M says so then it must be true and it must be done.
Therefore, his remarks may cause confusion among the rural communities and trigger further rift between the various ethnic groups.
When the founder of the Malaysian nation PM Tunku Abdul Rahman in May 1961 proposed that Singapore, Brunei, Sarawak and Sabah(then British North Borneo) should join the Federation of Malaya to secure full freedom from the British, some over-zealous Umno politicians and Malay nationalists called the proposed new nation "Melayu Raya", an abbreviation of Tanah Melayu Raya.
Sarawak and Sabah reacted strongly saying that there were no Malays in their territories but only Muslims. The Muslims in the two states belonged to a variety of indigenous ethnic groups and were not in the majority.
It, therefore, was unacceptable to call their territories Malay land.
"Malaysia" was chosen as the name of the new federation and to make sure that this remained so, Sabah included it in its 20-Point safeguards.
Point 5 of the document reads: Name of Federation: "Malaysia" but not "Melayu Raya".
The opposition to "Melayu Raya" also was due to the fact that it implied that the new States were simply annexed into Tanah Melayu to form the greater Malay nation.
Sarawak and Sabah considered themselves equal partners with Singapore and Malaya in the new federation. And they expected Malayans to honour their pledge.
Tun M should remember this because he was then a young MP when negotiations between Britain, Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and Sabah took place to thrash out the terms and conditions for the formation of Malaysia.
In early 1962, he visited Sandakan as member of an Umno fact-finding team.
On his way back to Kedah, during the stopover at the KK airport, I interviewed him and asked what he found in Sandakan and in his usual candour he curtly said the people (including Muslims) are different from those of Malaya.
I sensed he had doubts whether the new federation with such diverse cultural and religious backgrounds among the people would work.
By and large it has worked but Umno and the Centre should not behave like big brothers and force these people from Sarawak and Sabah to give up their rights or safeguards because that truly upsets them.
Last constitutional guarantee that the Federal Government breached during Tun M's term as PM was the taking away of revenue earned from marketing of petroleum products in the State.
Sabah was promised RM200mil yearly in exchange. Whether it still receives it is not known.
Now he wants Sabah and Sarawak to acknowledge that Malaysia is Tanah Melayu.
And it is from a leader who wanted to create Bangsa Malaysia and offered Malaysians a vision to transform Malaysia into a fully developed nation by 2020 in which every Malaysians will have a stake.
He used to tell Malaysians, particularly the non-Malays, to accept the Bangsa Malaysia concept in order to strenghten national unity.
For this to achieve, Malaysians must place country above race and identify themselves as Malaysians.
He repeatedly warn people of various communities that if they continued to identify themselves with the country of their origin, they could be called immigrants.
However, he took no action to abolish the need to mention race and religion in every Government application form.
The most valuable document that one cannot leave home without, IC(Identification Card) also mentions race and religion of a person.
Nobody has even explained the need for this despite the repeated calls form the concerned citizens to do so. He also insists that race-based political parties are a necessary evil and, therefore, they need to be continued.
It is strange because he used to tell his promising Umno leaders, albeit privately, to visit Sabah and observe the Berjaya administration that he described as a successful political experiment in multi-racialism.
He did this because he believed that one day race-based parties must disband and embrace multi-racialism.
He did not foresee that for political expediency he will not only have to continue with race-based politics but will have to tolerate racial extremism within his own party ranks.
Not only that, he is now a patron of the NGO called Perkasa whose comments contain racial undertones.
Although he has retired from politics, he never misses an opportunity to have his say in the nation's political affairs.
Instead of behaving like a statesman, he behaves like an Umno warlord.
When he retired, he promised the people that he will write memoirs giving insight into his 22 years of rule. Instead, he devotes all his energy in defending his legacy.
Some Umno leaders are terrified of him because if one crosses his path, he would try to destroy him.
The fate of his successor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is a good example of what can happen to a person who crosses swords with him.
Malaysians at large are aware of how the "special position" the Federal Constitution accords to the Malays first evolved into "special privileges" and then into "special rights" and lastly, into "Ketuanan Melayu".
Now, Tun M has taken it one notch higher by telling the non-Malay citizens to accept Malay sovereignty when the fact is that the constitution grants equal rights to all citizens.
Why does he do that?
Will it not destroy the goodwill created by Najib's 1Malaysia and other programmes?
Was the concept of Bangsa Malaysia and Vision 2020 mere fantasies created to win votes and to ensure BN's victory in general election?
It seems that he was not sincere when he proposed those concepts that gave hope to Malaysians that they will truly unite and belong to one nation, Malaysia.
He managed to do this by repeatedly exhorting Malaysians to respect each other's cultures and religions when he really harboured contempt for non-Malays as his remarks now suggest.
Even he did not pursue the divisive and unpopular policy introduced by his predecessor Tun Hussein Onn to create a National Culture with the Malay culture as its predominant feature.
He also quietly abandoned the Dakwah Movement from national agenda undertaken by the Hussein Onn administration to propagate Islam.
Without warning, however, he one day declared that Malaysia is a Muslim State and amended the Constitution without much thought that has resulted in many of the current religious disputes.
What does Najib has to say about Tun M's claims?
Nothing. Although there are demands, particularly from the Opposition, asking him to make his stand known on the issue of Malay sovereignty of the nation, he has ignored the call.
It is suspected that Najib does not want to say or do anything that would result in a confrontational situation between the Tun and him.
When Tun M said that 1Malaysia concept was confusing, Najib remained silent.
When Tun M criticized the New Economic Model and supported Perkasa's stand, Najib said it was not final.
He has revised the model but the Malay groups are still unhappy about it.
Now, he says Sarawak and Sabah are part of Tanah Melayu totally ignoring how the two states' merger resulted in Malay becoming Malaysia.