What transpired in the Malay Dignity Congress did not surprise me. “Malaysia for Malays” was not that much of a difference with “Balik China”.
What surprised me was the organising of the event itself.
Malay Dignity Congress
The Malay Dignity Congress was jointly organised by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
The organisers claimed that the objectives of the Malay Dignity Congress was to unite the Malays, and to discuss and find solutions to problems faced by the Malays.
First things first, the organisers are universities, public universities no less.
These universities were established as educational entities. Surely, they are there to serve educational purposes. I was (clearly) not present, but based on the media reports that I have read thus far, I fail to see how the Malay Dignity Congress was in any way educational in nature.
Further, these universities are not private institutions. They are public universities, funded by the public, through the government. The government is elected by Malays, Chinese, Indians, Sabahans and Sarawakians. On what basis did the organisers see it fit to use public fund to organise a specific-race-theme event?
Also, why only unite a particular segment of the Malaysian community? Why was there no such event organised during election campaign period? The most boring nonsense I hear during election campaign period is xxx candidate who has a Chinese/Indian distant relative, or xxx candidate whose child can speak fluent Mandarin/Tamil. So now what?
The Role of MOE Moving Forward
The Ministry of Education (“MOE“) should start considering some sort of educational blueprints for these public universities. No doubt some of them, like UiTM was established pursuant to and in accordance with the provisions of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution. But the application of Article 153 is limited to the aspect of quotas.
Article 153 talks about the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak in educational privileges given or accorded by the Federal Government, and not, everything and anything under the sun (see Article 8). It is not a constitutional licence to drum-roll one’s racial sentiment in everything they say and do in public universities.
Therefore, while we can put the issue of quotas to rest (unless and until Article 153 is amended), the MOE has a lot of work to do, in terms of implementing values.
It is important for universities to keep an open mind towards the diverse ideologies held by their students. However, it is equally, if not more important that we recognise that some values, like respect, are uncompromisable.
All peoples are more the same than they are different. We all mostly want the same things out of life. But those slight differences generate emotion, and emotion generates a sense of importance. Therefore, we come to perceive our differences as disproportionately more important than our similarities. And this is the true tragedy of man. That we are doomed to perpetual conflict over the slight difference.Mark Manson, ‘Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope’