FINALLY, the general elections are over. Congratulations to the Barisan Nasional (BN) and to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. In a previous column, I had expressed my preference for Najib to be our prime minister instead of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Now that Najib is leading the government with an even smaller majority, that means we can be hopeful he will be more mindful and conscientious in his leadership. What a great result.
On polling night, I was touched to hear Najib’s declared intention for national reconciliation in his very first press statement after the results were announced. As the numero uno in this country, Najib’s role in forging national reconciliation would be pivotal, and the man should be savvy enough to handle such an ambitious project.
However, a project such as national reconciliation would require all our cooperation and input. It cannot be accomplished by one man alone, even if he was the PM. So, let me start the ball rolling with some ideas towards national reconciliation.
It’s time to put behind us the divisive politics of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Let’s face it: the BN did not face a formidable opposition capable of taking over the government until Anwar surfaced as the leader of Pakatan Rakyat (PR). And the Anwar Ibrahim phenomenon itself, ironically, is a Mahathir legacy. Mahathir’s divisive politics needs to be put to an end. His patronising top-down leadership style has to stop. Yes, Mahathir did many good things for the country in his 22 years as premier, but we are a different country today.
It’s time to stop the pretence and draw the line with Perkasa
Najib cannot expect national reconciliation while continuing to allow Umno to tango with Perkasa. The way Umno made way for Datuk Ibrahim Ali in Pasir Mas fooled no one. Let’s face the facts: both Ibrahim and Zulkifli Noordin, who had been thumping their chests over Malay rights, lost in predominantly Malay constituencies. Their results would have been far worse had they stood in mixed constituencies. The message is very clear: Malaysians reject extremist politics, and if Umno wants to lead Malaysia, it should start rejecting the same. After all, it was not the MCA or Gerakan that won the elections but Umno.
Stop thinking along racial lines
It’s easy to start talking about a “Chinese tsunami”. But do not forget, the opposition won substantial non-Chinese votes. On the flip side, Chinese Malaysians voted for many non-Chinese opposition candidates, including from PAS. This was despite the dreadful hudud messages that were consistently delivered over the traditional media.
The support for the opposition seems broad-based, and that is bad news for BN’s future. This is especially in light of the fact that many BN constituencies were won with razor-thin margins. There is a strong tide of dissent and it is not originating from Chinese Malaysians alone. The earlier the BN starts thinking beyond racial lines, the better it is for them in the upcoming elections.
No, it’s not all about the economy
Since we’re talking about Chinese Malaysians, let’s also talk about what is perceived to be the most important factor for them, i.e. the economy. Contrary to Mahathir’s assertion, a strong economy is simply not enough. No, there is no intention by Chinese Malaysians to usurp political power. Not that I know of, anyway.
But Chinese Malaysians want to be part of the nation-building process. They want to feel that they belong to this country. They don’t have a “homeland” to go home to. This is their home and their future. They are tired of being the bogey to scare Malay Malaysians into submission to Umno. Chinese Malaysians do not like fear-mongering. Umno cannot spout Malay supremacy and entitlements, and call non-Malay Malaysians “pendatang” and still expect Chinese Malaysian support on just the strength of the economy.
It’s time for Umno to start building bridges with to Chinese Malaysians directly
The MCA and Gerakan have been rejected. If they put their hands to their hearts, they themselves should know why. So, how can Umno win the hearts of Chinese Malaysians? By building bridges directly with them. Don’t go through MCA and Gerakan as intermediaries. Don’t rely on cronies who are more than willing to give a buck to earn a buck. Don’t be duped by tycoons who throw lavish dinners. Chinese Malaysians will attend out of courtesy, or for the meal, but that signifies nothing. Don’t rely on “I love PM” T-shirts given out to college students who are made to wear them. (Clue: If a group of young people turn up in uniform, you can bet your last ringgit that the uniform was compulsory).
Take a leaf from PAS’s books. Chinese Malaysians seem to have lost their fear of PAS, which even fielded a Christian candidate as their own even if he lost by more than 7,000 votes. Why can’t there be a Kelab Penyokong Cina Umno as well? I’m sure this club will very soon attract more effective members than the MCA.
Chan Kheng Hoe thinks it’s time Malaysians stop the politicking and move on with life. There’s a nation to be built.
Sad to say, I don’t give too much credit to Najib’s declaration of reconciliation. Reconcile with whom? Perkasa? Islamic extremist? Right-wing Umno ultra-Malays?
The first thing Najib did was to blame the Chinese! I did not know that the Chinese can vote in Malaysia. Thought only Malaysians can vote!
The second thing was encouraging Umno’s racial mouthpieces to attack the Chinese Malaysian community.
How is that “conciliatory” and how is that a leader of “moderates” (Najib’s own words)?
It finally dawned on me the context of being “moderate” to Najib and UMNO and thus, the reconciliation of the deeply conflicted 1Malaysia with Perkasa’s and Utusan Malysia’s messages. I am not being cynical and no satire here. When Malay racist Party A, Chinese racist Party B and Indian racist Party C form an alliance to negotiate national policies, the results tend to be pro-Malay as they are the majority. The key to UMNO’s success thus is being “moderate” so that enough is left on the table for others to survive on an uneven field in the economy, academics, etc. However, the Chinese overcame the odds and beat the weak competition from the Malays. To cover up corruption and incompetence, the government needed to tilt policies even more, stretching moderation to the extreme. So the need for Perkasa and Utusan Malaysia to re-establish a negotiation baseline.
The minorities cannot afford being racists. Somehow, everyone is considered racist. Thus the DAP is “racist”, etc. When their requests are not viable politically, Dong Zong is considered “extremist”. So, to the best of my understanding of 1Malaysia, being ethnic chauvinist or racist is okay as long as one is being moderate.
Flag of Truth says
Your statement is ‘seditious’. The Chinese overcome the odds and beat the weak competition from the Malays? Well, you must play your cards right, Mr steewolf. Malays are not weak just because they are weak. It is because they let themselves be that way. But time will determine that the ‘weak Malay’, as per your claim, will overcome all the odds 🙂
Please do not misquote me. I did not write “weak Malays”. I wrote “weak competition”. I do not agree with you that the Malays are weak. But I do agree with you that whatever the Malays are, it is because “they let themselves be that way”.
Flag of Truth says
Don’t try to spin what you wrote.
Chan Kheng Hoe says
@neptunian: Fact is there is a segment of Malaysian society that is right-wing, pro-Perkasa and all things which you would consider to be extreme. And the challenge is that national reconciliation must include this group as well, like it or not.
@stewoolf: I have many Malay friends whom I would not consider to be “weak competition” by any stretch of imagination. But as you rightly pointed out, there are issues of corruption which takes away a big chunk that could otherwise be shared.
Do you actually believe the blacks in USA would have been better if they had reconciled with the Ku Klux Klan? Please note that the KKK wanted to “wipe out” the blacks as part of their “reconciliation”.
It is almost like saying, there are always going to be rapists, so the rape [survivor] might as well include the rapist in their “reconciliation” within their lives.
Some things are just wrong. It is really up to the government to prevent such wrongs. There are always going to be criminals, might as well forgive them? NO!
Kong Kek Kuat says
I second your comment.
If I walk into any shopping mall in Malaysia, the chances are well over 80% of the tenants are Chinese. That’s the kind of competition I meant. On the contrary, I counted more non-Chinese households around my brother’s house at Subang Jaya, the middle-class land of Malaysia. Maybe that’s where your Malay friends live.
The “educated” and “sophisticated” Malays voted for DAP because they believe they can compete on a level ground. So, unless the Malay masses can upgrade their competitiveness, or have faith they can do so, they cannot afford not to support Malay nationalist policies.
Kong Kek Kuat says
UMNO/BN is like one of those poor quality coffee and pre-mixes you find on the shelves of a supermarket — different packaging every now and then, but same old contents. You´d think you´re buying a new type of coffee each time. Even if you use two packets, or three, in one preparation, it still ain´t good enough. National reconciliation […] It´s just another soft launch for another 5-year campaign to attempt to brainwash (Cue: change your perception) the masses. If they haven´t changed since the days of Najib´s bapak, they´re never going to change, ever — especially now that we can, with reasonable certainty, conclude that about half the population of Malaysia are Malays and the natives of Sabah & Sarawak who are still living in virtually rural parts of Malaysia. Thank you UMNO, for improving the lives of the Malays and the Kadazandusun; thank you PBB and the Sarawak tycoons for making the Dayaks and the Orang-orang Ulu subservient to UMNO and ketuanan Melayu-Malaya for another five more years.
Chan Kheng Hoe says
@neptunian: Right-wingers are not exactly KKK. A better comparison would be the Bible-belt Republicans (some of whom are my friends) who believe that there can be absolutely no abortion even under rape because every child is a gift from God. That’s an extreme view, they hold to it strongly, and any national reconciliation needs to consider that there are people with these views. Same like Perkasa who believe strongly in Ketuanan Melayu, that the so-called social contract of Malaysia requires every other race to accept Malay political dominance. That is a view that needs to go into the pot of national reconciliation. And whilst you think that they are absolutely wrong, guess what? They think that you are absolutely wrong also. You can continue to live in English-speaking urban Malaysia and pretend that they don’t exist, or you could start engaging them.
Kong Kek Kuat says
@ Chan Kheng Hoe
And where did that get BN? Less than half the votes of about 80% of Malaysians [who were eligible to vote]. Where did that get the ethnic Chinese and Indian parties in BN? Decimation.
The Republicans do not threaten to burn your houses and wipe you from the face of the earth if you do not subscribe to their beliefs. They also do not consider themselves to be superior and you subservient. That I take as just a different point of view. PERKASA is more like the KKK but so far only threatens. That is only because Malaysians in general are not as violence prone as the “whites”, but give it time. Maybe you would like to engage the Nazis (same concept as PERKASA) but not me. Hitler’s apologist said the same thing – guess what Jews, the Nazis think you are wrong, too!
Probably half, or more, of the Malays in the peninsula would support “Ketuanan Melayu”. However, among them many would tend to agree with PAS that it is “unIslamic” or morally unsound. Yet it is a moronic idea to reconcile with Perkasa. So, how to move forward? I totally reject racism and do not embrace ABSOLUTE meritocracy. The objective is to convince the Malays to embrace a relative form of meritocracy and needs-based affirmative action so enough of them would abandon Ketuanan Melayu. Until that’s shown to improve the well-being of the Malay masses by upgrading their productivity and competitiveness, the nation is in limbo. I would rather bet on the Selangor MB or Penang CM than our lame duck PM to do so.
JW Tan says
Engaging implies some give and take. With Perkasa and even some Republicans, they want to take and not give. That’s not engaging. It’s providing these people with a forum to proclaim their legitimacy. And don’t they know it.
I love it when people talk about Najib as if he was someone that Malaysians could hang their hopes on. As if he wasn’t aware of UMNO-BN’s abuses. As if he was an angel among the devils.
As if he couldn’t hear or read or even think for himself. As if he needed advice on how to do his job.
I just think he is not doing anything to it because he is it. Don’t tell me all these years in UMNO did not give him enough training to be a champion of UMNO first and other things second?
What exactly are we supposed to reconcile about? Our political difference? It’s perfectly fine and healthy to have differing political views and beliefs. On the other hand, there’s nothing to reconcile about on racism, religious hatred and electoral fraud. Those are serious crimes which have to be eradicated, not reconciled. It seems some people or parties are saying it’s okay to preach racial and religious hatred, and indulge in electoral fraud during GE13, but now that elections are over, let’s pretend nothing happened. A heinous crime is still a crime, no matter how people try to sweep it under the carpet on the pretext of “national reconciliation”. What’s needed is “justice”, not “reconciliation”.