AZMIN ALI

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Day: May 19, 2013

Racism, fear-mongering and incitement to hatred

Since the 13th General Elections, the nation is once again being treated to an endless dose of racist rhetoric that seemed to have died down just days before. After Najib’s first ‘Chinese tsunami’ outburst, Perkasa and other self-proclaimed ‘champions’ of Malay rights have come out of the woodwork to do their ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ service.

Right on cue to Utusan Malaysia’s “What more do the Chinese want?” front page headline, former Court of Appeal judge, Mohd Noor Abdullah, raged about how this country is being economically colonised by the Chinese. And according to him, what the Chinese really want is “to seize political power!”

Not a shred of evidence is given for this outrageous assertion except it seems from the results of the elections. I don’t know where he studied his law but even common sense will tell you that in a democracy you’re allowed to choose your leaders. That’s not seizing political power. That’s called exercising your right to vote!

No one can be faulted to see this baseless accusation as an incitement to the Malays to fear and hate the Chinese. This is not just reckless but highly seditious. It is a criminal act and no one let alone a former judge should be allowed to get away with it.

To add fuel to the fire of hate and fear mongering, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) pro-chancellor Tan Sri Rahman Arshad proposed that Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools be closed down as “a means towards national unity.” Apart from it being seditious, hasn’t it got into his head that unity is not achieved through attempting to wipe out the ethnicity of others? One’s mother tongue is certainly one of the key features of this identity. The Pakatan Rakyat position is clear : Bahasa Malaysia is the official language and everyone particularly the younger generation must be proficient in it. At the same time, vernacular schools will not only be allowed to go on but will be included in our free education policy.

Unity cannot be achieved by force. Unity can only be achieved by a government which prioritizes inclusiveness and the promotion of fair and just policies. The starting point is to do away with race-based policies and replace them with needs-based policies. If no individual feels it is being discriminated because of his or her ethnic background, then the need to be identified racially naturally is reduced and eventually eliminated.

The fact that this race baiting agenda is being engineered through UMNO’s mouthpiece is proof enough that Najib’s professed transformation and reform is nothing but a colossal sham. And this is again proven by the latest outburst by Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that the opposition and those who are complaining about the election results can “migrate elsewhere” if it is not satisfied with our electoral system.

Is this Najib’s way of showcasing his so-called ‘new transformation cabinet’? Well done, Zahid! By taking this high and mighty position as your first proclamation of ministerial power, you’ve shown both arrogance and stupidity. We have no problem or quarrel with the country as this is our land. It’s yours too but don’t talk like only you and UMNO own it. All of us anak Malaysia own it and we are loyal to King and country.

We have a problem with people like you and many of your colleagues who don’t seem to understand that the people have expectations for clean and fair elections. When they feel they are cheated of a victory, it is their constitutional right to express their disappointment as well as anger.

We’re not talking about electoral flaws here and there. We’re looking at systemic fraud committed on a massive scale. Of course, we’re not that naive to think that you or Najib or the rest of your UMNO colleagues will ever own up but the very least is that you either engage constructively or just shut up.

In any event, this is a matter for the rakyat to decide. By the way, we know what the Westminster system is and what ‘first past the post’ means. There was no need for you to waste so much ink talking about the obvious. It’s what you did not say which exposes your failure to comprehend the real issues or are you just too arrogant and have chosen to disregard the facts?

Firstly, the Westminster system is based on a fundamental assumption, i.e. free, clean and fair elections. In this system, there is no place for phantom voters, let alone truckloads of foreigners being given police escort to vote.

Secondly, the Westminster system also does not permit blatant acts of sabotage in the most crucial hours of vote-counting where lights go off for no rhyme or reason. And can you imagine bag loads of cast ballots being commandeered to unauthorised places or polling officers being forcibly confined and ordered to mark ballot papers in such a system?

Thirdly, the system also presupposes a free and fair press, if not the private media at least the government owned media. It will not permit it to be used as a propaganda tool for the incumbent political party to attack the opposition, day in and day out.

And most importantly, though a certain degree of re-delineation of electoral boundaries is permitted, the kind and scale of gerrymandering that has been done to the electoral constituencies by UMNO-BN for the past five decades has made a complete mockery of the Westminster system of democracy.

So, in view of all these preconditions having been violated and the bottom line is that the 13th General Elections was, to quote poet laureate Pak Samad Said, “the mother of all frauds”, we and the people will have to look at it from the most realistic way. Because Pakatan Rakyat has obtained more popular votes, the UMNO government is therefore a minority government.

Now that Zahid is the new Home Minister, perhaps we need to remind him that assemblies and rallies as long as they are orderly and peaceful are not only legal but a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution. Is UMNO greater than the Constitution? In this regard, I categorically condemn the charge against Nik Nazmi which is nothing but a brazen attempt to intimidate the people. The last I heard, the police have also arrested Adam Adli for sedition. What’s this? The people who should have been rightly investigated and charged are let off while those doing their civic duties are being hounded. Are we back to the days of Mahathir when the first response to the people’s assertion of their civil rights is the use of police power? And now that the A-G’s chambers have started flexing their muscles again, will we see more arrests and prosecutions of opposition leaders and civil rights activists?

Now, how’s that for a Westminster system of democracy? In a healthy thriving democracy, such use of the organs of state power – against the opposition – will not be tolerated. On the contrary, the opposition must be allowed to thrive in order to have proper checks against power abuse.

Citizens are not told day in and day out that they must be grateful to the government. On the contrary, the government should be thankful to the people for voting them in and to do that the answer is not BRIM or other forms of tokenism. It must listen to the people, and always be transparent and accountable.

It’s time we junked this hypocritical facade of 1Malaysia and replace it with a real agenda for unity. UMNO must put an end to this reckless and criminal incitement to hatred and racial discord. Utusan Malaysia is the anti-thesis to interracial harmony in Malaysia. It is also living proof that Najib’s transformation agenda is nothing but a sham.

Mohamed Azmin bin Ali

Deputy President