Monday, May 20, 2013

Stop the racial politicking

 Jeswan Kaur
It is Malaysia’s greatest tragedy that despite being home to people of diverse faiths, mutual respect for one another’s religious beliefs is increasingly being compromised.
The culprits who engage in racial disrespect are none other than the country’s politicians, the very people who had assured to look after the rakyat’s welfare.
To a great extent, the damage done by these politicians has become irreversible, with racial harmony once enjoyed by Malaysians now becoming a thing of the past.
One would have thought the bloodshed from the May 13, 1969 racial riots was enough to teach Malaysians a lesson or two about unity and respect.
But that is not the case. Racial politicking has often led to Malaysians ending up at loggerheads with one another.
Forty-four years after the country was shocked by racial riots, the scenario has not quite changed.
For example, when the ruling party Barisan Nasional failed to record a two-third victory in the May 5, 2013 general election, its chief Najib Tun Razak very quickly assigned blame on the Chinese community, saying it was a ‘Chinese tsunami’ that was responsible for BN’s failure in the 13th general election.
Suddenly, the Chinese community became the ‘black sheep of the family’, with irresponsible people taking the liberty of condemning the Chinese for lending support to the opposition pact under Pakatan Rakyat.
Soon after the 13 general election, the Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia lambasted the Chinese community in its front-page article, asking “Apa lagi Cina mahu” or “What more do the Chinese want”?
The Chinese community have been termed as “ungrateful” for ditching BN during a time so crucial like the general election.
A week after the 13th general election, a retired Court of Appeal judge, Mohd Noor Abdullah revealed his racist side when he chided the Chinese community saying they must be prepared for a backlash from the Malays for their ‘betrayal” in the general election.
Mohd Noor also accused the Chinese of plotting to seize political power despite having economic power in the country.
Najib remains mum
While prime minister Najib chooses to ignore the danger presented by a deep-rooted racism, Mohd Noor’s racial slur might end up placing him in hot soup, thanks to DAP national chaiperson Karpal Singh who on May 15 lodged a report against the former judge.
Karpal is urging the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers to investigate Noor’s remarks under Sedition Act 1948 as it could jeopardise the racial harmony existing in the country.
“In what way the Chinese were trying to seize political power?
“The statement is very insidious and can cause serious problems. Noor should retract and clarify his statement,” Karpal said.
Three days prior to Karpal’s police report, another DAP leader, M Kulasegaran also lodged a report against Mohd Noor.
While racial discord continues to grow unhealthily in the country, premier Najib continues to be non-committal on this issue.
When BN failed to make waves in the May 5 general election, Najib announced that the Barisan Nasional government would embark on a national reconciliation process – the aim being to heal the racial and political divisions that cropped up post- the 13th general election.
Najib’s idea of a reconciliation was to address the rise in extremist sentiment that has affected the country’s unity.
However, the premier’s claim of rejecting political and racial extremism and inculcating a more moderate environment is unbelievable.
Najib seems to have forgotten very easily that he is the ‘perpetrator of such a situation, when instead of listening to the rakyat, he decided to weigh his chances at the polls by supporting candidates notorious for their racial slurs.
Had Najib been sincere about maintaining racial harmony via moderation, he would have taken the likes of Zulkifli Noordin and Malay-group Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali and his cabinet colleagues like Hishammuddin Hussein and Mohd Nazri Aziz to task for continuously inciting the non-Malays against the Malays.
Incidentally, Najib has decided to ‘keep’ both Hishammuddin and Mohd Nazri in the new cabinet lineup post-the 13th general election. Hishammuddin is now the Defence Minister while Mohd Nazri heads the Tourism and Culture Minister.
Unity, if it had meant anything to Najib, would have seen him coming down hard on Utusan Malaysia, Mohd Noor and all those who have no qualms condemning the other faiths, issuing the ultimatum that no racially motivated sentiments would be tolerated in this country.
Before any such ‘reconciliation’s takes place, Najib as the people’s leader has to address the bigger picture that has led to racial extremism in Malaysia.
From racist advertisements to racist politicians/authorities to racial outbursts at the National Service training camps, none should escape punishment for widening the racial rift among the rakyat.
With the general election over, it is time that politicians, be they from the BN or Pakatan camp, did some real thinking to diffuse the racially charged up scene in Malaysia.
For starters, politicians must stop their racial politicking and join forces for the sake of the nation and her people’s well-being and harmony – if this is difficult, then ‘reconciliation’ in the true sense of the word remains impossible.