2. Ethnocracy: A form of government based on communalism. It is more widespread than you might think. Sometimes it is an explict premise, at other times, it is just an unstated reality.
K is for Kisona 3
In this post I will begin to unpack the meaning, possible meanings rather, of Bersatu Pasir Puteh division vice chairman Borhanuddin Che Rahim statement on social media, made with reference to Kisona Selvaduray, in the context of her recent defeat in the Sudirman Cup semi-final match in Finland. “BAM kutip india (keling) dlm mana lah jd pemain utama Malaysia” or “Which estate did BAM (The Badminton Association of Malaysia) fund this indian (keling) and make her Malaysia’s main player”.
As I noted in the previous post, my instinctive response is the same as that of most Malaysians. Surely, this statement is a racial slur. Still, given the immediate apology and resignation of the perpetrator, I now have some doubts as to the meaning of his text and as to his intention as well. To satisfy myself and to do justice to the accused, I will attempt interrogate the statement in terms of its semiotics in order to determine if indeed the statement is racist and if so, what exactly constitutes its racism. If it is not racist, I will ask if it is, nevertheless, a slur of some sort, and again how it achieves its harm. In doing this, I will unpack the syntax, semantics, and pragmatics of this utterance –
“BAM kutip india (keling) dlm estate mana lah jd pemain utama Malaysia”
- I will begin with some definitions. ‘Syntax’, is way in which the words are put together to form the offending phrase, ‘Semantics’ involves the meaning of words used independent of the context and ‘pragmatics’ is the meaning of the statement in relation to the context of its utterance. Pragmatics helps us approach the meaning as intended or implied by the speaker.
- The obvious trigger word here is ‘keling’ and while it is clearly used in a derogatory manner as exemplified and evidenced by the infamous ‘Keling Babi” video, the word is deeply complex both in its etymology and in its current usage. It is in fact a mainstay of Malay idiomatic expression (Please see my exhaustive Keling Lexicon). In semantic terms, to define ‘keling’ as having a racist denotation, or even a necessary connotation of racism, would mean denying the benign etymology of the word. At the very least it would mean that the contemporary negative connotations (which one can in fact see even in the older idiomatic expressions of the lexicon), have displaced other more neutral denotations of Indian origins and Indianness.
- Further, in this question of usage, there is a clear geographical diversity in the understanding the word. I have come to understand anecdotally, that the word is used freely by Malays in Kelantan, under the impression that it is not a slur and that Indians do not take it as one. I am yet to gain any insight about the Kelate Indian communities position in this matter but I consider my Malay informers astute, sensitive and reliable. If indeed this is the position in Kelantan, the explanation given by Borhanuddin Che Rahim stands corroborated. He states in his apology, “Saya tidak berniat menghina kaum India dengan panggilan tersebut, ia sebaliknya bahasa percakapan di Kelantan yang merujuk kepada orang India”.
- There is also syntactical indication that the use of the term might not be as a slur. It is used, not instead of ‘India’ but, as an ancillary to ‘india,’ and it is set within brackets, as if to indicate that it is an adjective modifying the noun. If the word ‘india’ is being explained by the more Kelate appellation of ‘keling’, or if ‘india’ is being qualified – indicating which type of ‘india,’ ‘keling’ or perhaps ‘mamak’, then there arises the possibility that no racial slur arises in the use of the word, at least not from the perspective of intention.
To be continued in the following post …
K is for Kisona 2
The young Malaysian Indian badminton player Kisona Selvaduray, became the victim of an alleged racial slur after her recent defeat in the Sudirman Cup semi-final match in Finland. According to Says Bersatu Pasir Puteh division vice chairman Borhanuddin Che Rahim has apologized and resigned for having made this slur. It is even suggested in Free Malaysia Today that the police will investigate this matter under Section 504 of the Penal Code for the intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988.
As presented in the screen garb on Free Malaysia Today, the Bersatu politician wrote, “BAM kutip india (keling) dlm estate mana lah jd pemain utama Malaysia” or “Which estate did BAM (The Badminton Association of Malaysia) found this indian (keling) and made her Malaysia’s main player”. While I am angered by this statement and its careless, privileged, racial attitude (ketuanan), I nevertheless introduce this post with the equivocation “alleged.” I do so in spite of the apology, out of a genuine concern about casting aspersions of racist intent in a statement without a careful investigation of its syntax, semantics and, particularly, the pragmatics of the utterance. Indeed, as explored in my previous images and writings, the connotation of the term ‘Keling’ varies across history, geography and context. in the following blog posts, I will attempt to unpack and asses Borhanuddin Che Rahim statement which is more complex in semiotic terms than it initially appears to be. For now, please see the following –
When is a Racial Slur not a Racial Slur?
A Keling Lexicon A – J
A Keling Lexicon K – P
A Keling Lexicon Q – Z
K is for Kisona
Please lah Ker! … No need to forgive so quickly … learn the F___ ing lesson first !
“Let us together cultivate unity and friendship with the aim of Keluarga Malaysia. Reject prejudice and misconceptions or racial resentment. To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
Antara Saudara Mara 21
“Jadilah pemimpin untuk dirimu, anakku.
Sebulum engkau menjadi pemimpin bagi orang lain.”
It’s Time to be Clear 6
Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Papadopoulos’ Greece, Pinochet’s Chile, and Suharto’s Indonesia are the 7 regimes that Laurence W. Britt analyzed to develop his set of fascistic characteristics. Like Umberto Eco before him, he came up with 14 key characteristics, which he construed as fascist and proto-fascist means of obtaining, expanding, and maintaining power. He presented this list in an Op-Ed titled Fascism Anyone? in Volume 23, No. 2 Spring 2003 of ‘Free Inquiry’ as follows –
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
5. Rampant sexism.
6. A controlled mass media.
7. Obsession with national security.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
9. Power of corporations protected.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
14. Fraudulent elections.
While, as Daniel Malmer notes this list was not intended to be used to diagnose fascism in present governments, but rather characterize historical fascist governments, it is nevertheless interesting to see how many of these fascistic characteristic apply to the purported democracies of the world.
As a Malaysian, I find that the polity of my country seems to exhibit a good 11 of the Britt’s 14 traits. If this were not worrying enough for the long view, we have just joined a list of dysfunctional nations that have suspended parliamentary rule and instituted emergency powers in the context of the Covid-19 epidemic. This is the first such declaration of emergency since the aftermath of the race riots of May 13th 1969.
According to Bloomberg, the state of emergency was declared soon after some key leaders in the ruling coalition’s largest partner, United Malays National Organisation had called for a fresh election. They also report that the Pakatan Harapan opposition has admonished the Prime Minister for burdening the people with a declaration of emergency for the sake of saving himself. Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs has described the emergency as “totally unnecessary” and that “If you’re not careful, we will slip from parliamentary democracy into a rule by diktat.”
Lament for Anwar
Malaysia has recently been beset by an epidemic of betrayal and disloyalty in the political arena. There seems to be no penchant for integrity in the accelerating realignments of opportunity. In this never ending saga, this interminable tragedy, that is contemporary Malaysian politics, one figure stand out as a complex of qualities. A relentless fighter, a hopeless loser, beacon of hope, a focus of hatred and an object of ridicule, Anwar Ibrahim is all of these in one. He seems to be all things to all Malaysians, and while he is still the leader of the parliamentary opposition, his recent u-turn on around challenging the incumbent Bersatu-led government on the budget vote may signal an the end of his long and arduous quest to become Prime Minister.
Anwar purports to stand reform and unity over corruption and ethnocentric politics, but his past and his present actions indicate that this may just be the position he finds himself in. Anwar began as a firebrand Malay/ Islamic youth leader in the late 1960’s who was co-opted to the mainstream of Malaysian politics by Dr Mahathir Mohamed in 1982 and then dramatically ejected from his place of power in the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) and imprisoned on the basis of a sodomy conviction, arguably under the auspices of by the very same Dr M in 1993. His recent return to a place of power has, once again, been on the coat-tails of Dr. M and, once again, he has been severely let down. This recent collaboration between these two bitter political political foes was arrived at on the basis of the utter repugnance and destructiveness of the present UMNO leadership. Now, in the increasingly fragmentary and multivalent political scenario, there is some well reasoned speculation that Anwar is contemplating alignment with these very folks. As the Financial Times puts it, some might say that his journey “has been Janus-faced and opportunistic.”
The Asia Times suggests that Anwar faces such a situation today, that he might prefer to “choose to withdraw PKR from the PH coalition to stand in the general election on its own, affording him more room to negotiate with UMNO or form a new coalition with whichever parties are expedient depending on the outcome of the polls.” Disappointing though this all is from the point of view of the mandate and manifesto, I suggest that, either by reason of true conviction or pure circumstance, Anwar Ibrahim remains the best hope for a progressive and inclusive Malaysia. I am not, however, optimistic that, if Anwar pursues such a hardcore realpolitik , it will play out for the good of all the rakyat.
Related Posts –
1 Kibaran Bendera
Politik Ulangan (1993 -2020)
Politik Mahathir (1998 – 2020)
Politik Melayu (1969 – ?)
Saudara Baru 2
Antara Saudara Mara 17
The above image from the from the Panji Pauh Ulong Series was shot in on the Lumut Waterfront, Perak in the course of the Dari Pusat Tasek performance presented by Percha Artspace on 25th Dec 2019. A 15 ft banner image of Anwar Ibrahim was raised on an 18ft flagstand in a performance that was loosely based on a Perak Malay cleansing ritual using cut limes. After 7 points of my body were rubbed with lime, I faced East and spat 7 times. I then threw the remains of the limes in the Westerly direction saying, “Pergi-lah semua sial jambalang daripada badan aku dan dari tubuh negara, pergilah ke Pusat Tasek Pauh Janggi“ (‘Misfortune and spirits of evil begone from my body and from the body of the nation, begone to the Navel of the Seas!). Water was then poured over me in order to complete the cleansing.
Anwar Shows Some Game!
“After three stints in prison and more than two decades of waiting, Anwar has had enough. He may have the number. He may not. But after Muhyiddin’s sickening betrayal, the prime minister has lost his right to condemn anyone of trying to topple his backdoor government. Even if the entire UMNO bloc shifts its support for Anwar, one should not be surprised at all.” So says FINANCE TWITTER as represented in the Malaysian Chronicle.
Make or break, for better or for worse, Anwar has made his play … the future is uncertain but the game goes on!
Antara Saudara Mara 19
Politik Anak Bapa (2004 – 2020)
2004 – Two years after his father Mahathir Mohamad stepped down as Prime Minister, Mukhriz Mahathir was elected to the executive council of UMNO Youth.
2008 – Mukhriz won the Jerlun Parliament Seat
2013 – Mukhriz won the Kedah State Assembly seat of Ayer Hitam and was appoint Chief Minister of Kedah for the 1st time.
2018 – Mukhriz was appointed Chief Minister of Kedah for the second time when Pakatan Harapan, led by his father, won the general elections.
2020 – Mahathir floated a political scenario in which Mukhriz would become deputy PM.
Source Image: http://shahnons.blogspot.com/2009/04/mahathirs-advise-to-son.html
You must be logged in to post a comment.