by Kee Thuan Chye
Prime Minister Najib Razak blamed the Chinese for not voting for his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition at the 13th general election on May 5 and ex-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad slammed the Chinese and the Malays who voted for Pakatan Rakyat.
Others from BN and its main component party, Umno, jumped on the bandwagon and said the same thing, accusing the Chinese of being ungrateful.
They all made it sound as if it was a great sin to vote for the Opposition.
What is so wrong with voting for the Opposition? Why is an Opposition set up in the first place? Isn’t it to provide competition to the ruling party? So if people are more persuaded by the case made by the Opposition, why shouldn’t they vote for it?
Mahathir and the rest of them surely can’t be ignorant of what a democracy is. For their enlightenment, let me point out that in a democracy, any number of parties can take part in a contest to decide which one should become the government. And the people who choose through voting are free to vote for any party.
So, since that is the case, it is neither a crime nor a moral wrong to vote for the Opposition. And that is why in a democracy, the ruling party can be voted out if more people feel it doesn’t deserve to be the government any more.
This, in fact, was what happened at GE13. The popular vote for Pakatan was higher than that for BN. But since our electoral system is based on the first-past-the-post one, and due to gerrymandering the Opposition needs to win more votes to win seats, BN came out the undeserving winner.
Ali Rustam, the former chief minister of Melaka, who lost in the polling and thereafter appeared a sore loser, echoed his master, Najib, and blamed the Chinese too. “The results have shown that the Chinese do not appreciate the Government, they just want to change without considering the consequences and what we have done for them all this while.”
Well, what is there to appreciate of a government that is corrupt and continually plays the race card? Even during the GE13 campaign period, its leaders, especially Mahathir, were saying things to demonise the DAP in order to frighten the Malays and persuade them against supporting the party and its Pakatan partners, PKR and PAS.
Furthermore, contrary to what Ali Rustam says, the Chinese did consider the consequences. They knew why they voted for the Opposition. They wanted Pakatan to form the next government so that a new Malaysia might emerge, purged of the malpractices of BN and its rotten system and culture.
And what is there to be grateful to the Government for? If it provides the things needed for society to thrive in, that is its job. That is what it was elected to do. So no Chinese, Malay, Indian, Kadazan, Iban needs to be grateful to the Government.
One more lesson for the BN leaders who are ignorant of what a democracy is – the Government is not the same thing as the party in government. They are two separate things, and therefore voting against BN is not voting against the Government. It is voting against the party that was in government up till the point Parliament was dissolved to allow for new elections. This is an important point that everyone – not only these ignorant leaders – should appreciate.
And even more important is this – BN is not the country. Anyone voting against BN is therefore not being disloyal to the country.
Anyway, Ali Rustam should learn from his BN colleague, former deputy minister Saifuddin Abdullah, who also lost in the elections.
Saifuddin said he did not blame anyone for his defeat. As for the Chinese vote, he said “it was not against the Malays and certainly not about being ungrateful”. He added: “It was more like they wanted to teach the MCA a lesson. Some of (the voters) told me frankly – we like you, but we want to teach the MCA a lesson.”
The Chinese wanted to teach the Chinese party a lesson – that summed it up correctly. They voted for the DAP, but they also voted for Malay candidates from PKR and PAS. Some Malays also voted for the DAP; otherwise, it wouldn’t have won so many seats in Johor, Selangor, Penang, etc. Which debunks the spin that Najib concocted when he said BN’s poorer performance this time was due to a “Chinese tsunami”. Fortunately, he has since been pointed out to be grossly wrong by many people, including BN politicians, who say instead that it was a “Malaysian tsunami”.
Ali Rustam is quoted in Utusan Malaysia, the Umno-owned newspaper that published the offensive article ‘Apa Lagi Cina Mahu?’ (What Else do the Chinese Want?), as saying the Chinese are racist. He might do better to reserve that tag for Mahathir.
Before polling day, Mahathir irresponsibly said that if the DAP’s Lim Kit Siang were to win the Gelang Patah seat, there would be racial conflict. And after the results came out, he blamed the Chinese and said the Malays who voted for the Opposition were greedy.
Why greedy? Because, he said, they were willing to sell their own race.
Is politics about race? In multi-racial Malaysia, should it be about race? Isn’t it perpetuating racial conflict to drum it into people they should vote for the ruling party because of their race? Why are leaders who should know better telling people to vote according to their race?
Why are leaders like Mahathir taking this racist approach?
Mahathir keeps rubbing it in that Malays who voted for the Opposition should not have done so. He seems to imply that they couldn’t think for themselves. He and his ilk must think that such Malays are stupid. But he’s very wrong. They are among the most intelligent people in Malaysia.
And the more he rubs it in, the more he will distance them from him – and his party.
Malaysians who voted for the Opposition, regardless of race, did so following their conscience. They should not be shaken by bullying talk, even if it comes from a prime minister and a former one. They ought to know what such politicians are capable of saying.
Najib now says he wants to be “a prime minister for all Malaysians” and yet he defended what Utusan Malaysia wrote in that offensive article, obviously aimed at causing racial tension. He talks of national reconciliation and yet he doesn’t walk the talk. As I have written before, in my book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, Najib speaks with a forked tongue. I am repeating it here.
If he wants national reconciliation, he should clean up the system, dismantle Mahathirism, end cronyism, free the media, make the EC and Petronas answerable to Parliament, redelineate the electoral constituencies to ensure a fair fight for all parties in GE14 … and do many more things right.
Otherwise, what he says is nothing but bullshit.
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, and the latest volume, Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More!