BETWEEN 13 and 19 April 2009, the Malay language press wrung its hands over the welfare of the Malay race, the inevitable Penanti by-election, and the vagaries of history lessons.
Capati (Source: wilka.ru) The headlines for Utusan Malaysia‘s 15 April edition was Bangkitlah Melayu, a clarion call that was not softened by the front-page photograph of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak tossing capati with Sikh Malaysian women in celebration of Vaisakhi.
Subheaded Unite to face the demands of other races that are increasingly extreme, the article quoted Pasir Mas parliamentarian Datuk Ibrahim Ali as saying that the total number of seats in Parliament occupied by Malay Malaysians was enough to form government. Therefore, the government should fulfil all the wishes of Malay Malaysians because they were the majority, and not keep on co-operating with non-Malay Malaysians.
Ibrahim Ali Ibrahim went on to urge Umno to return to a hardline position. “Malay parties are strong when Malay [Malaysians] are taken care of. So Umno has to focus on Malay [Malaysians]. Umno doesn’t need to fear because I see that when Umno is strong, non-Malay [Malaysians] will automatically support the Barisan Nasional (BN), as before,” he said.
The article received wide public attention. DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang took Najib’s silence in the Umno-aligned newspaper’s article as evidence that the BN was still trapped in an “ethnic prison”.
On 17 April, when quizzed by Malaysiakini in a report titled PM elak ulas ‘Bangkitlah Melayu’ about the Utusan Malaysia report, Najib said that whether it was contrary to his 1Malaysia concept or not was up to individual interpretation.
“Generally, I don’t want extremist attitudes in our country,” Najib continued. “Doesn’t matter where that extremism comes from. We must be moderate. Islam is a religion that encourages moderate thinking and practice.”
On 19 April, Mingguan Malaysia responded to the furore in kind. In his Bisik-Bisik Mingguan Awang Selamat column titled Nasib akhbar Melayu, the writer began by saying that he was unsurprised at the “extreme reaction of the non-Malay and opposition media” towards Utusan Malaysia‘s 15 April report.
Reflecting on the report’s apparent contradiction of 1Malaysia, Awang opined that pressure on Utusan was not surprising as “the forces that cram in on Malay [Malaysian] institutions, including the Malay media, have been mounting, post-12th general election.”
“Today, the reality is that Malay papers seem to be required to bow towards the pressure of non-Malay [Malaysian] political movements,” he continued. “If the vernacular press run reports that are racial, that would merely be considered freedom of the press, under the guise of democracy. But if Malay newspapers report the voice of the Malay [Malaysian] people, and that goes against the extremist demands of other races, this is labelled as being racist.
“Awang only smiles and shakes his head,” the writer said. Interestingly, he failed to come up with examples of racist comments by the so-called “non-Malay media”, and was completely earnest in his belief that Utusan Malaysia could be analogous to the entirety of the Malay-language media.
One more by-election
Mohammad Fairus (Source: mfairus.
blogspot.com) In its 18 April edition, Berita Harian editors ran SPR wajar tegas elak ‘pembaziran’ pilihan raya kecil. The editorial mulled over the imminent Penanti by-election, following the resignation of PKR state assemblyperson Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin.
“If this trend continues, we don’t know how many more by-elections will be held before the next general election,” the Berita Harian editorial said. “We can accept the emptying of a parliamentary or state assembly seat if the representative passes away, but not because they merely resign.”
The article called on the Election Commission to stop recognising such resignations. “The government can amend the Election Commission Act so that an election doesn’t need to be held if the elected representative resigns for no good reason.”
Characterising by-elections as wasteful, the article suggested that, if the representative was weak or problematic, “let the highest party administration take over the representative’s duties until the next general election.”
Berita Harian expressed bewilderment that PKR allowed Fairus to resign, while the party retained Bukit Lanjan assemblyperson Elizabeth Wong. “She is instead allowed to continue serving as Selangor state executive councillor, even after the issue of her semi-nude photos. All this reflects on PKR’s ‘doubles standard’ practices.”
The article further speculated that the Penanti by-election was purposely called to continue the “wave of support” for the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) until the next general election.
Samy Vellu (Pic courtesy of theSun) The 19 April edition of Mingguan Malaysia collected views in Wajarkah BN bertanding? on Najib’s hint at the possibility that the BN would not contest the Penanti seat. The report quoted MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu as saying that the BN had to contest, to defend its integrity and prestige.
“As the party that has ruled since independence, the act of withdrawing from the elections will give the image that the BN is now afraid to face the opposition,” Samy said. “We cannot be afraid of them because in the future I believe that they will try other tricks to force even more by-elections.”
Fighting over history
“What MCA trick is this that they are so attentive to historical accuracy, to the point that they accuse history to have been written only by Malay [Malaysians]?” the writer asked. “The MCA should be thankful to the professionals that have outlined the history textbook syllabus, who did not emphasise the participation of the Chinese [Malaysians] in the communist movement.
“Equating the Chinese [Malaysians] with the communists in the era of independence is not fair. [But] the fact remains that the majority of members in the Malayan Communist Party was Chinese, although this has been ignored, as if the communists had an identical number of Malay and Chinese members.”
That “Chinese communists” is a frequently repeated truism was not touched on. The writer went on to say that “the Malay [Malaysians] do not question the exclusion of this important historical fact.” He asserted that Malay Malaysians recognised that this wasn’t the time to find out “who were the heroes of independence, or who were the troublemakers impeding the independence process.”
“The Chinese [Malaysians] should not be too emotional when it comes to their contributions towards independence. Instead, they should step up contributions to fulfil Malaysia’s independence by building more ties of understanding and unity with other races, especially the Malay [Malaysians],” Ku Seman wrote.
“Questioning historical facts regarding Chinese [Malaysian] people does not uphold unity, but only rocks what is already in place,” he concluded.