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FAC: Deja Vu
By Rafizi Ramli

6/8/2001 7:48 am Mon

[Surat misteri yang berbau perkauman seperti ancaman kaum Cina terhadap ketuanan melayu (atau sebaliknya) seringkali muncul pada ketika tertentu agar ramai terkeliru. Malah ada laman web pro-reformasi mengutipnya kerana merasa perlu. Padahal itulah publisiti percuma untuk BN yang layak dibakul-sampahkan sahaja.

Banyak tindak-tanduk pemimpin BN lebih bermotifkan politik dan berunsur hukum-menghukum (punishment) orang laksana dendam. Keuntungan politik dan undi telah menjadi prioriti yang melebihi segala kepentingan lain. Sepatutnya kepentingan semua rakyat tanpa mengira parti didahulukan - bukan kepentingan parti sendiri. Itu berlaku terlalu jelas dalam kes pemecatan Tun Salleh Abbas, kes royalti dan kini penghapusan ceramah dan penangkapan ISA berdasarkan sangkaan (suspicion) semata-mata, bukannya bukti (evidence).

"Politik dalam BN tidak ubah seperti satu sesi niaga di bursa kota London. Mahathir sendiri tidak jauh beda dengan George Soros yang dikejinya kerana krisis kewangan 1997. Bedanya hanya komoditi yang diperdagangkan mereka; Kalau Soros berniaga matawang dan apa yang bersangkutan dengan kewangan, Mahathir pula berjual-beli dan memperjudikan dengan nyawa orang dan masadepan negara." - Rafizi
- Editor


Deja Vu

by Rafizi Ramli

One fine day a few weeks ago, a friend of mine hurriedly brought to my attention an article e-mailed to her by her mates. She asked me to ponder over the contents of the article, as if to solicit an agreement from me that it was a serious matter. Due to my lack of interest, she finally gave up.

She must have been puzzled why such a politically minded person like me was not interested at all with the article. It is not that the contents were not interesting but that I have actually seen it before.

The letter was supposed to have been smuggled and translated into Malay from its original version in Mandarin. It is allegedly from a Chinese leader calling on the Chinese in Malaysia to systematically join the community's conspiracy to wrest political power from the Malays.

The letter cites events from history such as the May 1969 tragedy and the banning of the Nasrul Haq martial art group and polemics on Malay unity issues and so on. It claims that the conspiracy has so far been well executed from parties inside and outside the government. The claims it makes are serious; hence the panic shown by my colleague.

But having seen this ten years ago when I was a mere 13-year old student back in secondary school, I was not at all surprised. In fact, it has the trademark of silent political propaganda written all over it. It was not until a reformasi website published the article that I became alarmed and decided to pen this down.

Scare tactics

Ten years ago, I too panicked over the alleged advancing threat of decimation of the Malays by other communities. The letter, which had a similar theme but which revolved around events in 1987 and 1988, was widely circulated in schools.

I remember those nights when 110 of us were packed into a small Common Room and were warned to buck up lest we got vanquished forever. Though most of us were more bothered about the lousy smell of the sweat of 110 boys kept awake at 3 in the morning, some of us did take the matter seriously.

The political situation then was similar to what it is today. After the Umno break-up of 1987 and the rape of the judiciary in 1988, Mahathir and his coalition faced a rejuvenated and more organised opposition in the 1990 general election.

Semangat 46 made a breakthrough pact with PBS and DAP in Gagasan Rakyat to fight in the West Coast, and with PAS in Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah in the East Coast. With the opposition headed by ex-ministers in Semangat 46 and veteran politicians in PAS and DAP, that election was perhaps the greatest threat Mahathir had had to face.

So Umno used the scare tactics to win voters. It played the Malay dominance and Umno hegemony issues really well. It campaigned quietly in schools and kampungs and openly in the mainstream media, warning the Malays that unless they voted for Umno, Malay political dominance would fade away.

Whatever tragedy that took place prior to that - 13 May 1969, the break-up of Umno, the sacking of Tun Salleh Abbas - was attributed to a silent conspiracy by the Chinese to decimate the Malays.

It is not surprising that in 2001 the letter has resurfaced and is widely circulated all over the world. The contents are updated to include post-1998 events such as Reformasi protests, calls for accountability and transparency and complaints about education quotas to demonstrate the threat the Malays are facing from other communities. Again we are reminded that unless Malays unite under Umno, they will become beggars in their own land.

Ideologyless political communion

Fortunately a lot have changed since 1990. Most of us now have a much better understanding of the mechanics of the political equilibrium in Malaysia. A lot of the Malays are more in touch with the real concerns of their community; this kind of cheap political threat will not impress us.

Nonetheless, the letter is a very important example of Umno's determination to use whatever means to stay in power. It demonstrates that Umno will not hesitate to drum up racial sentiments if only to get a few extra seats.

This kind of politics is perhaps one of the biggest threats to our future, for fanned racial sentiments can be explosive, as the nation has witnessed in the 50s and 60s. The last thing Malaysia needs now as it faces the challenges of the 21st Century is to have a government obsessed with dividing the people along racial lines.

This phenomenon can be partly attributed to the nature of political parties in the government. These parties are communal parties whose aims are to protect their communities' interests, though these are not precisely defined. Since it is left to them to decide what these interests are, they can practically carve up the country between themselves as long as it is for the purpose of protecting the communities.

This is the most obvious danger of having any political party which does not have a clear ideology. Because the principles of the party are vaguely set out, the direction it takes ultimately depends on its leaders. The leaders can steer the party anywhere they wish. Hence the various faces Umno has adopted since its inception in 1946.

During the Tunku's time, Umno was seen as a compromising post-colonial party with a colonial image as portrayed by the Tunku's own personality. During Tun Razak's time, Umno suddenly became the party of the masses striving to improve the lot of the poor. The image changed again during Tun Hussein's time.

When Mahathir came to power, he became the standard bearer of the pro-business Umno politicians in the government. He was the darling of the businessmen. Not suprisingly, Umno became involved in many corporate ventures and its ranks were filled with aspiring businessmen, displacing teachers and civil servants. By the end of 1990s, Mahathir's Umno had become an elite Umno, taking a complete U-turn from the Tun Razak course.

All of this proves that a racially based party guided by vague principles like Umno is dangerous. Due to this lack of a defined ideology, it becomes very difficult to assess whether a leader has deviated from the party's struggle. More often than not, the party adopts the ideology its leader subscribes to.

It is still tolerable when the party is headed by a decent and honest man. However, when a Machiavelli like Mahathir is at the helm, all hell will break loose.

Vote for the future

With this in mind, voters in 2004 must make a decision for the long term. They must cast aside all their racial sentiments, look into the future and think of what kind of a country we want our children to inherit from us.

Umno and BN will continue to woo voters with its carrot-and-stick approach. It will try to frighten the Malays into believing that unless they gather under its banner, they will lose their rights to the non-Malays. To the non-Malays, it will offer goodies to give credit to MCA's claim that the Chinese can get what they want only when MCA has the most Chinese representatives in Parliament.

In the past, this indulge-cum-punishment tactic worked very well to their advantage. Because most of our people saw BN as a government in perpetuity, they succumbed easily to its blackmail.

The result has been decades of politics of concession and barter trading. Decisions were made mostly out of political maneuvering rather than longterm policy considerations. Umno, MCA and MIC are like enemies who sleep together for the common objective of staying in power. They jostle for different aims and policies behind the scenes. Umno honours some of MCA's demands when it needs Chinese support. At the same time, it pits MCA against Gerakan to divide the Chinese votes.

Politics in BN resembles the trading floor of the City of London. Mahathir is himself not much different from George Soros whom he blamed for the 1997 financial crisis. The difference is the commodity of their trades; while Soros trades currency and other financial derivatives, Mahathir trades with people's lives and the country's future.

We must break free from this indulge and-punish, push and-pull cycle if we are to live happily as one progressive nation. Voters, especially the non-Malays, must see the government's "gifts" as nothing more than a tactic to cheat them.

It is within this context that Malaysians must view the establishment of UTAR. It is not that I dispute the right for the Chinese community to have a university. In fact I respect their pledge to ensure that UTAR is open for all. My fear is that it would only strengthen the myth that the community can get certain deserved rights only if they remain faithful to the BN. I am worried that UTAR will become MCA's golden child to be paraded all over the country when the 2004 election looms.

Voters are presented with an option to elect a government which will govern with conscience, make decisions with the future in mind and treat citizens as partners in decision-making.

Whatever misgivings we may have of BA, the fact that it is more transparent and truthful cannot be denied. PAS in Kelantan and Terengganu has demonstrated that it can conduct the running of government with sincerity and it is thrifty with resources.

Let us return the power to decide the future of the country to the people by banishing BN and its dirty tactics to the political wilderness forever.

Once that happens, I hope I will not have deja vus of racist letters anymore. Each time it happens, I wonder what kind of garbage is told to the poor pupils in that Common Room near Jalan Taiping.

Rafizi Ramli is the UK Representative of FAC and a Keadilan Youth Executive Councillor