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MALAYSIAN SEA CHANGE March 11, 2008

Posted by wmmbb in South East Asia, The Neighbours.
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Malaysia a neighbour and a political federation consisting of the southern portion of the Malay Peninsular and the northern portion of Borneo, excepting respectively Singapore and Brunei, has an affinity with Australia and New Zealand. Of course, I would like to think that friendship affinity group would be stronger and wider if we the historical products of the European outremer had declared ourselves to be republics, repudiating imperialism. In that instance the politics of ethnicity won over the politics of geography.

Before Europeans entered on the scene with their schemes for salvation and enrichment, the social order in Malaysia and related areas was subject to cross currents of Indian and Chinese trade and settlement and the seaborne influence of Islam. A principle legacy of imperialism appears to have been the intensification of the racial divide reflecting the fact that social and economic domination preferenced on race and culture is built on the mechanisms of self alienation and structural violence normalized as the way things are.

The Malaysian election has now delivered a “sea change” according to Professor Michael Leigh (via Andrew Leigh) :

A great deal of credit for this landmark change must go to the People’s Justice Party (PKR), led by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. It was Anwar’s persistence in hammering out agreements between the three major opposition parties, that only one of their representatives would contest each constituency, which is absolutely essential for any hope of success in a first past-the-post voting system. PKR won 30 extra parliamentary seats and was able to draw on a multiracial support base, and also attract urban Malay voters in a swathe of constituencies where no one race dominated the electoral arithmetic.

Until now, Malaysia has been caught in a time warp of ethnicised politicking that has always worked to the benefit of the ruling coalition. Historically, and in this campaign, the National Front has stressed that only its coalition of ethnic parties could successfully protect the interests of each component race. This has meant that dissatisfied Malays could not bring themselves to vote for the “Chinese” Democratic Action Party, and unhappy Chinese would not vote for Party Islam, given its commitment to an Islamic state.

Professor Leigh acknowledges the concerns that the politics of violence may reemerge, but suggests that “Malaysia will never be the same again” with the force of democratic nonviolence. When enough people have a stake in the political order they are less likely to engage in destructive conduct which is in part the pragmatic rationale for social inclusion.

I would anticipate the emergence in Malaysia of an electoral system that replaces the existing first past the post voting. Electoral systems are not unproblematic. It seems that class based politics is always more susceptible to manipulation when there is deep historic racial fragmentation, whether in Malaysia or the United States.

ELSEWHERE:

As it happens Brad DeLong deals with the relevant history with a series of extensive quotes and comments. Malacca is considered as an interesting test case illustrating the different modus operandi of the principle traders. I did know that Vaco Da Gama reached Calicut in 1497, but I did not know about the Battle of Diu (1509) and the circumstances that allowed the Portuguese to extend their influence along the Indian Ocean littoral. Had the various economic units I was required to undertake been precursors to economic history I would have shown greater application to understanding the relationship between supply and demand, Say’s Law, and even Industry Policy, but the curriculum took me elsewhere and the certification took me nowhere (I am blaming nobody, and was just trying to play the cards I could pick up in the game, presupposing incomprehension was not a insuperable barrier).

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