Koon Yew Yin
8th February 2014
When Theresa Kok’s video clip for the Chinese New Year first appeared, I saw it as a cleverly done piece of political satire. It was funny, original and thought provoking. I thought the references to various personalities and public issues of concern captured some of our recent political controversies in a refreshingly irreverent and comical way. The clip brought back to me memories of that hugely popular and successful British television series, “Yes Minister” which first ran in the 1980’s and has been recently revived.
At the same time that I appreciated the black humour and wit in the “ONEderful Malaysia!” video, I was concerned that it would be viewed the opposite way by the Government and UMNO’s political supporters and would become ammunition for them to hit back not only against her, but also the DAP and the opposition parties as a whole.
Clearly the video was intended to draw attention to issues of public concern. It was also meant to draw attention to Theresa Kok as a politician and to enhance her public image. But what if the Government or its supporters twisted it around and concocted elements of racial or religious discord to smear the DAP and Pakatan coalition? I was especially concerned that the targeting of the video to a Chinese audience and timed for the Chinese New Year period was strategically unwise and could backfire.
My worse fears have now proven correct. Muslim groups have seized on the video clip to engage in a new round of frenzied opposition and DAP bashing. Besides engaging in the now standard practice of stomping on banners and portraits of their political opponents, these groups have gone a step further by smearing the banners with blood from freshly slaughtered chickens – an unprecedented act of violent symbolism. Further they have also upped the ante by offering a reward to any of their supporters willing to slap Theresa – an invitation that could easily lead to a more violent outcome should some fool hardy supporter decide that a slap was not sufficient to restore their lost ‘dignity and honour’.
This response by the political enemies of Theresa and the DAP has been rightly condemned by both sides of the political divide in the country. Action has also been called for the authorities not only to investigate the alleged seditious content of the video clip but also the response by the Muslim groups to it.
What’s happening appears to be a spiraling of the country towards greater racial and religious strife and enmity which can only have a disastrous end result. A number of other groups and organizations have also viewed with increasing alarm the deterioration in our political situation. For example, a petition campaign has been launched by academics from Malaysian and abroad calling for the renunciation of violence by political leaders and parties. Everyone needs to sign on this petition. There have also been calls made for the National Unity Consultative Council to move more quickly in its work of national reconciliation so that whatever measures it is recommending is not too little too late. More groups and individuals should come out to provide constructive suggestions on how we can restore “muhibbah” and inter-racial solidarity.
Speaking as a Malaysian Chinese, I would like to appeal to our Chinese leaders to think twice or three times or even more before engaging in any political publicity especially aimed at the Chinese electorate because it is so easy for the other side with its dominance of the Malay and official media to distort or spin its message and intentions. We all should know that there are double standards in this country and of course this is something which is deplorable and runs against the grain of any democratic system. However, we have lived with these double standards for a long time and we must learn to live with them a little longer and be more circumspect and strategic in our opposition. We must understand that the final break with these double standards will not come about as a result of the Chinese leaders putting up such video clips aimed at the Chinese community.
Finally, it is not difficult to find a solution to this particular episode of racial tension.. All that needs to be done is for Theresa Kok to say that she is sorry if she has offended anyone’s sense of racial or religious honour as she had no intention of doing so.
At the same time, Prime Minister Najib Razak should say that he has found the video clip quite funny and well acted, even if he thinks it is inaccurate and wrong in its insinuations. He may want to note that the “Yes Minister” programme was Prime Minister Margaret Thacher’s favourite programme!