Monday, November 17, 2008

1. When the Barisan Nasional did badly in the March 2008 General Election, foreign observers and many in this country were jubilant because they claim that it marked the demise of racial politics and racial parties in Malaysia.

2. I did not agree with this simplistic view and I had put my thoughts on this blog. I believed that it was rather protest against the failures of the Abdullah Government that caused many Barisan Nasional members and supporters to vote for the opposition. But many still insist that race based politics is no longer relevant in Malaysia. Is it?

3. If it is because the Malaysian electorate had rejected racial politics, why did they vote for such parties as PAS, a very Malay Muslim party, and DAP, a Chinese dominated party. Even the Keadilan is made up of violently racist Hindraf Indians, Chinese dissatisfied with the MCA’s representation of the Chinese in BN and self-serving Malays who could not find a place in the other Malay parties.

4. These three parties did not campaign for human rights or open Governments or even against the Internal Security Act. PAS had made no secret of their Islamic State pretensions. DAP talked of Malaysian Malaysia which was the battle cry of its very Chinese PAP antecedents of Singapore (no non-Chinese PM) and Keadilan talked about reforms etc., but the stress was on Hindu Rights and anti-Malay racism.

5. Their accredited supporters who may really subscribe to their creeds had never been big enough to make them strong opposition parties in the past. They were never able to deny the BN a 2/3rd majority. It should be remembered that Keadilan won only one seat in the 2004 elections. The other two, DAP and PAS did not do much better either.

6. It was the defection by the BN party members which resulted in the opposition parties, regardless of the quality of their candidate getting the large number of votes to win so many more seats than they or anybody else expected.

7. Apart from the voters supporting the essentially race based opposition parties, the claim that it was the rejection of racial politics which led to the poor results by the BN has also not been borne out by the attitudes and debates by Malaysians post 2008 elections.

8. What we are witnessing today is an explosion of racial politics that is more bitter and blatant than ever before. Even the least observant cannot fail to notice how Malaysian politics now is more about racial inequities than about liberalism, human rights, openness etc.

9. True there has been quite a lot of discussion on the ISA. But most of the angry and bitter discussion is about Malay “privileges”, about the Social Contract, about the Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister being Malays, about UMNO bullying, about being or not being immigrants, about Malay dominance. Even the criticisms regarding the way judges are appointed or promoted have elements of race that is hardly disguised.

10. Truly Malaysian politics have not been decoupled from racial sentiments and loyalties. And it is going to remain so for as long as the different races prefer to be separated and divided, prefer to strongly uphold their languages, cultures and their historical origins and links. All that is said about reforms and liberalism is mere lip service.
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