THE MEMBER SPEAKS | Timah whiskey line shows what’s wrong with Malaysian politics

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THE MEMBER SPEAKS | I am calling five ministers from Mainland Malaysia, also from Borneo, namely Maximus Johnity Ongkili (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs), Alexander Nanta Linggi (Internal Trade and Consumption), Fadillah Yusof (Works), Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar (Parliament and Law) and Nancy Shukri (Tourism) to speak with one voice in this cabinet meeting on Wednesday to end the wicked populist campaign to force the maker of Timah to change the name and image of the whiskey .

The relentless attacks on Timah whiskey are a symptom of what is wrong with Malaysian politics and should not be shared by politicians in Borneo.

Spurred on by agitators of community insecurity – two camps of Peninsular Malaysian politicians trying to outdo themselves as champions of Malaysian Muslims, and a drink legally consumable only by non-Malays – became the latest victim of the heroes’ drama intra-Malay.

Timah whiskey has come under attack for two absurd reasons that the brand and its icon may associate Muslims with alcohol consumption and therefore aim to insult or confuse Muslims.

First, Timah, the Malay word for pewter, is a short form of Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad and a common name for the Malay woman. Second, the image of Captain Speedy – a whiskey lover in British Malaysia while bringing peace to the tin mining industry in Taiping as a British aide residing in Larut, Perak – bearded and wearing an Ethiopian skullcap similar to a kopiah can be confused with a Muslim man.

The reason at stake

A true mainstream Islamist, Syed Ali Tawfik al-Attas, former director general of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim), forcefully refuted the absurd accusations in Bahasa Malay and English.

For him, those who would shorten Fatimah, (an Arabic word, not Malay), like the name of the Prophet’s daughter, like “Timah” and associate it with whiskey are the real ones. biadab (rude and offensive).

He further called them “arrogant” for insisting that they were right after the whiskey maker’s explanation.

What is at stake with Timah whiskey is not just the brand name of a product, but the raison d’être in our political, social and economic life, as the petition eloquently puts it:

“It is foolish and dangerous to claim that whatever some Malaysian Muslims may find familiar should be exclusive for their use, and that non-Muslims cannot use it whenever some Muslims claim to be offended.”

Giving up Timah whiskey will not end the insecurities of those who insist on feeling insecure. We had bans on the words Allah (by non-Muslims), root beer and hot dog, where would we end up? Do we let the more insecure set the standard for the sake of sensitivity and harmony and dictate what we can eat, drink, think and speak?

No appetite for orthodoxy

Does anyone remember the sensitivities of Borneo? In Borneo, our attitude towards alcohol consumption can be summed up in four points: (a) alcoholic beverages – to live, montoku, bahar, tuak, langkau, etc. – are part of our indigenous cultural heritage; (b) drinking is not for the Muslims among us; (c) alcoholism and irresponsible behavior such as driving after drinking are condemned; and (d) beyond the above, it is the freedom of an individual to drink or not to drink.

What kind of civility (kesopanan dan kesusilaan) – the fifth pillar of Rukunegara – is it for some Malaysians to call all alcoholic beverages “Satan’s urine”?

The Sabahans and Sarawakans, even those who do not drink for religious, health or other reasons, reject insults from strangers to our heritage.

To stand up against alcohol, condemn not only alcoholism but all alcohol consumption – even in the name of public health or consumerism – offends Borneo’s sensitivities, and whether to raise the map of alcoholism sensitivities before being heard, undermines the spirit of the social contract enshrined in the 1963 Agreement with Malaysia (MA63).

Sabah and Sarawak are part of Nusantara which has a real tradition of diversity and accommodation and we have no appetite for the orthodoxy imposed by some Malaysian fanatics.

Legal limits

Lest the Malaysian centrists forget, we natives of Borneo carefully observe how our cousins ​​are respected in Kalimantan, where the new capital of Indonesia will be. We are opposed to Malay domination not only in the exploitation of resources but also in cultural suppression.

Our grandparents joined a Secular Federation of Malaysia, where individuals have the freedom to engage in activities that may be considered “personal vices” in some religions, such as drinking, smoking, gambling, and dating, both. that it remains within the legal limits.

It is the spirit of religious freedom as espoused in Islam – “for you is your religion, and for me is my religion” – where no one has the right to impose the “to do” and don’ts of his faith to other denominations and They have not signed up for an Islamic federation where some Malays can define their notion of Muslim standards for all of us.

The anti-Timah campaign is invoked, not by the name of Timah or the beards and skullcap of Captain Speedy, but by the successive awards of whiskey in international competition.

For some Malaysian fanatics, since Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim nation, Malaysians cannot win any awards for activities not accepted by their worldview. And these activities even include the sport of gymnastics where Farah Ann Abdul Hadi has been inundated with condemnations for her “revealing” outfit, instead of congratulations on her medals.

Voice of reason

If the intra-Malay bidding competition continues to suppress common sense and progress in Malaysia, then all parties and politicians in Borneo – regardless of their faith and affiliations – must collaborate strategically to be the voice of reason and harmony in Malaysia.

We must not sacrifice the future and the freedom of our children and grandchildren for the activities of this generation.

Malaysians in Borneo must not kid themselves with the propaganda of Borneo’s exceptionalism and isolationism and that the Malay madness will stop in Malaysia as if the South China Sea could protect us.

As long as Sabah and Sarawak are part of Malaysia and our development lags behind Malaysia, many of our children and grandchildren will study, work and eventually settle in Malaysia. In other words, the children of Borneo in Malaysia will suffer if nonsense and insecurities reign supreme.

Meanwhile, the fanatics with the imperialist mentality will not even leave our regions alone as “horrors” in their quest for purity. For them, Malay is only the expansion of Tanah Melayu, as Umno MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman asserted in Parliament, whom I had categorically refuted as deputy chief minister at the time. .

If the five Borneo ministers can assert their reason for the cabinet decision on Timah tomorrow, it will send a clear message to Malaysian politicians on both sides of the divide – that the Sabahans and Sarawakis are not blind followers in their dangerous game. obsessions. We will not pour fuel if they want to set Malaysia on fire as a multicultural union.

As Malaysian politics become more fluid and intra-Malay competition more dangerous, all Borneo-based parties – including Borneo sections of federation-wide parties – must forge common ground on what we must stand up together as we compete with each other to bring the best for our regions and Malaysia. We must overcome madness and imperialism with intelligence and imagination.


WILFRED MADIUS TANGAU is the Member of Parliament for Tuaran.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author / contributor and do not necessarily represent those of Malaysiakini.


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