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TJ MK BPost: Mahathir Memancing Kaum Cina
By S.H. Chong

23/5/2001 10:14 pm Wed


Strategi baru 'mesra kaum Cina' Mahathir bertujuan untuk mengelakkan mereka condong kepada parti komponen BA. Kebelakangan ini PAS dan keADILan berjaya mendekatkan diri kepada kaum ini yang menjadi faktor penentu untuk membentuk kerajaan nanti. Tiga isu penting - SRJKC, Sekolah Wawasan dan Kuota Kaum di IPT berjaya dibela atau dibawa oleh pihak BA sehingga terkelu tidak terkata MCA dan semakin merosot sokongan buat BN.

Mahathir sedang terjerut oleh tektik lamanya sendiri. Dia berjanji untuk mengkaji rayuan Suqui sebelum pemilu sehingga BN menang besar kerana itu. Tetapi dia kemudiannya membidas keras Suqui dengan melabelkannya sebagai ekstrim (pengganas dan komunis) pada ucapan hari merdeka sedangkan Suqui (makna bahasanya kurang lebih = begitu lembut) merupakan golongan sederhana cendiakawan dan professional Cina yang diterima oleh hampir semua masyarakat Cina.

Serangan terhadap Suqui itu membawa padah dengan tertewasnya kubu kuat BN di Lunas akibat 60% pengundi kaum Cina memprotes mainan jijik Mahathir terhadap Suqui. Mahathir berharap strategi menyerang itu akan menterbalikkan sokongan orang melayu buat dirinya malangnya ia menghempap sendiri kepalanya. Isu perpaduan melayu nampaknya tidak kemana kerana lain dicakap lain pula dibikinnya. Sikap PAS yang terlalu berhati-hati menyebabkan Mahathir semakin resah bercampur gelisah jerat itu mungkin mengena Umno sendiri.

Majoriti orang melayu sudah marah dan tidak mempercayai Umno lagi kerana mengaib dan menghukum Anwar 15 tahun lamanya berdasarkan fakta yang amat dicuriga. Kaum Cina pula merasa tertipu, dibelot dan dibodohkan oleh Mahathir dan BN dengan mudahnya. Akibatnya Lunas tertewas dengan amat malunya walaupun dipancing dengan projek yang bernilai berjuta-juta. Itu sudah tidak mampu membeli undi kaum Cina yang sudah sakit hati dengan karenah BN selama ini.

PAS dan KeADILan sudah berjaya merapati kaum Cina sekarang ini sebab itulah Mahathir begitu risau sekali. Jika fenomena ini berterusan, BN akan kecundang dalam pemilu akan datang nanti. Terpaksalah Mahathir menjilat ludahnya sendiri jika tidak dia akan maut 'dibelasah' oleh pengundi. Soalnya apakah kaum Cina mudah melupakan segala-galanya walaupun telah terhina sedemikian rupa?

-Ringkasan/Ulasan Man Kubur-


Mahathir goes courting the ethnic Chinese vote

The man who runs Malaysia is in no immediate danger of losing his seat, but he still finds it prudent to shore up his position.

S.H. Chong

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is a man of surprises. Just when you think he's run out of tricks, he pulls out another rabbit from his hat.

Things aren't looking good for the long-serving prime minister. Support for his party, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), is at an all-time low. And to make matters worse, several miscalculations made in the past year have alienated the ethnic Chinese community which normally supports the government.

According to recent press reports, Dr Mahathir is almost certain to appoint an ethnic Chinese special assistant and an ethnic Chinese press secretary. This is unprecedented. The long-serving premier already has three political assistants and one press secretary, all of them Malay. The addition of the two new positions is a clear indication that he is going all out to win back the support of the ethnic Chinese, who make up roughly a quarter of the population.

"Mahathir wants to make sure the grievances of the Chinese community are heard. I think an official announcement will be made soon," a government official was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying. The official said the premier had been considering the idea for some time to tackle two key issues, both related to education, that have made this community unhappy.

First is the inability of top-performing ethnic Chinese students to secure places in public universities. Second is a highly publicised closure of a Chinese-language primary school near Kuala Lumpur.

Education has always been a sensitive issue for the ethnic Chinese. But in the past year, the man considered by fans and foes alike to be the pre-eminent master politician has made several major blunders.

Besides these two recent issues, another education-related debacle was his Vision School concept, which essentially called for schoolchildren from different ethnic groups to share common facilities to eat and play. Although the children would be allowed to continue to study their mother tongue, the ethnic Chinese community resisted this scheme on fears that it would eventually erode their cultural identity.

Another issue which drew Dr Mahathir a lot of flak was his bizarre speech during last year's national day celebrations when he equated an influential Chinese group called Suqiu (an elections appeals committee) with communist terrorists and a radical Islamic cult that had tried to stage an armed revolt.

Many ethnic Chinese were dumbstruck by the premier's angry speech because Suqiu is seen as a moderate group made up of academics and professionals.

Among its appeals were calls to curb corruption, protect the environment, protect women's rights, ensure freedom of the press and base affirmative action on need rather than on ethnicity. (Malaysia gives preferential treatment to Malays and indigenous natives, collectively known as bumiputras).

Dr Mahathir had despatched ethnic Chinese leaders from the government to hear out Suqiu's appeals right before the 1999 general elections, which he won on the back of overwhelming support by the ethnic Chinese community.

Post-election analysis showed that the Malays were split right down the middle while the ethnic Chinese voted overwhelmingly for the government. To everyone's surprise, less than a year later, Dr Mahathir lashed out at Suqiu.

Some political analysts suggest that the outburst was a misguided attempt to win back support from the Malays. But, by lashing out at the Chinese, Dr Mahathir gained support from no one. Many Malays are still angry over his treatment of Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister who is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence for corruption and s###my. The Chinese, meanwhile, felt betrayed and insulted.

This sentiment manifested itself late last year in a hotly contested by-election in Dr Mahathir's home state of Kedah. Again, the Malay vote was split. And this time about 60% of the ethnic Chinese voted for the opposition, which fielded a Malay candidate from Keadilan, the party set up by Anwar's wife.

Ever the pragmatist, Dr Mahathir is quickly attempting to rectify the situation. Recently, there were calls by a popular Malay newspaper for the government to not only defend the education quota but to actually increase it. An editorial in the Berita Harian newspaper said that, according to the 2000 census, bumiputras now comprise 66% of the population, up from a previous figure of 55%. Based on these statistics, the editorial called for the quota to be similarly bumped up from 55% to 66%.

Dr Mahathir was quick to shoot down this idea. "If there are no qualified Malays, it will be useless even if we have a 100% bumiputra quota," he told reporters during the recent launch of Umno's 55th anniversary. "The Malays never want to study in difficult fields. They only choose the easy ones."Dr Mahathir added that Malays should look at their own capabilities first, and that increasing the quota would only end up creating a country without learned people. "If we want to follow our sentiments, we will destroy everything," he said.

The ethnic Chinese community is in a unique situation with both the government and the opposition courting its support ahead of the 2004 general elections.

Traditionally, the battle for the hearts and minds of this economically powerful community was fought by the Malaysian Chinese Association (from the government) and the Democratic Opposition party (or DAP, from the opposition). Now, even Umno and the fundamentalist opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic party (PAS) have joined the fray.

Earlier this year, when Dr Mahathir invited the PAS to meet with Umno to discuss the issue of Malay unity, the PAS declared that it would not enter into talks unless they touched on national unity-as Malaysia is a multi-racial country. The PAS has made huge strides in reaching out to the Chinese, said Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the predominantly-Chinese DAP, which works with the PAS in the opposition coalition.

This is a far cry from the PAS of the early 1980s, which labelled Umno members infidels for co-operating with non-Muslims. Most observers, however, believe that Dr Mahathir will prevail because many ethnic Chinese are still incredibly wary of the PAS's fundamentalist credentials.

Political analysts say it is still not too late for Dr Mahathir to win back ethnic Chinese support. "The Chinese are not emotional or overtly political people," said one analyst with a local political think tank. "They are practical people. So, if he [Mahathir] plays his cards right and starts seriously addressing their concerns on education and other issues, they will support him once again."