Aliran Media Statement

In Desperate Straits

Aliran is horrified with the obnoxious statement attributed to Information Minister Mohamed Rahmat, which appeared in a Singapore daily last week. It is nothing but racist venom spewed by someone who is apparently bankrupt in ideas and incapable of rational thought.

In a statement attributed to Rahmat, while officiating at a meeting of UMNO members in Tampoi, Johor, on Sunday 2 May 1999, he is quoted to have said:

When serious efforts are being made by discerning Malaysians to create a bangsa Malaysia wherein the citizen's loyalty and patriotism is defined not by race, colour or creed but by one's commitment and contribution towards building a just, peaceful, progressive and democratic Malaysia, Rahmat is clearly undermining these efforts. He has voiced views that are divisive if not anachronistic as well. They are certainly shameful .

The Information Minister has also misinformed the unsuspecting public vis-a-vis Dr Wan Azizah's educational background.

In an exclusive interview with the Aliran Monthly in November 1998, Dr Wan Azizah had stated:

I grew up in Kedah, Mahathir's state. I grew up with my uncle and aunt because my father studied in London at that time and he had to leave me behind. Dr Mahathir was an MP when I was growing up. I remember Datin Sri Dr Siti Hasmah (Mahathir's wife) came to officiate at my school's fun fair. I was guard of honour - many years ago. And Marina Mahathir was also my junior in school.

I studied in St Nicholas Convent, Alor Setar, from Standard One to Form Five. I like the Convent School very much. The nuns taught me a lot.…I went to Tengku Kurshiah College for a while and then I was in Dublin for six years….

Rahmat owes an explanation to the Malaysian public for stating 'Dr Azizah grew up and received her education in Singapore.'

As to Rahmat's assertion that Dr Wan Azizah cannot lead the Malays as 'she is Chinese '- notwithstanding the fact that she is a Muslim and a Malay by Constitutional definition - and that she is without 'a Malay soul', Aliran would like to know whether Rahmat's views extend to all UMNO members who are descendants from other than the Malay stock ?

Is he also claiming that some of our Prime Ministers were not qualified to lead the Malays by virtue of their ancestry ? Is he suggesting that UMNO leaders are not eligible to occupy positions of leadership simply because they are not descendants of Malay ancestry ?

And what is this thing that he refers to as 'a Malay soul'? Is his own wife, a Chinese, also without 'a Malay soul'? And what of Tun Omar Ong Yoke Lim and his wife Dr Aishah? Are they all also without 'a Malay soul' on account of their Chinese ancestry ?

Rahmat's claim that Dr Azizah's 'cap naga origin would make her an unconvincing choice as the leader of a party which wants to fight for democracy' is equally absurd. By his own logic, where does it leave Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik and Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik ? Does their 'cap naga origin' make them unconvincing choices as leaders of parties which want to fight for democracy?

The Information Minister's insane claims and absurd reasoning only reflect the desperate situation UMNO is now in. They no longer can claim to be the representative of the Malays and this must obviously be affecting the equilibrium of leaders like Mohamed Rahmat.

P Ramakrishnan
8 May 1999