Monday 4 June 2012

Deceit, deflection, denial and the Scorpene test

COMMENT The Bersih 3.0 rally of April 28 had a turnout claimed by many at about 250,000 - a number that surprised even the organisers. The people had come out to demand fair and clean elections and for the electoral roll to be thoroughly cleaned up.

The electoral roll has long been deemed by the people to be containing many irregularities, such as phantom voters, voting rights for temporary citizens, postal voters, voting rights for overseas citizens... and not to mention gerrymandering, where every one rural vote is worth six in the urban areas.

NONEThe government played down the figures, with Information Minister Rais Yatim going on record to state that the number has been no more than 22,270 (The Star Online, May 21).

This downplaying of figures has been of concern to all Malaysians. But a greater concern is the practice of denial of truth and doctoring of facts and information that does not meet with government perceptions, expectations and agenda.

Yet, it is a game that has been played over and over again by the Ketuanan Melayu leadership in running the country. It is the game of deceit, deflection and denial of facts and information, and of truth.

It stems from the use of a tool of logic known as syllogism. Allow me to explain it to the unwary. And for this I refer to the master of syllogism himself, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

On the question of him being charged as racist, Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said (and reported by Malaysiakini on Feb 22) "All of them, the people who say I'm racist, they are racist because they say I'm racist." Apparently, Mahathir said it with a smile, probably indicating his inner thoughts stating something like, "Hah! Here I am, fooling you, the people, again."

'Mahathir is fooling the people'

I say he is fooling the people because he has resorted to the tool of logic known as syllogism to deny the charge.

Syllogism is a three-line stanza:
Only a racist A will call another person B a racist
A (Mahathir Mohamad) calls B racist
Therefore A is racist to begin with.

At first reading, this three-line stanza conveys an apt statement, a truth even. But on closer examination, we can see some flaws behind the reasoning.

perodua tea time with mahathir function 271011 04Take the first line stating that only a racist calls another person a racist. The message contained in this line is just not true, for, in reality, anybody can call another person racist. In other words, when person A calls person B racist, it does not conclusively make A racist.

But Mahathir has been using this line of argument, probably to deflect the fact that he is racist by calling (accusing) everybody else racist. Anyway, what's wrong with him being one? He has often used this age-old mental tool of deception. It's very subtle, but can be very effective. It is also very deceiving, and the person using it is most probably deceitful.

Najib Abdul Razak, the present prime minister, is not doing any better. Back to the Bersih 3.0 rally, it has been reported that the police force were seizing reporters' equipment, like cameras and videos. When asked whether this was a breach of freedom of expression, Najib's reply was that there is freedom of speech and expression in this country, but the police act of confiscating reporters' cameras and making life extremely painful for them is not one of them.

More specifically, Najib apparently said that "the police attacks on reporters and press freedom are two separate and different issues" (Sin Chew Daily, May 6).

NONEHere, we have Najib deflecting the issue raised. He quoted the recent amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984) as an example of freedom of expression. "We should remember we must govern the country based on the spirit of the law," he reportedly said. To him, his recent proposals to change some archaic and draconian laws are the ‘spirit of the law'.

But to me, it is deception, pure and simple, for the spirit of the law would more accurately refer to the maxim ‘justice is done or seem to have been done'. The important point is that he has initiated some reforms that will not fall under this ambit. It's like comparing or putting apples into a bagful of oranges, hoping the apples will ‘merge' as oranges.

It is the game of deflect from the issues at hand, viz: the rally has been all about cleaning up the electoral roll, so that the people will be able to elect their representatives to Parliament freely and fairly; but the rulers keep on deflecting this noble aim by saying otherwise.

NONEThey charged Ambiga Sreenevasan (Bersih co-organiser) with breaking public property. They pictured Anwar Ibrahim as inciting violence with a view to overthrowing the present government.

The former IGP Hanif Omar even raised the notion that the rally had been communist-inspired, and that its methodology reminds him of the communist movement.

Hanif was probably hinting that the communism in this country is equated with terrorism, thus his ‘fear' of the communist movement coming back to the country. But surely this is ridiculous, for communism as a political ideology has long become redundant in human history, and it is equated with terrorism only in this country, and as far as I know, nowhere else.

When all these fail, get some ex-army veterans to do a bum-raising demonstration in front of Ambiga's residence. Or for some traders to sell beef burgers, knowing she's vegetarian and therefore does not eat meat.

In other words, the rulers seem to say, "go and get personal, do some character assassination and personal intimidation on Ambiga and some other organisers and participants. Use the fear element to subdue them. Do anything to deflect the main issue that the people just want clean and free elections".

What a bizarre aftermath to the rally that had the biggest turnout ever seen in the country. What absurdity, what a farce!

'I am right and you are wrong'

The fact f the matter is that the current political rulers seem to have been doing their business of governing in this way for a very long time. It is short in concepts and intellectualising. It is straight and narrow and decked with ethnocentrism and intellectual monopoly.

It is a government ruling on the basis of might is right.

The rulers are therefore used to the idea that "I am right you are wrong, that if you are not for me then you are against me, that the government knows best". A very sad situation for the long term welfare of the people indeed.

But of late, I think this condition of intellectual monopoly has been eroded by several factors. One of them surely is the advent of the Internet. With this godsend instrument, the people are becoming more knowledgeable, more politically aware, and more demanding for truth. These are no match for the secretive and slimy way of running things in the past.

But even here we all can notice how the current ruling elite have been trying to plug this loophole. In this case, Mahathir again, in his eternal wisdom, is floating the idea of instituting control on Internet communication.

As Malaysiakini reported yesterday (June 3) on Mahathir's interview with New Sunday Times, the former long-term prime minister, who was instrumental in ensuring that there would be no Internet censorship, a policy that is still in place,

"When I said there should be no censorship of the Internet, I really did not realise the power of the Internet, the power to undermine moral values, the power to create problems and agitate people," he said in his interview with New Sunday Times.

Judging from the various surveys made by Merdeka Centre recently, the people now appear to be distancing themselves from the ruling elite. Any such move might well be met with resistance even stronger than the Bersih 3.0 rally.

In any case, perhaps we, the people, should not worry too much, for soon enough the Ketuanan Melayu polity is going to face a litmus test, the Scorpene test.

This is where some Malaysian leaders might be summoned by the French court in Paris, over the case of the Scorpene submarines purchase.

I do not think there is need to relate the details about this case. Suffice to state that the Ketuanan Melayu polity will need a great deal more ingenuity and creativity than mere the business-as-usual deceit, deflection and denial to pass this test.

AB SULAIMAN is an observer of human traits and foibles, especially within the context of religion and culture. As a liberal, he marvels at the way orthodoxy fights to maintain its credibility in a devilishly fast-changing world. He hopes to provide some understanding to the issues at hand and wherever possible, suggest some solutions. He holds a Bachelor in Social Sciences (Leicester, UK) and a Diploma in Public Administration, Universiti Malaya.

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