Tuesday, March 23, 2010

1Malaysia - politics first, people later

Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim recently said that the 1Malaysia concept has not been understood by Malaysians. One wonders what exactly he means by that.

Looking at the many developments touching on race and religion and the lackaidaisical manner in which the government handled the issues affecting race, religion and the freedom to demonstrate, it is difficult to make sense of what really is the agenda behind 1Malaysia. So Rais a.k.a. the propaganda minister is right in that the 1Malaysia agenda is difficult to fathom.

Some case histories of why 1Malaysia has no depth – if the man behind 1Malaysia, that is, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was and is serious about it, he would have made sure his colleagues like Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Najib’s former personal aide Nasir Safar and the likes never escaped unscatched after “abusing” fellow Indians and Chinese of this country.

Hishammuddin, by virtue of his being the home minister, has never failed to overtly declare his devotion to fellow Malays. Case in point is when he supported the protesters of Section 23 in Shah Alam who slaughtered a cow head in protest of a Hindu temple to be built in their neighbourhood.

Who better than the home minister to instil unity among the people – but Hishammuddin never got down to doing so. He is busy threatening mainstream newspapers for their articles, which do carry some grain of truth. So much for 1Malaysia!

Then it was the Herald issue and the “Allah” row which saw churches and a Sikh temple vandalised. How are the non-Muslims to digest such abuse to their places of worship?

Malaysia as a home to people of different races and religions must not be “sold” to the rakyat. It must first be respected and adhered to by the “powers-that-be” before taking it to the rakyat. In this case, clearly the government does not practise what it preaches when it comes to the overly-publicised 1Malaysia.

Najib did not see the need to educate his colleagues on the importance of 1Malaysia because he and they all know that this 1Malaysia is a mere “product” aimed at winning back votes at the 13th general election. For them, there is no faith attached to 1Malaysia, of its importance in uniting the different races in Malaysia and keeping them together always.

Najib definitely should not think twice in rebuking his colleagues and fellow government servants who make racist remarks, making sure his dissatisfaction with such insensitive minds were highlighted by the mainstream newspapers especially. This really is not asking for much, is it? But when Najib made no attempt to apologise for the racist statements made by his then personal aide Nasir at a 1Malaysia event in Malacca last month, that said it all – there is no real commitment in wanting to unite Malaysians. Nasir put in his resignation soon after his racist comments sparked outcry among the Chinese and Indians.

It appears that the 1Malaysia concept is only a cosmetic exercise to woo voters and turn them against the opposition, all to ensure Barisan Nasional reclaims victory in the coming general election which is not far away.

Najib’s double standards

When Nasir showed his true colours by calling Indians beggars and Chinese women prostitutes, it was obvious he was very well aware of what he was saying. To go so far as to say the government could revoke the citizenship of Indians if they made excessive demands and that only Umno was responsible for drafting the Federal Constitution can only be uttered by one with a primitive mindset, which Nasir has well proved to have. Nasir’s resignation to soothe the heated situation is nothing to cry about.

It is a nightmare to know that an outright racist individual like Nasir was once the Johor state assemblyman and division chief.

It appears that the 1Malaysia concept is only a cosmetic exercise to woo voters and turn them against the opposition...

What is equally puzzling is just how did this personal aide have the audacity to spit such venom against the Indians and Chinese, when his pay master Najib was and is still running around selling 1Malaysia from house to house? Where did Nasir’s racism spark from? Is he one of the ultra conservative Malay Muslims who hate the sight of Indians and Chinese?

It is clear that the 1Malaysia concept is a product Najib has devised for a political reason – to ensure Barisan Nasional’s victory in the general election and to bury the opposition. If 1Malaysia is dear to Najib, he would have wasted no time in berating Nasir and openly apologising for the damage his aide had done and likewise for Hishammuddin. But Najib made no such move, letting his ego get in the way of reaching out to the people and show remorse over Hishammuddin and Nasir’s actions.

Is it not an Asian value and culture to apologise to one another if one has been wronged and disrespected? Why do the so-called leaders in Malaysia not lead by example? Why do they not practise what they preach? It is because politics in Malaysia is their only means to an end, which is to amass as much money and assets as possible while they still can, all at the expense of the public?

What did Najib have to lose by apologising over Nasir’s ill-behaviour? It would have only made the rakyat take Najib seriously if he had said sorry over what Nasir did. But the prime minister has lots of pride and it is getting in the way of his propagating his 1Malaysia.

Najib’s double standards will not help him achieve victory in the coming general election. Apologising requires humility and the current leaders of this country certainly have none of it. At least Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim put Najib to shame when the former openly apologised to Malaysians for choosing the wrong people to lead.

Until people like Nasir are punished for his incendiary words, there is little faith in what 1Malaysia is all about. Likewise, when Hishamuddin challenged the non-Muslims waving a Malay dagger in his hands for questioning the Malay rights, he was not castigated by his boss or warned by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the supreme head of the country.

Watching the propaganda of 1Malaysia is getting to be a tired affair because there is no sincerity attached to it. It is very sad that instead of uniting Malaysians, it will be this very 1Malaysia that will go down in history as having torn apart the racial fabric in Malaysia. Harmony in diversity will be a talk of yesterday if Najib does not make any effort to protect Malaysians from verbal abuses spat by his own teammates.

Giving people the basics in life is not doing them a favour. It is the ruling government’s responsibility in ensuring the people have access to the necessary basics and not make them beg for it. Taking the rakyat for granted had proved fatal, as seen in the whacking the Barisan Nasional received in the 12th general election.

Is Perkasa necessary?

If 1Malaysia is Najib’s topmost priority, then why the need to lend support to Perkasa, supposedly a non-governmental organisation but with an agenda to fight for and defend the rights of the Malays which its founder Ibrahim Ali, an MP, feels are being challenged by the non-Malays? To add salt to injury, the home ministry even approved a printing permit to enable Perkasa to publish its fortnightly newspaper Suara Perkasa.

It is only a matter of time before Perkasa creates pandemonium among the different races in the country all for the sake of ensuring the rights of the dominant race remain safe.

It appears that when it comes to defending Malay rights, Barisan Nasional will have no qualms playing the devil’s advocate. Should we forget how Hishammuddin justified the cowhead protesters’ act of stomping on and spitting on the severed head of the cow, an animal so sacred to the Hindus, all because these ultra Malay protesters did not want a Hindu temple in their neighbourhood?

In the event Perkasa’s motive to defend Malay rights at all cost is supported by the home ministry, more precisely its minister Hishammuddin, then why the fear and later hatred towards Hindraf to the point that it was outlawed and five of its founders imprisoned under the draconian Internal Security Act? This double standard does not augur well for Barisan Nasional and its latest product 1Malaysia.

There is no secret left on what Perkasa’s true intentions are. It is only a matter of time before it creates pandemonium among the different races in the country all for the sake of ensuring the rights of the dominant race remain safe. To allow the existence of Perkasa, founded by a man who is an outright racist, is a big mistake that will take its toll on the Barisan Nasional. When the Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah realised the mess he would get into by officiating at Perkasa’s launch on March 27, he wasted no time in pulling out.

And to step in was none other than former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad – and why? Because Ibrahim, like Zimbabwe’s dictator president Robert Mugabe, is a buddy of Mahathir, never mind the damage that Perkasa is capable of. In Mugabe’s case, Mahathir, then the prime minister, had no qualms misusing his premiership and destroying Malaysia’s rainforest all for the sake of donating $40,000 worth of rare Malaysian rainforest timbers for Mugabe’s new mansion in Harare worth millions.

At that time Najib downplayed this public outcry saying “it was done with the best of intentions”.

With all these show of love “thy neighbour”, should Malaysians welcome 1Malaysia with open arms?

Put people first, not politics

When Najib made his rounds to meet the laymen, that is, visiting Puduraya and Kuala Lumpur’s “little India” in Brickfields soon after he became the prime minister, the move was lauded, but why? What has he done that is so remarkable for the people? Is it not the role of the leader of the country to get his hands dirty to help solve his people’s woes?

Why the red carpet treatment for politicians in this country and that too all the time? Why do the rakyat do themselves a disservice by putting the politicians first and their own needs later? It is this kind-heartedness that the politicians abuse -- always demanding first-class treatment for one thing or the other, forgetting the cardinal rule of becoming a politician, which is that they are the people’s servant and are there to serve them, not to be served by the rakyat.

Najib’s leadership style is based on “people first”. If indeed so, then why bar the Orang Asli who protested over unfair land policy from marching to the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya? Why re-route them to the Rural Development Ministry and silence their dissatisfaction by feeding their stomachs? Why did the police not allow the Orang Asli to display their banners and allow only five of them to go to the PM’s Department to hand over the memorandum? Is this what “people first” is all about?

The Orang Asli were not armed with machetes or guns and nor were they marching to the PM’s Department to beat up anyone. All they wanted was an assurance from Najib on their land status and to receive their memorandum. Mind you, it was an effort to gather the Orang Asli who travelled to Putrajaya in 40 buses. It was not a demonstration to cause riot, so why did the police halt their march?

This march, according to the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns, Colin Nicholas, was the biggest Orang Asli demonstration in history and yet there was no respect shown by the leader of the country towards their worries.

So many other incidents have taken place that have revealed that 1Malaysia is strictly Najib’s political means to win the next general election. The rakyat never came first and the truth is they never will.

comments by Jeswan Kaur, who is a freelance journalist cum writer, is a contributor to Free Malaysia Today

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