Datuk A. Samad Said is a well-known writer and a member of the DAP. In his speech in Penang he expressed concern about Malays in the context of the coming general election: according to Pak Samad, Malays don’t seem to see truth as “truth” that needs to be defended for its own sake. Factual matters can be conveniently forgotten or ignored if there is some material benefit for them.
I admire Pak Samad for saying something that politicians have known for a long time but have been afraid to say for fear of losing votes. If I had said the same thing, for example, many would have accused me of being “insensitive” to my party and the Opposition as a whole.
I have a slightly different take from Pak Samad on Malay attitudes/values (and again, I am not referring to all Malays, but a sizeable number of them).
It’s not that they are unable to discern or don’t know the “facts” or “truth” about any matter. They do. Just look at the group of “professors” who are defending the Prime Minister against the US Department of Justice disclosure. They certainly know how to read and comprehend the report but still, they defend the Prime Minister even at the cost of looking like fools.
Similarly, our Ministers, senior civil servants, judges, and academics must surely understand what has been happening in the past five years, but they still go in droves to the Prime Minister’s Office to express their support and loyalty.
These Malays are willing to subordinate one set of truths for a better set of truths — “better” for them, at least. Defending their political and religious leaders at all cost is the better truth. That’s why they see this as part of their job, and it has nothing to do with the actual truth nor does it arise out of a sense of duty or honour. They do it for material reward.
Malay feudal leaders always rewarded their loyalists generously. The growth of the class of “hamba raja” (Protectors of the Ruler) well narrated by Munshi Abdullah in the earlier Malay kingdoms has now spread far and wide. The hamba raja are alive and well today, strengthened by the addition of non-Malay parties and recently by the entry of the ulama to their fold.
This practice has been perfected by Datuk Seri Najib Razak who has capitalised on feudal community values as well as religious teachings that, sadly, our so-called “progressive” education system has not been able to change or replace.
Ganging up against critics and defending their leaders or authority is the chosen attitude for which the hamba raja are rewarded well. It’s as simple as that.
What does this mean for GE14? Quite simply, if we have more hamba raja than good decent Malays, then the Barisan Nasional will win again. However, if there are now fewer hamba raja in the Peninsular states then the Opposition will have a good chance. In this sense, the coming general election is more about Malays than all other issues combined.