You realise that our mistrust of the future makes it hard to give up the past.
- Chuck Palahniuk (Survivor)
Here we go again. The central theme of my previous piece
was how we as Malaysians willingly played Dr Mahathir Mohamad's race game and lost.
not surprising since the Umno house always wins. We are still playing
the same game only this time, we have changed the rules. Prime Minister
Najib Razak and MCA chief Dr Chua Soi Lek obviously have not caught on
to this fact.
I don't find either Najib's mendacious assurances
to the Chinese community that the systemic racism faced by them is a
fringe ideology and not mainstream Umno dogma or the predictable banal
backlash by a certain section of the Chinese community, particularly
Perceptive observers would understand that race
relations in Malaysia is solely defined by these two communities -
Umnoputra and the Chinese community, while the Orang Asli, non-Umno
Malays, Indian, et al, are merely ‘passengers' (or traitors in the case
of non-Umno Malays) - a step-up from ‘pendatangs' I suppose.
Pointing out the inconsistencies in Najib's ‘reassurances' would be like
shooting fish in a barrel but there are some insights to be gained from
the rhetoric oozing forth from the regime with regards to the political
reality of Malaysia.
"We don't intend to lose," Najib
proclaims, so sure is he of the democratic process in Malaysia, and
seeing as how the numbers are constantly being manipulated I don't doubt
him. But by ‘we' he doesn't really mean BN but Umno.
the Chinese if they want to have a ‘voice' in the system, they should
vote for MCA, never mind that having a voice hasn't halted the
institutional racism that is the foundation of Umno policy or that he
(and Umno) are supposed to represent every Malaysian regardless of race,
or so they claim.
But the question still remains, what would
Umno do as far as communal expectations are concerned if their coalition
Malays go at it alone
Well, the answer to that is simple. The hawks in Umno have already
decided that a "Malay go at it alone" policy is the best strategy. No
doubt buttressed by the corrupt coalitions from Sabah and Sarawak, Umno
could theoretically hold on to power and wait the opposition out.
maintaining control in the so-called ‘Malay heartland' by any means
necessary, they hope to cut off Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim from the
mainstream Malay polity. This, and of course the "flawed" electoral
process, should keep the game going for some time even if by electoral
attrition their influence wanes.
The so-called moderates, realising the inevitable futility of this, are chaotically coming up with other strategies.
newish strategy of Najib echoing the Anwar refrain of government aid
not being a zero-sum game and implying that BN, or at least his BN, is
offering a class-based approach to problems even if BN is in theory a
race-based political coalition, has been pretty limp going so far.
only difference between him and Anwar is that unlike Anwar, who has
been pretty consistent in his message to the various communities he is
campaigning to (much to the dismay of his political opponents); Najib
and his allies have one message for each community, which at least in
this regard is consistent with the underlying ideology of their
This abrupt change of ideological rhetoric of
Umno is hardly surprising. Former prime minister and Perkasa patron Dr
Mahathir Mohamad claimed not too long ago at the Perkasa/Gertak ‘mega'
rally that May 13 was in actuality a class-based conflict but of course
his polemic was tinged with the usual ‘communist' undertones aimed at
Anwar and the DAP.
The fact that the former premier could suggest
such a thing at a supposed ‘race-based awakening' was amusing, but I
reckon only to me.
But then again, nobody should be surprised
with BN's ideological dissonance since Pakatan Rakyat itself is a bundle
of barely suppressed ideological and religious impulses. Not that it
matters of course.
Pakatan partisans have displayed a remarkable
intolerance at challenging their own political dogma or even possible
policies, preferring instead to gorge on the daily financial scandals
and the resultant shadow play arrests, which are fed to them by canny
The opposition coalition has played the
political game shrewdly but really Umno's incompetence is half the
battle won. Pakatan's own financial and political scandals are dismissed
by their supporters as inconsequential (compared to BN's) or as BN
propaganda meant to destabilise the fragile coalition. Modern-day slavery
Najib's latest "goody" - how I loathe that term - bag to taxi drivers
is the latest state-sanctioned bribery that has blown up in Umno's face.
Predictably Pakatan supporters have lapped this up gleefully pointing
out the numerous cronycrats, who have benefitted from this system.
drivers as a possible voting block are awash with the muck that soils
the system. Playing the system with price-fixing gangs, employing
‘foreigners' as proxy drivers, and the list goes on.
rather preposterous claim that the monopoly of private companies of taxi
licences is a form of modern-day slavery is despicable but fits in
nicely with PAS' ‘mahafiraun' narrative with regard to the citizen
slavery to Umno.
If Najib really wants to wage a jihad on
modern-day slavery here in Malaysia, he should personally look into the
human trafficking of children, women and men who service the various
industries - both legal and illegal - which contribute to the economy of
this country and Umno coffers.
He should look at the ‘slave
wages' earned by some in the Indian and Chinese community who have the
added indignity of being denied citizenships for bureaucratic reasons.
And then of course, there's the ‘Orang Asli problem'.
these very real issues are subsumed beneath the political one-upmanship
that Umno seems to be losing in the cyber propaganda war and let's face
it, Pakatan is unable to address for various reasons.
All that is
forthcoming are assurances that by winning federal power, they would be
able to solve these ‘issues"' Exactly how they intend to do this is
something we have to take on faith.
Faith. Something that Umno
doesn't seem to realise is practically non-existent in a certain section
of the voting public, which Umno is aggressively courting. Najib talks
of "ghosts" which are being created out of the Lynas issue and he's
There has been very little objective discourse on the
Lynas issue so far except appeals to emotion from both sides of the
political divide. BN, of course, has got nothing to fall back on because
decades of executive interference has left all the government
institutions devoid of credibility, staffed by cronycrats unable to
command an iota of respect.
Pakatan, on the other hand, has had a field day turning this issue into their main environmental and safety (sic
) issue in lieu of any substantive environmental policies of their own.
good for them but bad for us in the long term if any issue will always
been used as stakes in a political game because the alternative alliance
that claims to be forward thinking and progressive always has the
excuse that it is involved in a life and death struggle with their
political opponents. Najib's wingman
I'm not surprised that Umno has some sort of ‘reality distortion field'
at work in Putrajaya but I'm surprised that it has affected Najib's
wingman to the Chinese community, Chua Soi Lek.
Chua, a shifty
operator with a good work ethic - he would have done well during Tunku
Abdul Rahman's tenure (sex scandal and all) - but seems to have really
lost the plot.
His bare naked shilling for Umno has reached
preposterous heights. His ‘counseling' of ‘not dwelling' on what
happened in 60s and 70s to those youths is bizarre. I doubt most
Chinese, or even most Malaysians, are even aware of what happened in the
60s or 70s. What they know of it is probably Umno propaganda or
unofficial communal propaganda. I doubt they are up-to-date on the
subaltern narratives that are excluded from the discourse.
What they are dwelling on is what happened last year. Or last week or
yesterday. What they are dwelling on is the murder of Teoh Beng Hock or
the demonisation of a Malaysian politician like Lim Guan Eng who is a
marked man simply because he is Chinese chief minister not sanctioned by
Umno. They are dwelling on the numerous provocations by Umno outsourced
thugs with whom the MCA is guilty by association.
As I said we
are playing the same game but we changed the rules. The main rule change
is that the Chinese community doesn't care if they get representation
in the cabinet because the MCA has been doing a piss poor job. They
don't give a damn about the vigorous discussions behind ‘closed doors'.
The communal issues that the MCA championed before is now in the purview
of the DAP.
The MCA, unlike Umno, has nothing to fall back on.
That's the problem with being a minority race-based party in a
multiracial country. Of course, the existential crisis MCA is facing now
will eventually be experienced by any minority race-based party.
Thinking long-term has never been a strong suit of the Malaysian voting
Ghosts from the past haunt this election and every other
election. We will never be able to exorcise them because we continue to
play the same game.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.