Stop playing race game
Wednesday July 25, 2012
BRAVE NEW WORLD
By AZMI SHAROM
It all seems terribly coincidental that as the general election draws nearer, suddenly race riots get inserted into political speech, and a movie about May 13 is apparently waiting to be released.
The country has changed so much since 1969 that to keep using the argument that we are on the verge of race war is rather obsolete.
Let’s look at some facts. Firstly, the vast majority of the Malaysian population were not even born in 1969.
This means that first-hand knowledge of that terrible time is simply not part of most of us. Without that emotional connection, I believe that younger Malaysians are willing to question the feasibility of such a thing happening again.
And really, could it? In 1969, the politics of the nation was so very clearly divided along racial lines. The Opposition was not united as it is today. PAS won 12 seats, DAP 13 and Gerakan 8.
They were not part of a coalition and each stood on its own, therefore it was possible to play the race game because, in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor in particular, the Opposition had the face of “the other”.
Today, with the Pakatan coalition in existence, the Opposition is a much more complex animal. If the Opposition wins, how can the race card be played when two of the component parties are so predominantly Malay?
Let’s take a look at recent events that has got some powerful people’s knickers in a twist.
In particular the Bersih demonstrations of 2007, 2011 and 2012. The demographics of these events were multi-ethnic and became even more multi-ethnic with each progressive one.
By the time of this year’s Bersih demonstration, the make-up of the people who took part was much closer to the make-up of the country as a whole. However, the predominant ethnic group was still Malay.
This goes to show that the political divide, not of political parties but of ordinary citizens, can no longer be conveniently divided along ethnic lines.
Significant numbers of Malaysians, regardless of their background, can be united when they have a common political goal, in this case clean and fair elections.
Furthermore, ethnic Malays can be vocally unhappy with the status quo. In the present-day scenario, it is ridiculous to say that the politics in Malaysia is simply a matter of Malays versus Non-Malays.
And let us look at the 2008 elections. The results were unprecedented and surprised most people. I remember that night very well, as the results became clear that Barisan had lost their two-thirds majority and five state governments.
I decided to drive around Kuala Lumpur, just to see what would happen. And what happened? Nothing.
The streets were quiet. No celebratory parties, no processions, no fireworks; nothing.
The Opposition and their supporters on the streets were as muted as the Barisan and their supporters.
No gloating, no taunting, no excuses at all to provoke a reaction from the supporters of the powers-that-be.
I am certain that if a similar result is achieved in the next elections, the same would happen. There will be no provocation from the opposition and their supporters.
That is not to say there will not be any trouble. Recent events in this country have proven that there are gangs of thugs who are willing to be violent for political purposes.
The thing is though, I believe that the Malaysian public are not going to rise to the bait.
I fervently hope we will show them that we are better than them, we are nobler than them and they are nothing but hooligans with delusions of grandeur.
No, the danger that faces this country will not come from race riots.
If we have trouble in Malaysia, it will be if there is a prolonged disrespect for true democratic principles.
If the election process is not transparent and fair, if the result of a clean election is not respected, then and only then should we start to worry.
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