As we all know, in the past few weeks there’s a campaign that called on Malays/Bumiputras to make Malay- and Bumiputra-made products their first choice when purchasing groceries and basic goods. Many have said that this is a form of racism but there’s also an actual valid reason for it – Malay-Muslim products (Bumiputra-Muslim products) have no ambiguity about their halal status as compared to non-Muslim halal products that are usually sold masquerading behind a Malay brand name but with a Chinese manufacturer name.
Some have rightly said that it’s not a boycott. It’s just a call or reminder to place a primary preference on Malay/Bumiputra Muslim made products, in the same way that predominantly-Chinese private-sector companies place primary preference on hiring Mandarin-speaking Chinese for whatever positions that they have in their companies. This does not mean they’re boycotting non-Chinese, it just means they prefer Chinese-first for their own reasons. Therefore, the BMBF campaign is likewise not a boycott but a statement of preference for one segment of products over another, which is entirely up to the buyers’ free choice. There are no Muslim groups going around shutting down non-Malay shops and factories, or forcing Malays & Bumiputras to buy only products from Muslim manufacturers, are there? So, we all have e a choice. Some Malays may buy Malay/Bumiputra products as their first choice and some may not. And non-Malays may also do the same.
So, why is Lim Guan Eng and DAP jumping up and down about it like it touched their raw nerves?
Speaking about racism in consumer choices, I remember that it was back in 2012 when a “Boycott Gardenia” campaign was first launched by certain Chinese quarters. They alleged that the Gardenia factory was forced to drop Federal Flour Mills as their supplier and select two Malay-run flour mills instead as their suppliers. FFM is linked to Robert Kuok, and these groups called on the Chinese to boycott Gardenia and support the FFM-linked Massimo brand of bread instead.
At that time, I bought Gardenia as a sign of protest against this racist propaganda, but was told by another Chinese acquaintance that “the Malays started it first” by “screwing Robert Kuok”. So, Gardenia should be screwed for messing with a Chinese business with the goal of enriching Malay businesses. Eventually it turned out that FFM denied they were behind the rumors. The Gardenia company denied that they were forced to drop FFM as a supplier. Their flour suppliers change from time to time due to supply and costs and there were no racial or political reasons behind the shift.
That did not stop DAP-supporting cybertroopers from continuing to spread lies such as Gardenia belongs to Rosmah, or that Robert Kuok left Malaysia because his flour and sugar businesses were taken from him and given to the Malays.
Two things stood out immediately from this episode.
Firstly, the Chinese are very vehement about their monopolies in business and do not take lightly when there are non-Chinese competition in the market, and will do whatever necessary to maintain their dominance.
Secondly. these Chinese do not believe in prospering together or growing the economic pie, and instead would prefer to behave like hyenas to hoard everything for themselves, all for the sake of “controlling the economy”.
So when the Malays want to choose their own preferred manufacturers, it’s racist. When the Chinese form monopolies and squeeze out all non-Chinese players, that’s not racist, that’s just business.
We Chinese also like to say that we control 90% of the economy, just because Mahathir once said that the Chinese pay 90% of income tax, an assertion that isn’t supported by any published statistics or documented fact. But nonetheless the Chinese would say that they control 90% of the economy in a country of 70% Bumiputras, a fact that they’re exceptionally proud of.
Did this “90%” dominance of the economy come from selling only to the market of 30% non-Bumiputras? Will they still have such an economic dominance if they lose the Bumiputra market that constitutes 70% of Malaysia’s population? This BMBF movement is a good litmus test of their boasts and we already know what the expected outcome will be.
Hence, Lim Guan Eng and DAP getting worked up over it.
On a related note. If this movement is so proudly Malay-centric, why did they use an English abbreviation for their campaign?
That, my friends, is for our benefit. It’s for us non-Malays to know their intention, it’s not for the Malays to inform each other about what to do. They’re telling us straight to our faces that the Malays and Muslim Bumiputras will buy products from their own communities as a first option. If they had said it in Malay, over 50% of the Chinese community would not have understood it or taken notice.
Will such a campaign sour race relations further? Quite likely so. But when pushed to a corner, what sort of retaliation from the Malays/Bumis would you prefer – a physical one like May 13, or an ideological and economical one like BMBF?
Most young Chinese have already forgotten (or not known about) May 13 and some are dumb enough to say “bring it on”. Fortunately for us the Malays have gotten more matured. Instead of striking fear through violence, instead of being a nuisance through civil disobedience, they’ve resorted to a relatively silent guerrilla warfare on the economic front that could really hurt the Chinese community without any physical casualties.
More level-headed Malaysian Chinese should play our roles at expanding our small pond into a big lake, as William Cheang said recently. We should push harder at prospering together with our other fellow citizens. We should eliminate these race-based business cartels and monopolies. This land of plenty has been stifled by the selfish few for far too long.
The Chinese business community can choose to ignore this movement at their own peril. This is only the beginning. Can we afford to lose a market of over 20 million consumers in an instance?
Wong Jae Sen is a BENAR political analyst
The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of New Malaysia Herald.