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ATimes: Mahathir cozies up to ethnic Chinese
By Anil Netto

25/5/2001 4:20 am Fri

[Mahathir melakar strategi mendekati kaum Cina dengan beberapa langkah mutakhir ini kerana kaum ini merupakan penentu undi dalam pilihanraya nanti. Kebanyakkan kaum Cina yang berniaga itu mungkin akan terhimpit oleh krisis ekonomi dan sokongan mereka dijangka tidak menentu nanti. Pelantikan penasihat istimewa dianggap sebagai menempelak MCA yang seperti tidak berfungsi sebaiknya. Manakala langkah koporat MCA menguasai beberapa akhbar Cina bertujuan untuk mencapai masyarakat Cina dengan luas lagi. Beberapa isu penting seperti SRJKC, sistem kuota dan sekolah wawasan telah dikritik hebat oleh akhbar tersebut.

Umno juga menerima kaum Cina dalam parti Akar yang terbubar untuk sebagai langkah awal untuk menyaingi parti pembangkang yang lebih berpelbagai kaum - khususnya parti keADILan yang mendapat tempat di hati orang Cina kerana ia meletakkan KEADILAN untuk SEMUA di atas segala-galanya. Kejayaan parti keADILan di Lunas adalah kerana masyarakat Cina sudah bertukar selera dan mahu mengajar Mahathir kerana mahu menempelak Suqui dan isu sekolah Wawasan yang mengikis sistem pendidikkan tradisi Cina. Kehadiran pemimpin muda seperti Tian Chua makin mempopularkan lagi parti ini di sisi masyarakat Cina sehingga beliau disumbat ke dalam penjara ISA.

Jelaslah sekarang Mahathir berputar balik kebelakang sejak tertewas di Lunas. Dia seperti amat gerun kepada kebolehan parti keADILan sehingga ramai pemimpin mereka ditangkap. Ini menunjukkan strategi dan pembawaan pemimpin parti keADILan adalah amat berkesan dan lebih menepati citarasa rakyat semua kaum di Malaysia. Pendedahan penyelewengan dan pengundi hantu oleh pemimpin yang ditangkap itu adalah senjata berbisa yang lebih merbahaya dari pelancar roket atau bom tentera. Itulah sebabnya mereka ditangkap - kerana Mahathir dan partinya akan 'maut' dalam pilihanraya yang akan datang nanti.
- Editor

Asia Times
24th May 2001


Mahathir cozies up to ethnic Chinese

By Anil Netto

PENANG, Malaysia - Malaysia' s ruling coalition appears to be actively courting Chinese Malaysians after a series of controversial episodes and statements that may have alienated large sections of the community.

A number of measures have been announced. It was reported on May 16 that an ethnic Chinese special assistant may be appointed to advise Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad while an ethnic Chinese press secretary for the premier may also be named. Mahathir already has political assistants and a press secretary, all of them ethnic Malay.

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the main Chinese party in the ruling coalition that has served as the traditional bridge between the community and the government, welcomed the news. But critics saw it as a blow to the MCA's stature as the representative of the Chinese community in government.

Mahathir also said on May 19 that the government will try to ensure that all ethnic groups in the country are represented in the government and in the private sector. "We are a little bit worried because in the government service there are not many non-Malays - not enough Chinese, not enough Indians."

Then on May 20, the premier raised eyebrows when he announced that his United Malays National Organization (Umno), the dominant party in the ruling coalition, would open its doors to Chinese members of Parti Angkatan Keadilan Rakyat (Akar), a small party in Sabah state that has been dissolved.

Despite the relatively small number of Chinese that would be absorbed into Umno, the move is highly symbolic as Umno and its other key partners, such as the MCA and the Malaysian Indian Congress, have memberships that are largely mono-ethnic. Umno has admitted non-Malay indigenous groups, but this is the first time that ethnic Chinese members will be accepted.

Two days later, the Education Ministry announced that it was allocating an additional 410 university seats for top students, many of them Chinese Malaysians who scored high marks in entry examinations but were unable to secure direct university admission. They had been denied admission partly due to a prevailing quota system that allots 55 percent of seats to Malays and other indigenous groups and the remaining 45 percent to other Malaysians.

In another development, news reports have suggested that Hume Industries may be selling its controlling stake in Nanyang Press Holdings Bhd, the publisher of Chinese-language dailies Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press, to Star Publications, publisher of the top-selling English daily, the pro-establishment Star tabloid. It is controlled by Huaren Holdings Sdn Bhd, the MCA's investment arm. On the other hand, Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press have been relatively independent in their reporting and have at times embarrassed the MCA and the government. Analysts say the MCA may be looking for a vehicle to reach out to the Chinese-educated.

The attempts to woo the Chinese are probably crucial for the Barisan Nasional (National Front) ruling coalition. Many Chinese appear to be concerned that the character of Chinese schools may be changed in the future. They were also chaffed when Mahathir labeled Chinese civic groups asserting their rights as "communists" and "extremists" last year. The lack of university places for qualified non-Malay students who want to take up courses of their choice is another sore point.

With economic conditions worsening, the support from the Chinese business community, (which previously*) supported the Barisan Nasional for its pro-business policies, will become increasingly unpredictable. [* - Editor]

The ruling coalition is still smarting from a shock defeat in a key by-election last November in Kedah, Mahathir's home state, after a Chinese swing towards the opposition. With about half the Malay voters backing it, the opposition Barisan Alternatif (Alternative Front) party has also drawn sizeable non-Malay support.

Since its formation in April 1999, Keadilan (the National Justice Party), led by Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, has attracted droves of Chinese and Indian Malaysians fed up with the ruling coalition's brand of ethnic-based politics. At a recent Keadilan dinner organized in Penang, for instance, hundreds of Chinese turned up to listen to speakers denouncing the arrests last month of 10 reformasi activists under the draconian Internal Security Act.

"I was surprised to see so many Chinese at the dinner," Vasanthi Ramalingam, wife of detained Keadilan youth leader, N Gobalakrishnan, told Asia Times Online. Gobalakrishnan, an ethnic Indian, and party vice-president Tian Chua, also detained, represent the multi-ethnic face of Keadilan.

Tian Chua perhaps typifies many among the younger generation of Chinese Malaysians whose thinking has not been shackled by the racial baggage of the past. Many of them are open to concepts of human rights and take seriously their identity as Malaysians even if they may be politically apathetic. Faced with a choice between racially segregated parties and multi-ethnic parties, it is easy to guess which kind of party they would prefer.

Mahathir's move to open Umno's doors to a small number of Chinese ex-Akar members must be seen in this light as the first step in winning back Chinese support for the ruling coalition through a more multi-ethnic approach. With the next general election due by 2004, and with Malay support tilting towards the opposition, both the ruling coalition and the opposition will be counting on non-Malay votes to bolster their chances.