On the problem of “Ketuanan Melayu” and the work of the Biro Tata Negara

by Azly Rahman

[This essay first appeared in my blog “A Republic of Virtue” in Malaysia Today dated Thursday April 24, 2008. It is a response to a reader’s response to my article on Ketuanan Melayu and the work of Biro Tata Negara of The Prime Minister’s Department. I argue of the need to look at the philosophy of the bureau and the dangers of indoctrination. I have maintained the format of the essay as it originally appeared in the column.]

I must first congratulate “whackthembugger” the author of “Thumbs Up for BTN” for an insightful analysis and response to the argument we posted re: BTN. I would love the writer/blogger to sit in my classes and enrich the experience of my American students studying Cross Cultural Perspectives. Many will benefit from his critical sensibility. I think he/she has mounted a good piece of argument. On a related note, democracy — and dialogue on difficult issues — is certainly alive and well in Malaysia-Today, Malaysiakini, and other alternative media forums.

However, there are flaws in his argument we need to reflect upon. This concerns the nature of history and the structure of propaganda and mass indoctrination disguised as “patriotism”.

I agree we must give credit to those working hard to “improve the psychological well-being of the Malays” and for that matter for any race to improve its mental wellness. This is important. This is a noble act. The question is: in doing so, do we want to plant the seeds of cooperation and trust– or racial discrimination and deep hatred? Herein lies the difference between indoctrination and education.

These days, the idea of Ketuanan Melayu is going bankrupt, sinking with the bahtera merdeka. It works only for Malay robber barons who wish to plunder the nation by silencing the masses and using the ideological state apparatuses at their disposal. In the case of the BTN it is the work of controlling the minds of the youth. The work of BTN should be stopped and should not be allowed anymore in our educational institutions. It is time our universities especially are spared of counter-educational activities, especially when they yearned to be free from the shackles of domination. Look at what has happened and what is still happening to our institutions with the University and University Colleges Act and the Akujanji Pledge.

Over decades, many millions of Malays and non-Malays have not been getting the right information on our nation’s history, political-economy, and race relations. History that is being shoved to us or filter-funneled down the labyrinth of our consciousness is one that is already packaged, biased, and propagandized by our historians that became text-books writers. History need not be “Malay-centric”. Special rights for all Malaysians should be the goal of distributive and regulative justice of this nation, not the “special rights of a few Malays“. History must be presented as the history of the marginalized, the oppressed, and the dispossessed — of all races. We toil for this nation, as the humanist Paramoedya Ananta Toer would say, by virtue of our existence as “anak semua bangsa … di bumi manusia“. Malaysia is a land of immigrants.

In this regard we can learn from the former British colony called America. Whatever the shortcomings may be, America is a land of immigrants and still evolving. Even a Black man or a woman can become president. This is what America conceives itself to be and this is what Malaysian can learn from. Can a non-Malay become a Prime Minster is he/she is the most ethical of all politicians in the country?

No one particular race should stake claim to Malaysia. That is an idea from the old school of thought, fast being abandoned. Each citizen is born, bred, and brought to school to become a good law-abiding and productive Malaysian citizen is accorded the fullest rights and privileges and will carry his/her responsibility as a good citizen. That is what “surrendering one’s natural rights to the State” means. One must read Rousseau, Locke, Voltaire, and Jefferson to understand this philosophy. A bad government will not honor this — and will fall, or will sink like the bahtera merdeka.

The history of civilizations provides enough examples of devastation and genocide as a consequence of violent claims to the right of this or that land based upon some idea of “imagined communities.” We must teach our children to make history — a history of peace amongst nations. This must be made into a new school of thought: of “new Bumiputeraism” that encompasses all and do not alienate any — because life is too brief for each generation to fight over greed.

The eleventh hour of human existence and our emergence in this world has brought about destruction as a consequence of our inability to mediate differences based on race, color, creed, class, and national origin. Each ethnic group thinks that it is more socially-dominant than the other. Each does not know the basis of its “self”. Each failed to realize its own DNA-make up or gene map.

Life is an existential state of beingness, so must history be conceived as such. Nationalism can evolve into a dangerous concept– that was what happened to Europe at the brink of the two World Wars. It happened in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Indonesia when Suharto fell. I argue that we must live evolvingly in the “historical presence of historical constructions”. The past and the future is in the present.

Back to BTN.

Courses devoid of critical treatment and sensibility and ones that retard student thinking — such as “Kenegaraan” — in our universities are designed to tell our mind to live in an imagined past. BTN is playing this dangerous game of blind nationalism still passing down packaged information that do not take into consideration the complexities of globalization and the promise of multiculturalism. We need to offer courses such as Multiethnic Malaysia that will have students aspire to think like multiculturalists and help this nation evolve better.

The ministry of education higher education combined has hundreds of experts — many overseas trained and have tasted the “spirit of multiculturalism” and the “beauty of intellectual freedom” in their classrooms abroad — who ought to have engineered a paradigm shift to help dismantle indoctrination agencies such as Biro Tata Negara.

But where are the voices in the wilderness of our public universities — those who should be speaking up against ‘Ketuanan Melayu or Ketuanan this or that race’? Why are many of these experts, instead of fighting for radical changes to affect radical-peaceful structural changes, are making big decisions to further advance the cause of racism? One-dimensional thinking prevails — the thinking that does not allow diversity of ideas and failed to develop cross-cultural perspectives. Ideas move nations but indoctrinations remove intelligence. Political masters– however corrupt to the core they are — dictates the work of our academicians.

Whoever writes history and turn that into say, BTN propaganda, controls the future (or at least they think they do). We must question what is taught during the sessions or during any history lesson; fundamentally:

Whose history are we studying?
— Is it meaningful to me?
— Who wrote this history? Why? Who benefits?
— Who gets included and excluded in this history
— Who’s the hero — who’s the villain?

The author “whackthembugger said this:

“…I also do not share Dr Azly’s many desperate wants (“I want this lah and that lah, no not that lah, should be like this lah etc”), it reflects something horrible must have happened him; he sounds really confused, frustrated and very much sickly. He should have more Faith; if the pleadings are too many or too unrealistic, He may not grant want any at all. Be reasonable, accept that we are merely human and have limitations on what can we achieve.”

This comment does not add value to the core of his argument; although what “I want..” is what the rakyat wanted as evident in the results of March 8 Elections. What I want to see is a stop to the systematic and ongoing stupefication of the Malays and the non-Malays and to let them be free from being run-down emotionally by boot camp facilitators who make a living humiliating people. We have a new generation of best and brightest Malaysians to educate. As an educator I have worked with thousands of them. These are extremely creative individuals who enjoy being challenged at the most respectable and intellectual levels — not through indoctrination methods such as those used in BTN camps. They want to be fed with more questions and not be shoved with BTN-type of answers. We cannot afford to turn term them into docile beings while at the same time we holler the slogan “human capital” or modal insan the world over. It will be a “modularly insane” human condition if we continue to capitalize on human docility.

The Biro Tata Negara as an indoctrinating institution was conceived by “intellectuals” who themselves are trapped in their own cocoon or glass coconut shell of “wrongly-defined” Malay-ness and in a paradigm that teaches a poor understanding of Malaysian history. These intellectuals are running around in our public universities promoting a more sophisticated and pseudo-intellectual version of racism. Inciting racial sentiments in classroom and boot camps is big business nowadays — profits made in the name of patriotism. But who’s monitoring the trainers?

Education is not about insulting one’s intelligence and instilling fear in our children. This is what the creators of BTN need to learn. In short, the indoctrinators need a good education on how not to indoctrinate. “Melayu ‘kan hilang di nusantara … ” if we allow the dumbing down of Malaysians to continue.

Progressive parliamentarians must discuss this serious matter concerning the organization’s deliberate attempt to promote disunity and to further fertilize the seeds of racism, at a time when we need to come together as Malaysians in order to face humanity’s greater problem such as the food, oil, and water crisis that will plague us as human beings — at a time when we must focus on constructing a new republic of virtue that will be founded on transcultural ethics, responsive and reflective politics, and a social-democratic-based economic system that do not tempt and feed human greed of the things they do not need. Our Asian despotic brand of capitalism continues to destroy the very foundation of our existence and our moral fibre. It is greed — big time — that brought down the National Front.

Through the work of the Rakyat, Divine intervention helped speed up the process of removal of Greed disguised as political parties in power. That’s the metaphysical interpretation of March 8, 2008.

The author “wackthembugger” however did a decent job putting forth some substantiated, supporting points. I think this is a learning experience for all of us in dealing with a subject matter as delicate as “Ketuanan Melayu” and in discussing challenging issues in an open public forum.

Let us now do a compare and contrast activity.

Which argument for and against the fate and survival of Biro Tata Negara is stronger, you think?

We can next write to our elected representatives to raise the issue of Biro Tata Negara in Parliament for the programs to either be monitored, reconstructed or discontinued:

His/her argument: Thumbs up for BTN


(in response to the article “Refection of a sinking Bahtera Merdeka” by Dr. Azly Rahman in Malaysia today)

Astonishing! From his article, Dr Azly Rahman claims

– an educator and of an astute stature having given a speech at Harvard University on “ambiguities of freedom” in post-March 8 revolution in Malaysia.

– “the BTN is the chief institution that disseminates the idea of Malay supremacy, makes Malays docile, wages nDoc germ warfare on Malays, breeds inter-racial hatred, destroys the possibility of inter-race dialogue, makes Malays afraid of themselves and their own shadow, and psyches Malays into believing that only UMNO is their true saviour”

– “his own personal experience with BTN in1980’s that BTM programs turning the Malay participants into leaders to hate especially the Chinese”.

I also did attended and found, unlike Dr Azly, that the BTN course satisfactorily achieved its objectives of inculcating the sense of Ketuanan Melayu (for my definition of Ketuanan Melayu see my blog at www.whackthembugger.blogspot.com), an alien concept to me then.


Living among the Chinese communities in Ipoh during my entire schooling days, many of trusted friends were non Malays. Somehow after the infamous May 13 incident perhaps out of inherent fear, suspicion and sense of security, I got acquainted with more Malay friends but still never aside my friendship with the non-Malays. Throughout my professional career, I believed I have worked well and fairly easy with all races. Living in this blessed country, mutual respect is mighty crucial for business as well as for the peace and harmony to prevail within a multiracial and religious society. My exposure to “Ketuanan Melayu” was practically absent then.

Akurjanji Culture

Maybe I am not as educated or qualified as Dr Azly Rahman .I confess I am no political scientist to be able to analyze and envisage the kind of extensive ‘carpet bombing, systematic mental genocide of Malays, the nDoc virus etc” to conclude vis a vis the Malays in general are “mentally subdued, docile etc contributing them extensively a few people. But this I know, the bulk of the Malays are engaged in the public sector and not the private sector. I would believe that being relatively immobile, they have a natural phobia “not to bite the hand that feeds them” (i.e. the Government) in the open. But when came 12 GE where the ballots were deemed secret, this set of people whom Dr Azly referred to could have been among those who gave a good swing of votes to the opposition. In Islam, if you see some wrong act, first use your hand to remedy the wrong, if you can’t then use mouth, even if that you cannot do that, then say it in your heart, Almighty understands. Indeed during the GE 12, these people being fully assured their ‘periok nasi’ is safe, finally used their hand on the ballot papers in demonstrating their perception of what’s right or wrong.

Bonda senyum riang (Mother smiled with joy)

Now there’s this national call for Ketuanan Melayu getting stronger and louder by the day. Many Malay NGO’s and prominent individuals are in togetherness in looking forward for some favorable outcome. The Malay electorates are genuinely concern as they feel insecure about their future, about their children’s welfare, about their race and religion and so the call for Ketuanan Melayu reverberates…

A newly designed ship, the Bahtera Merdeka with its Ketuanan Rakyat’s flag hosted up high, is in the docks of mainland West Malaysia, appears not quite ready to be launched to set sail for a long tough journey in search of the land of many promises. This new ship has 3 different able captains but each is clumsily learning to steer the wheels of the newly designed ship. Learning to pilot on still waters is never that simple especially when there some really big holes to plug. These 3 captains could sense from their most sophisticated radar system that an unexpected storm is approaching. The radar also indicates that a 50 year old junk of battle ship once perceived as sinking seemed opportune to capitalize on the stormy weather. This old junk flies several flags but the “despicable” Ketuanan Melayu flag seemed prominently hosted at the center. The 3 captains being skillful politicians, fearing their many of newly recruited passengers (of protest voters) may jump ship even before its official launch, takes on a common ploy – putting the blame elsewhere and this time to hit BTN and UMNO, the prime mover of Ketuanan Melayu.

Respect for Ketuanans

During my primary school days some 45 years ago, the sekolah rendah kebangsaan I attended was packed with non Malay students. At the sekolah rendah kebangsaan (just walking distance from my house) where all my children go for their primary education, one can hardly find Chinese students there. I was informed that the Chinese preferred to send their kids to Chinese primary schools. I would take it that the Chinese have their individual “indoctrination” programs to sustain their wishes and I have no qualms about it.

Certain nights as I just drive around the Chinese part of the new villages, I see frequent Chinese cultural happenings; Malaysia is truly a magnificent country endowed with wonderfully rich and diverse cultures. I respect the many cultures of the Chinese as they respect mine and so similarly with the Indians and others.

The BTN programs have purpose.

Now back to BTM programs, sometime during the last couple of months of TDM’ retirement, upon invitation, I attended a 3-4 day “national service” program organized by BTN. We, the “chosen ones“, comprise mostly very senior executives and top heads from the private as well as government corporations and institutions. “Chosen” because we were given the absolute discretion to choose whether we wish to attend or not; on my part there was absolutely no compulsion. I was glad I made the correct choice to attend. Those who participated included several of my clients and friends, so I wasn’t without company nor felt lonely being away from my family at a secluded location about 11/2 hours drive from home.

Unlike Dr. Azly Rahman, I found the BTN course

– an shocking eye opener; the facts and statistics laid bare before us demonstrated the status and achievements and the economic well being of the Malays in relation to the others;

– pressures and forces, both national and international, that continues ‘threatening’ the Malay community especially teenagers were highlighted and focused (generally applicable to other races too). These included the supposedly bad influences of the entertainment world, the channels of communication (media), drugs, etc

– analysis and factors that influence the performance of Malay students and the inability of some to response appropriately upon exposure to the world i.e. once they are detached from the family

– historical development of our country, etc, etc.

Perhaps appreciating the make up and seniority of the participants, the BTN program was conducted in a most open environment with none of the junk Dr Azly referred earlier. If my memory serves me correct, the indoctrination program reminded us a lot about the poor state of our “roots” i.e. Malay race and as I reflected, I felt most sad, who shouldn’t be but that’s life as preordained by our creator, the Almighty, the most Beneficent and Compassionate. If we have the will to change our lives (fate), He will change it. So if we failed, we should not put the blame others except ourselves FULL STOP.

The Government continues to spent substantial amounts for the development of Malay students (amid instances of favoritism). Somehow Malay youths seemed very susceptible to the luring of worldly temptations and that is a genuine concern. Thus for its teen programs, BTN’s message of Ketuanan Melayu has to be hammered hard and in right into their brains to remind them who they are and what their responsibilities are. I would not disagree with that approach because even during my time, there were many students (financed by the Government or their institutions) who strayed from their studies and flopped. By the way, my daughter did her national service last year after her form 5 and she really enjoyed it.

I also do not share Dr Azly’s many desperate wants (“I want this lah and that lah, no not that lah, should be like this lah etc”), it reflects something horrible must have happened him; he sounds really confused, frustrated and very much sickly. He should have more Faith; if the pleadings are too many or too unrealistic, He may not grant want any at all. Be reasonable, accept that we are merely human and have limitations on what can we achieve.

Finally I categorically refute Dr Azly’s many baseless accusations on BTN and the effects of their programs. The programs themselves are beneficial for the Malays within the context of Ketuanan Melayu. As to the organization itself, it’s just natural for the organizers to want the programs to achieve as many aims as possible. Of course some educators are better than others in their approach and communication skills. For me and I believe too for most participants, we are matured enough to make up our own mind on what’s good or bad, what’s reasonable, illogical, unreasonable or fictitious; we take from the program what we like and discard those we think are rubbish and as we reflect, we move on in life searching for the manifold bounties out there.

I am just a simple minded Melayu (like a lazy big fat berok) who stay up on the tree top and from that vantage point, I dreamily watch the many opportunities slip way. I see no reason to compare with the Spartans or Athenians for examples, the Malays too has a long history with many examples and if anyone that the Malays should wish to emulate or compare, it’s the Prophet of Islam (PBUH)


Some data on BTN

Below I reproduce some primary sources on BTN for readers to analyze:

Lyric of Warisan composed by BTN

Warisan (Versi asal)

Anak kecil main api
Terbakar hatinya yang sepi
Airmata darah bercampur keringat
Bumi dipijak milik orang

Nenek moyang kaya raya
Tergadai seluruh harta benda
Akibat sengketa sesamalah kita
Cita lenyap di arus zaman

Indahnya bumi kita ini
Warisan berkurun lamanya
Hasil mengalir ke tangan yang lain
Pribumi merintih sendiri

Masa depan sungguh kelam
Kan lenyap peristiwa semalam
Tertutuplah hati terkunci mati
Maruah peribadi dah hilang

Kini kita cuma tinggal kuasa
Yang akan menentukan bangsa
Bersatulah hati bersama berbakti
Pulih kembali harga diri

Kita sudah tiada masa
Majulah dengan maha perkasa
Janganlah terlalai teruskan usaha
Melayu kan gagah di Nusantara (3x)

-Mission statement of BTN:

“WAWASAN Menjadi sebuah organisasi awam yang unggul dalam memupuk semangat patriotisme serta menjadikan rakyat setia kepada Kerajaan.”

-Sample recent speech on “Ketuanan Melayu”:


Penulis: webmaster@btn.gov.myThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , Apr 18, 2008 10:26:52 AM

“Bagi menyelamatkan ketuanan Melayu di bumi sendiri, orang Melayu terutamanya penjawat awam perlu menginsafi kesilapan lalu dan bertindak untuk membetulkannya dengan segera.”

Y.Bhg. Dato’ Shagul Hamid bin Abdullah
Ketua Pengarah Biro Tatanegara (BTN), Jabatan Perdana Menteri
28 Mac 2008 (Jumaat) Perhimpunan Bulanan BTN

Antara isi kandungan ucapan Y. Bhg. Dato’ Shagul Hamid bin Abdullah dalam Perhimpunan Bulanan BTN bagi bulan Mac 2008 adalah seperti berikut :

Selepas berakhirnya Pilihanraya Umum Ke-12, keputusan telah menunjukkan bahawa zaman orang Melayu berkuasa hampir tamat terutamanya di beberapa buah negeri seperti Perak, Selangor, Pulau Pinang dan Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur.

BTN seringkali menyampaikan mesej kepada rakyat, penjawat awam dan tokoh politik melalui lirik lagu Warisan iaitu “kini kita cuma tinggal kuasa yang akan menentukan bangsa” kerana sering terjadi perebutan kuasa sesama kaum dalam sesebuah pertubuhan, jabatan dan masyarakat, misalnya akibat perebutan kuasa sesama orang Melayu dalam parti politik akhirnya mewujudkan tiga buah parti iaitu UMNO, PAS dan PKR.

Akibat membenci sesama orang Melayu, kuasa pentadbiran beralih tangan. Perkara ini juga berlaku dalam perkhidmatan awam sehinggakan orang awam hilang pertimbangan lalu memilih kuasa lain untuk memerintah.

Pilihanraya umum yang lepas juga memperlihatkan bahawa golongan belia terutamanya anak-anak orang Melayu membuat keputusan dengan mengundi tanpa mengira perkauman, tetapi golongan pembangkang telah bertindak secara perkauman melalui perbuatan dan tidak melalui percakapan. Tokoh-tokoh politik sering bercakap mengenai Modal Insan, Akidah dan mengingati bahawa kuasa politik mesti dijaga dengan baik, tetapi mereka terus berbalah dan tidak mempercayai satu sama lain.

Media elektronik juga memainkan peranan dengan menggunakan isu-isu seperti rasuah dan pecah amanah untuk menghentam orang Melayu sebelum, semasa dan selepas Pilihanraya Umum Ke-12. Justeru bagi menyelamatkan ketuanan Melayu di bumi sendiri, orang Melayu terutamanya penjawat awam perlu menginsafi kesilapan lalu dan bertindak untuk membetulkannya dengan segera.

My argument: Thumbs down for BTN

Below is my response to “whackthembugger” on the meaning of “ketuanan Melayu”

A Malay view of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’
by Azly Rahman
‘O people! Your God is one and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety. Indeed the noblest among you is the one who is deeply conscious of God.’ – a saying of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him)

‘Malaysia – to whom does it belong? To Malaysians. But who are Malaysians? I hope I am, Mr Speaker, Sir. But sometimes, sitting in this chamber, I doubt whether I am allowed to be a Malaysian. This is the doubt that hangs over many minds, and … [once] emotions are set in motion, and men pitted against men along these unspoken lines, you will have the kind of warfare that will split the nation from top to bottom and undo Malaysia.’ – Lee Kuan Yew, now Senior Minister, Republic of Singapore

Instead of defining Ketuanan Melayu as ‘Malay superiority’ which is quite meaningless, philologically inaccurate, and philosophically arrogant, I think the word ‘dictatorship’ is closer in meaning. As you read this piece, please refrain from value judgment and from being trapped in the prison-house of language pertaining to the word ‘dictatorship’.

To dictate connotes to tell, which connotes to narrate. To narrate means to weave a story based on an ideology. To ideologise means to encapsulate. To encapsulate means to be trap. Dictatorship here might also mean an entrapment. Instead of acknowledging one’s freedom to rule, one is acknowledging being in an entrapment – and to rule out of that condition. This is a form of false consciousness.

Words, as a literary theorist Raymond Williams might say, must also be contextualised/situated within the economic condition they emerge in. Marx’s famous dictum that human beings’ existence is defined by the economic condition they are in and that this condition is already predetermined. This is a deterministic view of human history.

I first read heard the concept of Ketuanan Melayu in the mid-1980s from a book (Tuntutan Melayu) by one Malik Munip. I was reading his work, at the same time reading Lim Kit Siang’s ‘Malaysia in the dangerous 80s’, to get a sense of the argument. I was an undergraduate reading Literature, Education and International Politics.

I also heard that Malay students were discouraged from reading Kit Siang’s work and encouraged to read ‘Ketuanan Melayu’. I love banned books and books that others tell me not to read. There is a sense of intellectual challenge to be able to read banned books.

I read Mahathir Mohamad’s ‘The Malay Dilemma’ and Syed Husin Ali’s ‘Malays: Their Problems and their Future’ and Syed Hussein Alatas’ ‘The Myth of the Lazy Native’ at the same time. Again, to get a sense of balance.

I read Malaysian official publications on economic outlook, juxtaposing them with a close reading of analyses on the political-economy of the Malaysian capitalist state.

I read the work of Freud and Marx to see where some of the major authors of the Frankfurt School of Social Research are going with their arguments on totalitarianism. I read the Quran and the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata to see where the arguments on race superiority lie and what the fate of humankind will be.

The idea of social dominance and racial superiority might all be primarily about economics, if we are to read the history of the development of ideologies of superiority. But my question is – who has the right to claim that this or that land belongs to this or that group of people. At what point does culture and citizenship meet and negotiate the issue of egalitarianism? When does ‘the truth of one’s culture’ reach its limit and the question of ‘the truth of citizenship’ dominate?

This is a very complex question Malaysians must answer after 50 years of Independence. We must open up the dialogue on this issue.

Lyrical propaganda

Let us look at how the idea of ketuanan Melayu is disseminated to the young. One way is through indoctrination camps in which songs are used.

Over the decades, perhaps millions of Malay students like me were taught the dangerous propaganda song, ‘Anak Kecil Main Api’ (A Child Plays with Fire). One verse concerns the power of the Malays::

… kini kita cuma tinggal kuasa

yang akan menentukan bangsa

hasil mengalir, ke tangan yang lain

pribumi merintih sendiri…

My loose translation of this 1980s propaganda song by the Biro Tata Negara reads:

… political power is what we are only left with

one that will determine the fate of our nation

wealth of this nation flows into the hands of others

sons and daughters of the soil suffer in solace…

I do not think we have a clear understanding of what the lyrics mean. I doubt if the songwriter even understand what a ‘people’s history of Malaya’ means. It is a song based on racist intents; its lyrics penned by one who does not have a good grasp of the political-economy of Malaysian history, let alone the latest advances in the field of psychology of consciousness.

The training programs that encapsulate the theme of this song are meant to instill fear of the Malays, not of others but of themselves, and to project hatred onto other ethnic groups without realising who the enemies of the Malays really are.

Using relaxation techniques to bring the brain waves in the alpha and state (conducive for suggestive and subliminal messages), trainees were put under ‘half-asleep’ conditions to get the ketuanan Melayu message to colonise the consciousness. The technique pioneered by Russian brain scientists Barzakov and Lozanov in the1970s, called ‘suggestopedia’, is used to instill the deep sense of fear for oneself and hatred of others.

History is a complex syntagmatic pattern of interplay between technology, ideology, culture, inscription and institutionalisation not easily reduced to simplistic lyrics as such sung to the tune of pre-war German-nationalistic-sounding compositions.

History is about the complex evolution of the ruling class which owns the technologies of control. As Marx would say, at every epoch it is the history of those who own the means of production that will be written and rewritten. The winners write history, the losers write poetry or study anthropology, some would lament.

Back to the lyrics. After 50 years of independence, who is suffering in Malaysia? Who has become wealthy? Who has evolved into robber barons? What has become of our judiciary system, our universities, our city streets, our sense of public safety and security, our schools, our youth, and our entire socio-economic arrangements at the eve of the 12th general election? How has the idea of ketuanan Melayu contributed to this state of affairs?

Language of power and ideology is at play in those lyrics. The definition of ‘bumiputera’ is at play. It has become a problematic word in this age of deconstructionism; an age wherein as the poet WB Yeats said, “the centre cannot hold”.

Rock musicians will recall the Scorpions’ famous song ‘Winds of Change’ to serenade the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the breakdown of the Soviet Empire. We have to face the ‘wrath’ of the word.

Put an end to Ketuanan Melayu

For Muslims in Malaysia, this saying by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is familiar: ‘Your descent is nothing to be proud of. Nor does it bring you superiority. O people! All of you are the children of Adam. You are like equal wheat grains in a bowl … No one has any superiority over anyone else, except in religion and heedfulness. In order to consider someone a wicked person, it suffices that he humiliates other people, is mean with money, bad-tempered and exceeds the limits…’

I would say that ketuanan Melayu is a dangerous concept that is threatening race relations. It is an arrogant interpretation of selective history; of a history that is largely benefiting those who profits from the ideology.

Those promoting this concept are not well-versed in the matters of philosophy of history. I do not think thinking Malays these days subscribe to the idea of ‘Malay dominance and dictatorship’. If there is a ketuanan of one race, then the rest are ‘slaves’ and ‘serfs’ and ‘sub-citizens’, if we are to analyse it from the point of view of ‘Master-Slave’ narrative?

As a Malay wishing to see the withering of and an end to the concept of ketuanan Melayu and the birth of a new consciousness that will respect the dignity of all races and the humility of all ethnic groups, I call upon Malaysians to continue to be critical of any attempt by any race to project their own sense of false superiority that would only breed dangerous ethnocentrism bordering on xenophobia.

We should work together to deconstruct all forms of race-based political arrangement and work towards establishing a new order based on a more egalitarian economic design that takes into consideration the basic needs and dignity of all races.

We should teach our schoolchildren how to deconstruct such sense of racial superiority, through the teaching of not only tolerance but social egalitarianism – via peace education strategies. We will have a lot to gain for generations to come.

What data and answers we need from trainees to further understand this issue:

narratives/stories of your experiences in this mind training camps, especially re:BTN
— what were you told in these camps?
— how were you taught (in what mental state of mind?)
— were you allowed to argue? disagree? ask critical questions?
— who were the guest speakers? why do you think they and not others were invited?
— how are leaders outside of Barisan Nasional represented— were they demonized?
— how did you feel when you came out of the camp– angry at non-Malays?
— why didn’t you argue about “ketuanan Melayu” with the trainers?

Sample narrative from a reader/commentator:

I want to share an informative comment posted re: Reflections on a Sinking Bahtera Merdeka:

“… written by hiryu, April 19, 2008 | 14:21:23
I’m one of those people who had to attend the BTN course a couple of years back. In the whole batch of 3-4 days of course there’re only a sprinkle of Chinese and Indians. The modus operandi there was quite simple. The so called facilitators will play the bad cop-good cop scenario as was seen on TV. They’ll put on scenarios of what will happen if you get strayed from the traditional values and status quo. Then they’ll remind you of the so called ‘peace and prosperity’ brought and maintain if you cooperate/submit to their values.

I’m a Malay and I was offended on how these people trying to use Kelantan as example (it was the only state under opposition then). The whole class given a scenario of how Kelantanese are in the brink of famine and chaos for exercising their constitutional rights. We were told it was an unpatriotic choice and a selfish act. As Dr Azly mentioned, they shoved the idea of ketuanan Melayu as the most important part of Malaysia and it’s the only thing which hold this country together, not justice and tolerance. If I as a Malay felt offended, I can’t even imagine how those few non-Malay would feel at that time.

I see there were 2 groups in the class. Ones who secretly despise the idea of MALAYSIA=GOVERNMENT=UMNO and another who was willing to swallow anything for fear of being transferred to a remote part and out of ignorance. It’s really shocking to how many rolled over and lapped it up. Even for those who don’t we too have to veil our different opinions (for those facilitators also act as Gestapo).

This kind of fear tactic was and still crippling thousand of minds each year. It must be put to stop for it’s a breeding ground for a disunite Malaysia. The ignorant and the naive will succumb to the idea and the enlightened will be subdued. We are talking about educated young people being subjected to brainwash by the worst kind in Malaysia. Help save them all!

Below is a statement made in Parliament by Teresa Kok in 2005 regarding BTN:

Biro Tatanegara Spread Racist Teaching

Wednesday, 26-10-2005

I have delivered a speech in Parliament on the allocation given to the PM’s department yesterday, 25th October 2005. In the ten minutes speech (we were only allowed to speak for ten mins), I have mentioned about the teaching of Biro Tatanegara, settlement for squatters of KL Linear City, issues related to Parliament and Elections Commission.

Part 1 of my speech is as follow:

Biro Tatanegara

Datuk yang diPertua, saya ingin minta Menteri di JPM untuk memberitahu dewan yang mulia ini tentang isikandungan latihan yang dianjurkan oleh Biro Tatanegara. Saya terima aduan daripada sesetengah peserta yang pernah menyertai latihan atau kursus Biro Tatanegara, mereka berkata pelatih di Biro Tatanegara itu menyebarkan ajaran atau fikiran yang melampau mengenai agama dan perkauman kepada para pelajar. Mereka diberi ajaran yang hanya mengagung-agungkan sesuatu kaum dan agama tetapi menyisih kaum dan agama yang lain di negara kita.

Datuk yang diPertua, saya ingin minta Menteri untuk menjelaskan tentang objektif dan tujuan asal kerajaan menubuhkan Biro Tatanegara dan samada kerajaan memantau kurikulum dan pelatih dalam biro ini? Saya difahamkan latihan Biro Tatanegara ini hanya diberi kepada pelajar kaum Melayu di kampus universiti dan ia tidak terbuka kepada kaum lain. Para pelajar ini dipilih untuk “cuci otak” selama seminggu di luar kampus supaya mereka dijadikan “budak baik” atau “pak turut” kepada kerajaan.

Kerajaan telah berkali-kali menanya kenapakah negara kita masih tidak dapat mencapai perpaduan nasional setelah kita merdeka selama 48 tahun, dan kerajaan malah mengadakan latihan khidmat negara untuk menyatu-padukan pemuda-pemudi daripada pelbagai kaum, selain itu, RTM telah mengadakan program Debat Perdana dengan menjemput ahli politik dan pakar sosial untuk membahas tentang isu perpaduan kaum, dan Jawatankuasa Pilihan Khas juga telah ditubuhkan di Parlimen untuk mengkaji tentang masalah perpaduan kaum. Soalannya, bukankah kurikulum dalam Biro Tatanegara yang keterlaluan ini bercanggah dengan dasar kerajaan yang ingin memupuk perpaduan di antara kaum? Kenapakah kerajaan masih membiarkan ajaran yang melampau dan merosak hubungan kaum dalam Biro Tatanegara ini diteruskan?

— source: http://teresakok.blogsome.com/2005/10/26/biro-tatanegara-spread-teaching/
Let us talk about what to do with these types of indoctrination program, including of the National Service that has claimed many lives.

Parliamentarians take note — we voted you in power to help make the life of our children happier. We will vote you out if you do not do the job.


One Response to On the problem of “Ketuanan Melayu” and the work of the Biro Tata Negara

  1. Lawrence Sii says:

    The end result of BTN’s course:
    The participants went in harmoniously in a group but left the premises in three different groups. 2 groups filled with confusion, anger and frustration while one group walked away tall in the air, full of illusion & pride…………….! That ends up with more and more good brains being drained away to other countries………….. All export sectors declined except exporting the good brains! Please wake-up the politicians and Malaysians. Sectors like BTN, Utusan Melayu, etc do nothing good to rakyat beside turning them to becoming more politically matured and vote for two-tier governing system for a balance.

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