KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — Fears that Malaysians would meet again in another bloody racial clash like the 1969 riots had helped keep Barisan Nasional (BN) united for over four decades, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said.
The former prime minister said this had given the country stability under the ruling coalition he had led for 22 years, allowing “unprecedented growth” to take place and transform Malaysia into an industrialised country. (What ‘industrialised country’ – over 100 billion has been lost thru’ corruption, leakages and incompetence)
“Fear of race riots recurring helped to keep the BN parties together. And so from 1971 until today the country enjoyed peace and stability under BN Governments,” he said in a blog posting yesterday.
Dr Mahathir (picture), who became PM just 12 years after losing in the 1969 general elections that led to the May 13 race riots, explained that when the country was still struggling for independence, “there was a great deal of animosity between the Malays and Chinese.”
“We have almost forgotten it now but the Japanese surrender saw the mainly Chinese Anti-Japanese guerrillas emerging from the jungles, declaring that they now rule the country. There were clashes between the Malays and the Chinese and several were killed on each side,” he wrote.
He said that while the Chinese ran businesses, the Malays cultivated paddy, went fishing and were very poor.
“The Malays felt threatened and their reaction was to unite and form a Malay political party — the United Malays National Organisation
(Umno). It was solely dedicated to… upholding Malay rights. There was no desire to cooperate with the Chinese at all, certainly not for achieving Merdeka,” he said.
Dr Mahathir, who resigned from active politics in 2003, said in order to achieve independence, Umno worked with MCA to “allay British suspicions that independence would lead to seizure of Chinese properties by the Malays.”
“The cooperation worked so well that the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) decided to join it. And so the alliance of racial parties was formed. But Malay animosity towards the Chinese and Chinese dissatisfaction with the terms of the social contract was still extant, so that in 1969, race riots broke out.
“Foreigners as well as many Malaysians concluded that the fragile coalition had failed. But Tun Razak resurrected it and formed an even bigger coalition, the BN,” he said.
Malaysia’s worst ethnic riots occurred on May 13, 1969, which some reports say had killed over 2,000.
They were sparked off after opposition parties had denied the Umno-led Alliance its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament on the back of unhappiness by Chinese over perceived favouritism showed to Malays.
A victory parade by the opposition in Kuala Lumpur led to a strong reaction by Malays and a state of emergency was declared.
But some researchers have blamed the Umno-led counter-procession that began at the residence of then Selangor mentri besar Datuk Harun Idris for the violence.
Then prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman later called the retaliatory parade “inevitable, as otherwise the party members would be demoralised after the show of strength by the opposition and the insults that had been thrown at them.”
Dr Mahathir also said in his blog that unlike the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), BN had an added element that is needed for a coalition to work.
“Although it is an alliance of equals, it needs a strong core which can act as the first among equals. The core will act as referee whenever the other components fail to agree with each other.
“On the other hand the core must not be too strong as to be able to go on its own. If it fails to get the support of the others it will also fail,” he said.
Mind-games: But Mahathir is wrong, there won’t be another May 13 tragedy
Written by Moaz Nair, Malaysia Chronicle
The country is now blessed with a two-party system that bodes well for the country. Unlike political parties of those years, both the present coalitions – Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) – are well represented by Malaysians of all races, with both dominated by ethnic Malays who form the majority race in the country.
Wisdom of the people has brought about this political sanity. For a better choice of government, this system should prevail in the country. UMNO or BN cannot be seen as the only political party that should represent all Malaysians.
To save UMNO
With each coalition well represented by all ethnic groups, Malaysians cannot be easily strayed into another bloody racial clash like the 1969 provoked riots. Mahathir Muhammad’s regular view on the May 13 issue, as reported, is still coloured by his old incongruous school of thought, which has become irrelevant in the present political context. Reminding the May 13 trouble before a general election is Mahathir’s way to jolt the people into not voting for the Opposition – a political scheme to save UMNO from sinking.
Mahathir is no doubt mindful of Najib Razak’s failings as a leader. To be honest, Mahathir does not love Najib as the leader of UMNO but he loves UMNO more. But Najib’s downfall will inevitably cause UMNO to collapse. Mahathir is thus working overtime to save UMNO from becoming a “dodo bird”, as he cannot depend on Najib anymore to save UMNO. The recent visit by Shaariibuu Setev, father of the late Altantuya (May her soul rest in peace) and his candid comments on the events leading to the disappearance of her beloved daughter in Malaysia have further damaged Najib’s reputation.
Mahathir’s use of the May 13 incident as a bogeyman to keep UMNO in power has become a cliché. This sort of intimidation is no more workable with the present generation of Malaysians. The Opposition of today is no more factious and it cannot be equated with the Opposition of the 60’s. The Opposition now is dominated by the Malay race that forms the majority in PAS and PKR. Even DAP, as opposed to MCA, is a multi-racial party with many Malay members and supporters.
The country now is relatively stable not because of the fear of any racial clash but the maturity and mellowness of the majority. The tolerance threshold is remarkably high among people of all races and religions. What’s more, the blood of every race found in the country flows in the bodies of a big mixed race in the country after almost 6 decades of independence. There is now a soft spot for Malaysians of different ethnic groups because of inter-marriages. People of all races have come to accept that every citizen has a place in this country and no single race should dominate the others in every sphere of life be it in the economy, politics or social life. Nor should minorities be exploited or discriminated against.
The impoverished group
Prior to and when the May 13 incident happened – barely 12 years after independence – the people of this country were relatively polarised. The country was seen as Malays on one side and the non-Malays on the other side of the political divide. The political set up of all parties then was not as healthy as what the country observes today. The people then liked to think of their country as a mosaic rather than a melting pot. Integration was the bottommost priority of every political party at that time. It was rather a “dog-eat-dog” kind of politics as there were many opportunists in both the political divide who wanted unqualified power by ignoring the reality of the country’s multi-racial composition.
The people of the country then were also economically polarised. Many – Malays from villages, Chinese in new villages and Indians in estates – belonged to the impoverished group. The gap between the rich and poor was extremely wide. When majority of the Chinese in urban areas dominated the economy and education the Malays, Indians and poor Chinese were generally low wage earners and were generally found in the non-lucrative agricultural sectors as farmers, fishermen and labourers. Most young Malaysians at that time could not see the reality of a multi-racial society to promote unity in a diverse society.
It is no doubt that the NEP (New Economic Policy) introduced after May 13 was necessary and did contribute considerably to our peace, stability and progress. However, it was not fully implemented according to its original spirit. And this has resulted in the prevalent polarisation and disunity among Malaysians today and thus runs contrary to the NEP’s goal as envisaged by the planners. The NEP has succeeded and also failed. It succeeded in creating access for some well-connected bumiputera into all areas of economy. But the poor Malays, Indians and Chinese are still marginalised.
However, today the bumiputera are generally well represented in all the major professions and dominate in the public sector at all levels. There is also a greater sense of economic and social stability, but these have been at the expense of national integration and unity. A big proportion of non-bumiputera were side-lined. If the NEP was implemented to remain faithful to its words and spirit, there would be no or much less polarisation.
Bad governance, corruption and ravenous greed
The NEP was abused when the minority who were well-connected politically gained at the expense of the majority. The people who are penalised most are those whom the NEP was meant to help the most – the marginalised from all ethnic groups. And today there is conspicuous income gap within the Malays, and between the Malays and non-Malays.
It’s the unscrupulous implementation of the NEP policies through bad governance, corruption and ravenous greed that has created a rent-seeking class that has sought to benefit itself at the abysmal expense of the poor and the underprivileged of all racial groups. This is where UMNO has failed the nation.
Neither were political parties in the country dominated by many sincere leaders in the 60’s. Politicians were too self-absorbed with each party earnestly working towards representing a single race or religion. Race or the dominance of religion was what politics was all about. However, all these elements have transformed for the better 33 years after the May 13 tragedy. Most Malaysians today would like to see the reality of a multi-racial society with no groups playing race- or religion-dominant politics.
The BN was supposedly formed to reduce communal politicking. Before May 13 1969, three ethnic-based political parties formed the Alliance – UMNO, the MCA and the MIC. But, it was still “utopian” because BN politicians were not happy with many issues favouring a single race, UMNO being the dominant playmaker and the sight of Indians and Chinese marginalised in many sectors of the country’s social and economic sectors.
Well represented by the Malays too
The idea of having a strong two-party system was not promoted enough then. Political parties were more into outclassing one another, perceiving that they could govern the country with race-based parties. Today politics have evolved into a more mature entity with most political parties well represented by all races. UMNO on one side and PAS together with PKR on the other side of the divide command about 50 percent of Malay supporters each and this indicates that the Malays are almost equally represented by Malay-based political parties. The Indians and Chinese too are equally split into both the BN and the PR camps.
If UMNO Malays keep deluding the people that only with UMNO around would the Malay race, Islam and the Royalty protected, the Pakatan pact could also solidly say the same as it is well represented by Malays too. The only difference is that when UMNO uses race, religion and the Royalty to dupe the people to stay in power PR refrains from such a ploy to bring the people together.
To the Opposition, social justice is of paramount importance. The poor, irrespective of race or religion, will not be side-lined. Islam is accepted as the official religion and the issue of Royalty does not arise, as the constitution has already stated visibly their rightful position in the country. There is no question or need to turn the country into a republic as the monarchy system has already become the country’s heritage.
Less evil between the two
What’s more, the government that can replace BN will have more or less the same race representations. The Opposition cannot be seen as a party that represents a single race. This has brought about to an ideal political situation in the country – the advent of a two-party system to cater for a broad spectrum of people.
UMNO’s game on race and religion to scare the non-Malays is no more sellable. If Mahathir feels it’s the fear of race riots recurring that has helped to keep the BN parties together, PR too can be kept together for the same reason. PR has to be reckoned with seeing the success of the states governed by this coalition. There is peace and stability in all the states under PR despite all the racial and religious provocations made by the sore losers after the 2008 general election.
The people in these states did not react thoughtlessly to any act or provocations which were politically motivated. The stomping of a severed cow’s head (2009) over the relocation of a Hindu temple in Selangor did not invite any distasteful reaction from the Hindus, the many desecrations of churches in some parts of the country did not lead to a religious war between Muslims and Christians, Christian bashing has not led to any provocation led by the Christian minority, the few incidences where pig carcass was thrown into mosque compounds did not end up Muslims clashing with the Chinese. UMNO and their soul mates – out of desperation and with all their muddy modus operandi – had tried to stir unrest among the people but failed, much to their displeasure.
Without UMNO’s role
There is a tendency for some minor provocations to occur if UMNO loses big in the next GE. But this will be met with rational-minded people – the Malays in Pakatan, especially. There is no reason for the other races then to fear UMNO’s high-handed tactics. UMNO must now accept the fact that it does not represent all the Malays in the country. PAS and PKR also represent the Malays. This factor alone will neutralise the whole political process in the country.
The country has since evolved into a state where all Malaysians are accepted as the rightful citizens of this country. They want to participate in the political process in a peaceful and democratic manner. Today when the country sees PAS and PKR working with DAP, there is no qualm or misgiving whatsoever among the Malays, or the fear that the DAP is against them. They have, in a way, “neutralised” DAP in Malaysian politics. The animosity that existed in the 60s’ between the Malays and Chinese has undeniably died out.
Penang under Lim Guan Eng has proven that Malaysians of all races (670 million Malays, .659 million Chinese and .155 million Indians) and religions can live in peace even without UMNO. Selangor under Khalid Ibrahim has proven to the people that a state with a population of 5.46 million, comprising 2.81 million Malays, 1.44 million Chinese and .670 million Indians can survive harmoniously also without UMNO’s role. UMNO thus cannot claim to be the only party that can bring peace and stability to the country.
They do not see race as a threat
The country now belongs to all Malaysians – with all races respecting one another. There are opportunities for all as what is being practised in Penang, Selangor and other states under PR even if the process of adjusting to this new social reality is going to take some time. For sure, no Malaysians will be marginalised. The majority Malays of today are sensible enough, as they know that they will not be left in the doldrums with such changes taking place. They will evolve to become a respectable race – away from any form of feudal indoctrination by UMNO – to be able to face healthy completion in life.
It bodes well for the country now that the Malays do not feel threatened working with the other races. They do not see race as a threat to the country but it is rampant corruption and poor governance by UMNO that are disquieting their conscience. The Malays have pleasingly united with the other races to combat abuse of power by UMNO and this has brought about to an alternative political entity in the country to oppose UMNO. Statistically, the Opposition today is more represented by the Malays than the Chinese and Indians.
The issue that the Malays, Islam and the Royal institution will be affected with the emergence of a viable Opposition is a mere political ploy by UMNO to hoodwink the innocent Malays. No single race can lead the country without the support of other races. It is for this reason BN was established. And it is also for this same reason the Pakatan Pact was established. The issue now is when BN is seen too be a corrupt and an incompetent entity there is an alternative coalition for the people to give their mandate to. This is part of a democratic process.
If UMNO feels that only they can safeguard the interests of the other races, PR being a multi-racial party also believes the same. But when UMNO is seen paying lip service to this claim of theirs PR is seen walking the talk. This can be seen in all the states under Pakatan now. That is the difference between UMNO and PR.
Choose “better” Malays to govern the country
UMNO, crazy for political monopoly, would be too glad if the Pakatan Pact collapses paving the way for a single party system. But this will never happen, as the one time fragile coalition of PAS, PKR and DAP has now evolved into a stable entity – a viable, in fact a better alternative to BN in the present scenario.
Malaysia’s provoked ethnic riots occurred on May 13, 1969. They were sparked off after Opposition parties had denied the UMNO-led Alliance its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament. This was seen by UMNO as “diminishing power” of the Malay race. But today even when BN loses in the next general election the country will still be represented by majority Malays. There should be no reason for UMNO to blame the Opposition then or scare the people with racial riots. It’s just that the people are going to choose “better” Malays to govern the country.
UMNO and BN’s problems have nothing to do with race or religion but their ineptitude in running the country. Corruption, financial fiascos, scandals, cronyism and nepotism have all contributed to the mess in the country now. Despite this failure, UMNO is clamouring that they have more right than others to govern the country just because they are represented by Malays. But this “Malay” element is also present in the Opposition Pact. The Malays are well represented in the Opposition. It is this element that has seen Pakatan coalition working successfully in Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Perak. Why the fuss then?
No more racial clashes
The strong core in BN – UMNO – the first among equals and the referee is unfortunately seen as a bully. The component members in BN are there in the coalition as beggars asking for some left-over crumbs for the minority races. In the Opposition, a leader of any ethnic group represents people of all races and he or she sees to it that the rights of all citizens are well taken care of. The core in BN – UMNO – is seen as the weakest link in BN in terms of accountability and transparency. It is more often than not seen as too arrogant and to be on its own bullying the coalition partners to keep the latter hushed. It is hence UMNO that has equally failed the BN component parties in the coalition.
The people are not looking for racial clashes anymore since nobody in the country – Malays or non-Malays – would gain anything by doing so. The people today want a truly democratic Malaysia where fair elections will determine which coalition will get to govern the country. They are seeking unity for all races as Malaysians. When UMNO fails to revive the spirit of “unity in diversity” for a better future the people’s choice would naturally be the Opposition.
Government efforts thus far to address disunity among the people are inadequate when race and religion are toyed around to scare the people. Ignoring UMNO, the advent of a two–party system would give a better opportunity for all Malaysians to choose better leaders to lead them. Each coalition will then strive hard to convince and bring the people together and this is will portend well for the nation.