Let us not become victims of scaremongering tactics employed by irresponsible politicians but instead bravely become agents of change so that Malaysian democracy may triumph, writes Henry Loh.
As we draw closer to the much awaited general election, we need to brace ourselves for an onslaught of ‘news’ aimed at driving fear into all of us. The ghosts of the May 13 riots are being resurrected and bandied about ever so often.
At the Umno general assembly held in December 2012, Wanita leader Shahrizat Jalil in her opening speech warned that the May 13 (1969) tragedy might be repeated if Umno was weak and unable to overcome its challenges.
In yet another news report (The Malaysian Insider, 14 December 2012), Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali was quoted as saying, “The Chinese community will become a national security threat if it grows more powerful politically and economically and eventually this could result in another bloody racial clash like the May 13 tragedy.”
His message seemed to be that the Chinese Malaysian community should know their place in Malaysian society – that is, being allowed to have economic power is already a privilege. They should not be trying to gain political power as well. He was not at all concerned that his analysis was based on race per se and was clearly flawed as the Chinese community as a whole has no monopoly over the country’s commercial interests and neither is political power concentrated in the hands of the Malay community.
Recently, Ibrahim Ali has also capitalised on the ongoing debate about the use of the word “Allah” by the non-Muslim community. His stand is that the word “Allah” should not be used by the non-Muslims. Hence he objected to Malay translations of the Christian Bibles that contain the word “Allah”. In all probability being fully aware of the anger and hurt he would caused among Christians he allegedly called for the Malay version of the Bible containing the word “Allah” and Jawi script to be burnt.
That may have prompted an unknown person(s) to give notice of a “Bible-burning festival”. Though it never materialised, much damage was caused to inter-faith understanding and unnecessary religious tension manifested itself due to such a callous and reprehensible proposal.
To date, other than reported news that the police have recorded statements from Ibrahim Ali and Roslan Kassim, Perkasa’s information chief, over rumours of the “festival”, nothing much else has happened (Bernama, 31 January 2013). One should not hold one’s breath waiting to see when the police would arrest the likes of people like Ibrahim Ali for creating religious tension among the Malaysian public. Chances are he gets away scot free without so much as a rap on his knuckles.
Both Shahrizat and Ibrahim Ali have a clear objective in the above views, they wish to drive fear into the Malaysian public that if we rock the boat then unpleasant episodes of history such as the May 13 incident may repeat themselves. It is a blatant case of scaremongering yet no action has been taken by the authorities to rebuke them for stirring up racial and religious sentiments. The “inaction” on the part of the powers that be will only lead them to become more brazen and irresponsible in their future actions and remarks.
In a Star report (2 February 2013), MCA president Chua Soi Lek was quoted as saying, “Bursa Malaysia will drop 500 points if Pakatan Rakyat wins the coming General Elections.” Once again, caution is thrown to the wind and the MCA president has no qualms whatsoever in trying to convince the Malaysian public that they should not vote for a change of government lest they want their investments to suffer as the value of the shares that they owned would drop significantly.
There is no rational basis whatsoever to suggest a major fall of 500 points. He could easily have suggested a fall of 10 points or even 1000 points. In other words, the figure was plucked from the air and the only clear intention is to drive fear into the electorate. In the same report the MCA president is also quoted as saying that if Pakatan comes into power, “Pas will close Genting (Highlands) and the Bursa”.
Clearly, the above politicians hold the view that the scare tactics employed by them have their merits and they are convinced that such messages will convince fence-sitters who have not yet decided how they will cast their vote.In all probability, these politicians are also hoping that the their warnings may even convince some voters who were planning to support the alternative coalition, Pakatan, to change their mind and give their vote to Barisan Nasional.
Many of us who have access to alternative media sources are in a position to sieve through the ‘news’ produced by mainstream media and make informed decisions on the accuracy or otherwise of such information. But there is still a sizeable portion of the Malaysian population who may not enjoy this privilege. Therefore, how do we reach out to this segment of Malaysian society who may fall prey to the misinformation generated by the mainstream media. Indeed we also need to counter the blatant scaremongering that is going on with impunity.
There are no simple solutions to this issue. If we care for the future of this country and we actually hope for a more vibrant and fair democracy – which a strong two-party/coalition system will help to nurture – then we should openly promote a change in government. Our only “weapon” is the vote that we have. We need to use it to make sure that Pakatan’s march to Putrajaya can become a reality.
Based on a sense of the sentiment of the people in view of the massive amount of corruption, nepotism and leakages linked to the present Barisan-led government, this forthcoming election is the best chance ever to bring about a change in government after 55 long years of Barisan rule! To quote Tommy Thomas in the latest Aliran Monthly (Vol 32 No 11), “[t]he 13th General Elections…gives Malaysians an opportunity to break free from the monopoly of political power exercised by Umno, first, in the guise of Alliance and subsequently as Barisan Nasional” (emphasis added).
Once we have had a taste of alternative governments, then both Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional will always have to be on their toes. No coalition can afford to be arrogant and abuse the power given to them for it will be very clear that within four or five years the government of the day can always be voted out. Though there is no perfect system to guarantee genuine democracy, a two-party system is the most feasible way of returning power to the Rakyat and not the elite in the present Malaysian political scenario.
Based on the performance of Pakatan-run state governments such as Kelantan, Penang, Kedah and Selangor we should be confident to allow Pakatan to govern at the Federal level. If nothing else, most would agree that in these Pakatan-run states, there is so much less corruption.
Now we must do the leg work. We need to spread this message of the need for change to all and sundry. Let us make an effort to speak to as many people as possible and convince them to share the message of “change” with others etc. We should not underestimate the power of word of mouth. We need to remember not all of us have access to the internet and get to read internet media such as Malaysiakini, Malaysian Chronicle and Aliran.
Let us not become victims of these scaremongering tactics employed by irresponsible politicians but instead bravely become agents of change so that Malaysian democracy may triumph.