Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Structural Violence and The Exploited Poor

Discussions on violence in the society often focussed on what peace psychologists refer to as episodic violence. This refers to episodes of violence which involves physical confrontations between two or more aggressors that result in physical destruction, injuries and human casualties.

What is seldom talked about is another type of violence: structural violence. This refers to socio-economic policies and infrastructures that perpetuate a constant and widening gap between the rich and the poor. Essentially, what happens here is economic structures and public policies are built and maintained as such that the rich becomes richer and richer while the poor remain helplessly trapped in a state of destitution.

Compared to most other countries who gained independence after World War II, Malaysia has been fortunate to witness only a few occurrences of episodic violence. In fact, the May 13, 1969 incident remains the one and only major episode of communal violence to occur in the country since its independence in 1957.

What precipitated the episodic violence in 1969 was structural violence that continued to divide the major racial groups along economic lines. The Chinese were typically the rich merchants and businessmen, the Malays were farmers, fishermen, school teachers and clerks, while the Indians were mostly plantation and common labourers.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) introduced in the aftermath of the 1969 incident was a profound attempt to reduce this structural violence. The NEP has without a doubt helped millions of Malays to pursue tertiary education, assisted thousands to set-up their own businesses, and uplifted the socio-economic status of at least two generations of Malays since its implementation.

However, although the policy was originally conceived for implementation for only 20 years, there are sections in the Malay society who believe the policy should remain for many more decades, if not forever. Loudest among them in recent days are the new 'warriors' who are part of PERKASA, an ultra Malay-nationalist group led by the one and only Dato’ Ibrahim Ali.

If someone who is poor and was clearly a victim of oppression shouts from the top of his lungs about justice for the poor Malays, I would take him seriously and pay attention to what he has to say. But when the same call is made by someone who quite obviously has continued to live a comfortable life having successfully and cunningly exploited the system, I can only shake my head in utter disbelief and dismay.

There are indeed many Malays who have remained poor despite almost 40 years of NEP. A few others however have become extremely rich but rather than giving something back to the society have continued to accumulate enormous wealth for themselves and their families by continuously exploiting the weaknesses and loopholes in the policy.

Prominent blogger Haris Ibrahim in a recent posting described an interesting example of how some people had worked through the system to gain tremendous financial profit at the expense of others. His posting described how a few people who were privy of the government's plans in the early 1990's to build Putrajaya and KLIA, were scheming a plan to purchase the land around the area while the land was still cheap and then sell it for a much higher price to the government when plans for the new township and international airport are announced later.

Easy money indeed. Legally acceptable, perhaps, but most definitely morally wrong. The original land owners ought to have earned maximum profit from the land sale. And who were these naïve and unsuspected land owners? They were mostly poor Malays.

Certainly this is only one of many such examples. I, myself have had the experience of people approaching me to take part in a similar scheme. An almost complete stranger once approached me about a certain section of Langkawi Island which at the time was not yet developed. I was told then that the land can be bought cheap from the locals and in less than a year can be sold back at tremendous profit to the government when developments are approved.

Such devious schemes are made possible by the structural violence we have in this country. I sincerely wish therefore that PERKASA in its noble efforts to fight and defend Malay rights and privileges, will not set its sights only on the non-Malays. Please set your targets on the numerous unscrupulous Malays who are greatly responsible for the structural violence against the exploited poor.


Anonymous said...

bro, u are too idealistic lah.. kat semua tempat dlm dunia ni sama je... kalu ada cable mmg senang nak kaya. mungkin u ni dah lama sangat kat uia kot. semua org nak kaya + kaya cepat. kalau ada peluang takkan nak lepaskan??

peace bro!

Zaki Samsudin said...

Anon 9:14,
Thanks for dropping by. Maybe I am idealistic and naive. But is that necessarily a bad thing?

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