421 Annexe Megafest 5/5/2008
Farish Noor's Pushbutton talk on race

- The Lost Tribes of Malaysia : The Construction of Race Based Politic Zurin, What happened in the Malaysian kampung in Kedah do some people call themselves Bugis or Peranakan, ? I am still analysing a lecture I went to by Farish Noor 5 weeks ago. One of the things was the way Farish talked became like Anwar all politics etc he didn't actually explain what happened to the tribes. Indonesia is like a European Union people call them selves Batak or Acehnese or Minang Kabau etc or if they are from cities or mixed marriages Indonesian. What happened in the Malaysian kampung in Kedah do some people call themselves Bugis or Peranakan ? Or is it like the UK where people are so intermarried no races exist. - I thought that 500 years ago the Malay pennisular was like Sumatra with different Sultans and his "tribe" controlling different areas. Like Minang Kabau controlling Negeri Semilan etc. So that each area had it's own customs and language. Even today can we not look at some people and say "ah they probably come from Kelantan"

- Farishes talk seemed great, pushing all the right buttons lots of feel good and the audience seem to love it. However Just like when I saw Anwar afterwards I realise you can pick the argument apart. And his arguments were like such a badly stitched bag it could be picked apart all over, I haven't got time to list all of my points against it. Farish is obviously an intelligent bloke, but his arguments were full of holes, no one else criticized him in the questions so I held back.

- I had expected him to say the same as for his Keris talk ..that once again we have politicians making up history.. but that was a bit much to expect .. in these political circumstances ..he's not able to say that Malay is a made-up race like African American ..and that most people identified as Malay are mongrels like the rest of us ... so he chose a different tack saying

1 - "race doesn't exist" : Well many of us are mongrels and racism is undesirable, but the trouble is it works that's why the old British organisers used it in selecting workers. Nowadays if you need a climber, we know it's no use getting a Nepali guy and then finding out he's a crap climber cos he was born in the city. Likewise if you need an engineer doesn't matter if he is black, white or blue.

- And talking of mongrels yes dogs are dogs, but they come in breeds.

- In indigenous tribes, Japanese and Koreans have a strong idea of race. An Orang Asli, could say their identity is being denied by including them in Malay, same for Bugis etc. One can't just turn up in an indigenous village, and say since we are all humans, me and my 200 family members are all allowed to live here and we'll put our large temple bell here. Racism is not acceptable, but certain groups do generally conform to a stereotype :Fijians big and strong.
- Look genetically aborigines exist.. but genetically "Anglos" or Malays mostly don't .. there maybe some people who can trace all most all there ancestors to Minang Kabau or Aceh or some place in Borneo
.. but so what could it be argued that what initially made them Malay was their indigenous culture and beliefs and the first thing that destroyed that was the thing coming from outside .. Islam itself.. yes Islam has destroyed Malay culture

- now that's fair enough people should be able to choose whatever religion they want .. but there is the temptation constantly in Malaysian political culture to push back things in history to make them concrete and immovable.

If a large number of Australian aborigines had become Christian 100 years ago .. could we today go around saying ah Christianity is an immovable part of of Aus Aborigine culture

- 2 It's all the fault of the old British : "The British divided up all the races and is Malay politicians who have continued it.", he said
- Again like a politician he identified a problem i.e. Malay is misdefined and doesn't really exist and then sought to pin the blame for this on a third party from the past instead of anyone today.
:"The British in a policy of divide and rule sought to define Malays as a group.",
I say : remember Malaysia wasn't a colony only Singapore, Penang and Malacca were.
- could it not be that Chinese all write the same, Indians also speak the same language so that leave the rest of people who spoke some form of Malay ie people were defined by language not by "the British"

- Oh it was all the fault of the British, before that when the country was feudal all those kind sultans had made some kind of paradise, where they all lived in hammocks and ensured the poor got all the best medicine. NOT !

- 3. His idea was everything before was a happy happy mix
- - In other countries people can intermarry, here they can't choose their own religion or intermarry

4- He like a lot of people spoke for an idea of a national unity culture
- Belgium is an example of 2 culture country.

- 5- Far from continuing the recognize the races system of the British, today's politicians have conveniently added up anyone who could possibly be Malay into the Malay basket in an attempt to maximize number of Malays and justify domination, If race count was split to recognise Chinese Muslims etc, Eurasians then Malays would not be a majority

- 6 There are unseen races i.e. Aristocratic Malays, top political Malays

- 7. He criticized main political parties for being sectarian
he failed to mention - mixed race political parties are banned like PSM, communist

CONCLUSION : A whole set of simplications which don't bare close analysis . He seemed so cofident, but in the Q & A he showed a nervous tick. How the hell could he say the country is racially segregated and fail to mention the if they got rid of the rule that Muslims who supposed to make up 60% of the population are not allowed to marry non-muslims then of course the society might be more integrated. a

- Why did he wear a supertight T-shirt is he going for a playboy look ?

- I can see him becoming a politician. Indeed I see in an old issue of Off The Edge I see he severely criticises 50 years of Merdeka seeming to say "celebrate ? what when stupid politicians have spent the last 50 years being sectarian and so destroying Malaysia"

- I have a new theory Farish prepared a carefully considered scientific talk, but on the way into the talk he was kidnapped and Anwar took his place, cos that would explain the political angle of the talk .. that we are all mogreksand we should have a nice multi ultural happy government and eveything will be OK.

- No Science - He made no reference of what the word "Malay", means to anthropologists. I guess that Aus Aborigine is a valid term , and Polynesian is also so when anthropologists went to Indonesian mountains they said these people in this village are like this and in the next village are similar, but they aren't Polynesian lets call them Malay. I suppose sometimes it's difficult to say where Polynesian ends and Malay begins. They would have been able to say these people in this village are Chinese, and this other one Indian.

- Of course even 100s of years ago ther would have been some intermarriage so perhaps some people may have been considered Malay from cultural practice rather than genes.

- Say if they encountered 100s of subgroups e.g. Bugis1 and Bugis2 etc and if members from these subgroups intermarried they would still count as Malay ?

- He points out that Indian Muslims were counted as Jawi Pekan and grouped on the Malay side. Far from this being a whim of the British surely the Islamic authorities counted this as a group Muslims could marry. And see how this broader definition of Malay was not actually begun by UMNO even though they continue it. UMNO is responsible for blurring the lines further by incentivisiing people to change religion or pretend to in order to get a government job, contract or scholarship.

- The Malaysian government should be like the EU government it should not be telling them to all speak German it should just serve the people.

- Surely racial politics arose in Malaysia cos of 1 language and 2. cos one race felt it had a grievences. It is about correcting for past perceived discrimination. When UMNO came in their main focus was on the past not the future. Since we can't change the past it is only by looking to the future that we can improve. They did however create a future where the average Malay can go to university and become a doctor lawyer etc. The thing is where donwe go from here, what about the Indians and te rest of us.

- I suspect that in a pre 20th Century SE Asian context meant someone who is not Chinese/Indian or Polynesian

- Is he romanticising that before the British Malaysia was like a US of mixed races ? Apart from saying Perenakan existed he gives little evidence of this.

- Again it's easy to say British used "divide and rule", but he gave no evidence.

- On politics - As in Animal Farm - the liberators promised the people they were liberating them from their colonial masters, but once in power they oppressed the same people they claimed to be liberating.

- The future of race based politics
- 1. race based is partially language based so since people with no Malay speaking parent don't speak Malay at home they won't be joining a Malay speaking party.
- The fact there is a Malay biased government fuels non Malay staying in other parties.

- 5 Elephants in the room 1. the unmentionable 2. People speak different languages 3. People don't choose their own religion, 4. that Malay is a crap language (quite a lot less useful than English in explaining things). 5 Malays can't say they are cultural Muslims rather than Koran Muslims so the parties don't represent them they have to "be by the the Koran" parties. So Muslims who are cultural Muslims are not served by Malay parties are disinfranchised. Does MCA represent Chinese Muslims ?

- in Europe have Christian parties if you have a large automatic constituancy it's tempting for a party to try to grab it. Would Farish criticise the communist party for not represeting businessmen ? Also India has a Hindu party government

- There are non racial parties, but a racial based UMNO has used everything it can to keep them out of the picture meanwhile people are bribed to say they are Malay.

- Non racial parties will succeed when they speak the languages of the people stand a chance of doing something be.g. if ASEAN, became a country.

- If the Saxons in the UK had a religion which says you can't intermarry, there would probably be still a Saxon language and a Saxon party. Assimilation can only come when there is a common language and no barriers e.g. US

other notes

- Fahmi Reza - maker of the film 10 years before Merdeka

- people standing at the back whilst there are empty seats at front. I wouldn't put out all chairs until the 5 front rows are filled up. The next 5 rows just leave a stack of chairs at the end of the row.

PS if in the event less people turn up then 1. the room doesn't look empty and 2. it easier to collect up the chairs afterwards as you won't have put most of them out.

Bookbanning Talk

- Distributors complained of having books arbitarily seized at borders by over-zealous customs officials. The thing is the customs officers are breaking the law, anyone can see you can't just intervene in someones business they are able to sue for compensation if a book is not officially banned, they should also receicve a written explanation if is not, but the officer seizes it anyway. But the small guys don't have the money to challenge them and the big guys are also trapped they can't afford the government disrupting their business so they self-censor themselves not even bringing in books which in anyway might be challenged. The writers commitee is looking to bring a test case.

Sun - Media Law Reform forum

- It was a bit boring, the 3 speakers spoke of the importance of the repealing of the PPPA act making at one point the observation, that ever year they say this but nothing ever changes.

- 1. Olive Branch - You can't expect frightened politicians just to abolish the PPPA. Their FEAR and self-justification is that the PPPA absolutely stops of people telling lies about them .. what will you replace it with ? If there was a strong journalism code of ethics then there would be security for them and they could abolish the PPPA.

- 2. Will technology make the PPPA obsolete ? The internet makes so many news sources available it makes it seem difficult to suppress "bad stories".
However it's important to realise that can indeed try to censor the internet.
- i. they could deny organisations avertising revenue
-ii. They could physically censor the net. Now the old government promised not to do this, but a new government could easily reverse this promise particularly if they engineer a provactive act... "you see we had no option other than to censor the internet, after people organised that violent demonstration ! Public safety ! we must protect the public. ..blah blah blah"

Free Books

- From the Book festival we ended up with a load of books for the HC House Library Shelf - from the 'book give-away' plus another 6 from Bookcrossing.com mainly about management account. I guess Bookcrossing.com is like a library without a building ie a system where users exchange books between themselves.

BCID 976-6100403 , 375-6100405 , 473-6100411 , 319-1732969 , 652-6100449 , 015-6100421

- and a couple of magazines from aliran.com

Good Orang Asli videos

- There was some good Orang Asli videos, but there were technical problems and was only able to see the one about the Penan People having their ancestral lands stolen by logging companies with the help of plainclothes policeman explaining "see the boundaries are always moving from year to year so the mapping you tribal people did from 10 years ago no longer counts" - the government claims it's given them a 4 million rm community hall, but it's just a roofless shack.

Reita gave me the DVD about the Kelau Dam Project - called : Drowned Forests Damned Lives from coac.org.my

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