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ATimes: More Malaysians ready to rock the boat
By Anil Netto
7/3/2001 9:09 am Wed
[Kaum Cina selama ini kurang menyerlah dalam memprotes tindakkan kerajaan
BN di jalanraya. Tetapi isu SRJK Cina dan Plaza Tol menyaksikan mereka
sudah tidak selesa lagi kepada kerajaan BN yang langsung tidak mahu bertolak
bertolak ansur. Kehadiran kaum lain seperti melayu untuk berdemo bersama-sama
dalam isu ini pasti membuat BN tidak dapat tidur lena. Rakyat berbilang bangsa
sudah jemu dengan sidang parlimen yang asyik lengang dan kosong serta tidak
berbincang hal yang sepatutnya. Mereka sudah tiada pilihan lain melainkan
berada di atas jalanraya. Bukan salah mereka tetapi salah menteri-menteri
yang semuanya dipilih khas oleh Mahathir juga.
6th March 2001
More Malaysians ready to rock the boat
By Anil Netto
Some 500 Malaysians with lighted candles gathered to protest against a
government decision on March 2. But for observers accustomed to Malay
anti-government protests in recent months, the gathering looked
For one thing, it was not a reformasi demonstration. The protest was
organized by an "SOS committee" trying to save a school; the crowd
sang songs and held lighted candles, the flickering flames bathing the
school walls with a warm glow. The candlelight vigil was followed by a
jumble sale of fresh vegetables and cut flowers to supporters. Oh, and
the crowd was largely ethnic Chinese.
The vigil to save the Damansara Chinese vernacular school in Kuala
Lumpur appears to reflect a new trend. While Malay dissatisfaction has
been apparent through regular reformasi demonstrations since September
1998, observers have noted that many non-Malays have tended to remain
on the sidelines. But in recent weeks, more non-Malay groups appear to
be asserting their rights and taking a stand on specific issues while
remaining non-partisan. This is in contrast to their previous passive
attitude and reluctance to rock the boat.
The Damansara school case is without doubt a case of defiance against
officialdom and has drawn national attention. Parents of 67 pupils are
holding out against an Education Ministry decision to close the
Chinese school and relocate them to the Puay Chai (II) Chinese
vernacular school farther away while a new school at nearby Tropicana
is built. Although 95 percent of the children have already relocated,
the remaining 67 are staying put. The parents insist that these 67
will study in makeshift classrooms near a temple in their area until
the ministry reverses its decision and reopens the school. Education
Minister Musa Mohamed said in Kuala Lumpur on March 2 that the
decision to close the school was final and would not be reviewed. "We
have made up our minds and our stand on the matter remains unchanged,"
But the parents have other ideas. One parent was reported in the Sun
newspaper as saying, "We all have no problem waiting. The message is
that we want our school back."
The SOS committee is the latest such body to be formed. When rent
control was lifted last year in the historical Chinese enclave in
Georgetown, the capital of northern Penang state, the largely ethnic
Chinese low-income tenants were put in a fix. With rental payments
soaring and alternative affordable housing scarce, the residents
banded together to form a group called "SOS Penang". The group has
lobbied the Penang state government to look into their plight and its
initiatives have put the tenants' plight in the spotlight.
In another display of residents' power, in Kuala Lumpur 17 resident
associations representing more than 60,000 households met eight
members of parliament and state assembly representatives on February
28 to protest an impending toll imposition on a highway that runs
through their area. The associations have pointed out that the highway
was built over an old toll-free road in their neighborhood. Most of
the highway's cost, they have argued, was incurred elsewhere and they
are therefore pushing for a lower toll rate at the Sprint-Damansara
link toll plaza in their neighborhood. A news report showed a picture
of a group of Chinese members of the Petaling Jaya Residents Action
Committee displaying "No Toll" car stickers for the press.
In nearby Shah Alam, the capital of central Selangor state, the Roman
Catholic archbishop filed an application on February 9 for judicial
review in the High Court to challenge the Selangor state's decision to
withdraw its approval for the construction of a church and community
hall. The controversy over the on-off approvals for the proposed
church and alternative sites offered to the church goes back a long
way. A report in the March 4 edition of The Herald, a fortnightly
church newspaper, said the Catholic community in Shah Alam has been
waiting for more than 10 years for its own church and would be put to
unnecessary hardship in having to wait for an indefinite period for a
church to be built.
"Having been twice relocated for no satisfactory reason, there is
every likelihood that the site would be relocated from time to time
without any church ever being constructed," said the Herald report.
While non-Malay groups are resorting to their own initiatives to
resolve disputes and highlight grievances, the Malaysian Chinese
Association, the No 2 party in the ruling coalition, has been rocked
by a rift among its top leaders. That adds to the woes facing the main
party in the coalition, the United Malays National Organization
(UMNO), already trying to stem eroding Malay support over alleged
abuse of power and the leadership's treatment of jailed former deputy
premier Anwar Ibrahim.
On Saturday evening, a large crowd of opposition supporters thronged
Jitra in northern Kedah, the home state of Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohamad, to mark the end of a weeklong fair to celebrate the 50th
anniversary of the opposition Islamic party (PAS). Also at the rally
was the president of the National Justice Party (Keadilan), Wan Azizah
Wan Ismail, Anwar's wife. The AP wire service estimated the crowd at
"more than 25,000". That's telling and analysts say such rallies are
making the government jittery.
Said a foreigner working in Malaysia: "From reading the newspapers
here, I get the sense that they are referring to something between the
lines, but I can't quite place my finger on it."
That lingering "something" - erosion of support for Umno and the lack
of economic reforms - could perhaps explain why the Kuala Lumpur Stock
Exchange remains in the doldrums despite rosy GDP figures for 2000.
Ruling coalition politicians are now warning the people that the
opposition is planning more demonstrations to "topple" the government.
This, they argue, is undemocratic and would jeopardize the nation's
stability. "If the people really want to throw out this government,
they can do so in the elections," said Mahathir, in power for 20
The problem with that is the next election is only due in 2004. And
given the disquiet among sections of the population, three years is an
awfully long time in Malaysian politics.