By Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
As a committed follower of the Reformasi movement during the dark days of its beginning, I am now suggesting that the Pakatan Harapan consider giving up the mantle of leadership to Sabah and Sarawak. This suggestion has been in my mind after watching closely the events in this country and I came to this conclusion about a year ago. Although I admit my ignorance about Sabah and Sarawak political stands and its economic, cultural and religious issues, I do know of the adventures and exploits of Taib Mahmud and Musa Aman. From my simplistic understanding, these two have gotten away with the wealth of the country through the nod from none other than their Semenanjung political counterparts so that the oil and timber money could finance the patronage of BN politics in that part of the world. Personally, Sabah and Sarawak people should look at themselves for electing those kinds of leadership. However, things have changed for the better and both nations have pretty good leaders now who have a different vision and heart for the peoples of the two partner-nations. I will explain my rationale for my suggestion to make the two leaders of Sabah and Sarawak the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for the first time in the history of this country.
My first and most important reason for saying so, I must admit is a selfish one. I want Malaysia to move far and far away from the politics of Melayu and Islam. Although I am a Melayu and a Muslim I know how dangerous these two elements can be if interpreted within a narrow perspective. I have not only seen the selfish, ignorant and bigoted manner how Melayu and Islamic politics are being crafted and narrated not only by politicians, lay people, relatives and friends, but the end is nigh when even Malay academics proclaim these selfish narratives at the Kongres Maruah Melayu. That was the end of Malaysia to my mind. I always thought that the last bastion of Semenanjung saneness would be the academics from public universities who were freed from the AUKU by the new PH government. But I was wrong for their newfound freedom afforded them the opportunity to protect one race and one faith. Other races and other faiths seem to be meaningless and useless to these academics. The Malay middle class and the B40 all subscribe to this Melayu-Islam narrative of dominating Malaysia and this has burned any bridges we have for the future whether we talk about education, international relations and sustainable development agendas. Everything will be subjected to a Melayu halal hub of narrow mindedness. Thus, if Sabah and Sarawak helms this country, I hope these two items will be drowned by issues of triple development in both partner nations.
Secondly, my reason for the choice of these two partner nations in helming the country is echoing the hearts and minds of the people from both areas. They have been screwed long enough by Semenanjung politics. Someone told me that Semenanjung has siphoned off RM800 billion in oil revenue from them. No one gave me any figure for other things like logging revenue. Suffice it to say that it is about time that the Semenanjung ‘pay back’ those dues with interest starting from 2020 until perhaps two decades after. For GE15, 16 and 17, Sabah and Sarawak must dominate Malaysian politics, culture and education. Let Melayu be relegated at the bastions of UKM and UiTM.
Finally a word for my favorite leader, Anwar Ibrahim. I have never talked one on one with Anwar but have read books and speeches as well as papers said to be written by him. I believe in him. I acknowledge his great sacrifice and suffering. It made me mad when certain civil society columnist and actors attack Kak Wan, Anwar and Nurul Izzah. Although I have never been a close confidant of the family but I have followed their pain and suffering for 20 years. There is no family in Malaysia I know who is more deserving of the gratitude of a nation to my mind than Anwar, Kak Wan and Nurul. I know some of my civil society friends will puke at that generous statement but I mean it. Those who chide and talk down to this family have never went through their suffering and so they know nothing and talk utter rubbish. In my heart, there is no one more deserving of the PM post than Anwar Ibrahim.
However, we must be pragmatic and practical. I am a romantic, an ideologue and an idealist. But when I have been given a task I would put my nose close to the ground and read the contour, climate and will of soldiers to war. To be practical and pragmatic rules the day when the work or project hits the ground. It’s not abandonment of principle but simply responding to day to day issues with earnestness and intuition. Idealism is in the heart but not necessarily on the ground.
I too have had my idealism tested time and again. I had hoped by this age I would have the pleasure and honor to head an important Institute at a public university in helping to change the course of this nation and bring it to the global level of great awareness and compassion. I wanted to solve the problems of the world with my young academics who would be my mentees. But none of my dreams came about. I found out too late that Malay academic administrators despise Malays who write critically of the race and Islam. I was simply trying to help the Malays become a race larger than itself and realize an Islam bigger than their kampong Sunni-Shafie construct to the level of being the soul of the world. But the public universities want none of that. The Malay academics want the gravy train as much as the Mercedes loving Muslim politicians in the East Coast as well as the politician who flies his family first class without paying his tickets.
I do hope that Anwar can be the bigger soul and relinquish the mantle of leadership of the PH to the Sabah and Sarawak leaders in order to make real changes in the narrative of the future Malaysia. As of now we will either have a Prime Minister of thieves or a Prime Minister with no real influence and both will drag the future of our children with them simply because they want to be called YAB Perdana Menteri. Come on…I can name 10 jobs or position much better and more meaningful than being a PM. Being a considerate father, a good son, an understanding husband, a loyal friend, a compassionate Muslim, a caring world citizen and a good teacher of knowledge are worth more than the office in the ugly architecture of Putrajaya.
Mahatma Gandhi gave up the top political leadership to be the soul of India. Someone else just became a mere Prime Minister. For the sake of Malaysia, I wish for a great soul of this country, not a Perdana Menteri.
(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)