With the Malaysian election as little more than racial politics on steroids, what about Singapore with the Nizam Ismail storm in a teacup few days ago?
Nizam Ismail’s main purpose in issuing his response is to debunk the government’s assertion that he is promoting race-based politics, and that he has used Association of Muslim Professional (AMP) as a platform for self-promotion .
He goes to great length to explain that Community Forum (ComFor) was not created for the purposes of pushing a Malay agenda. He clarifies that ComFor is rather an extension of Community in Review forum (CIR) and is meant to track strategies of the AMP Convention.
Nizam has however failed to convincing explain the necessity for a new forum to track CIR. What he essentially did not say, or cannot say, is that his vision for ComFor was to push for community-based approaches to be included within the national approach adopted by CIR. ComFor would do what CIR could not officially? ComFor is a watchdog group if you like, to make sure the rights and privileges of the Malays are front and center.
Nizam is also known to have used other platforms on social media (e.g. Suara Melayu Singapura) to argue for an alternate political structure for the Malay community. This comprises a system whereby the Malay community nominates its own leaders. This is clearly a political model of racial representation to advance Malay interests, and “Collective Leadership” by another name even. Incidentally, “Collective Leadership” was frowned upon by the government years ago and made know to AMP as it was too racial in its politics.
Nizam kept saying his ideas are made on a personal capacity basis despite his positions within AMP and its subsidiary Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA). What it means is that he is pushing for Malay affirmative action in one platform, and claim to focus on the national approach on the other. In so doing, he is merely attempting to mask race-based politics under the guise of class-based programs.
A central point to his proposed class-based programs would be whether he is championing for Malays to have priority in the receipt of state funds. As it already stands, assistance schemes and programs are dished out at the national level, and dispersed progressively based on the principle that those that are most in should receive them first.
Is Nizam therefore suggesting that Malays in need of economic assistance form an under-class of their own? How is this a national-level or fair class-based initiative as he claims to espouse?
Confusingly, in his blog post he argues that race-based self-help groups perpetuate cultural stereotypes or myth of race-based deficiencies. This statement runs contrary to his actions as he took the advantage of AMP’s race-based machinery anyway to advance Malay interests, instead of working in a race-neutral enterprise. He is an advocate of racial politics. Clearly, he has not been misperceived.