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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
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.
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
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
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
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