Do opposition ties run only as deep as Utusan’s lies?

Breaking Views
The Malaysian Insider
by Lim Yin Kuin
May 10, 2011

MAY 10 — Utusan Malaysia never ceases to confound us with the most flagrant reporting, reinforced by the most inciteful editorials.

However, their fear-invoking propaganda designed to stoke racial sentiments among the less informed seemed to have grown stale over the last few months. Awang Selamat’s consistent output of outlandishness somehow plateaued, and even “his” detractors were beginning to yawn.

Then came last week.

An alleged conspiracy by Christian leaders to replace Islam as Malaysia’s official religion was exclusively leaked by Utusan’s fearless investigative journalists (exclusive in the conventional media, at least). Just as we were digesting the treacherous plans by non-Malays to subordinate Malay rights, Utusan (or should I say Umno) stepped up their fact-finding adventures a notch: flat out accusing Christians of attempting to subvert Islam.

Truth to be told, this isn’t the first time politicians have played the religion card. Umno-extension Perkasa has always viewed the defence of Islam as part of its struggle to preserve Malay rights. The issue of the Alkitab was harped on so extensively by the opposition during the Sarawak election that Umno was able to turn the entire issue on its head, alleging instead that Christians have become overzealous in demanding their rights, forcing the opposition to go on the defensive.

The incessant attacks by Utusan Malaysia and Umno (and the MCA, if you count them) on the opposition have not only taken the focus away from key issues in Malaysia, but have offered the opposition parties fresh grounds to co-operate. If I were a BN political strategist, this would be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, my own policy failures will be hidden from public debate. On the other hand, I am giving more impetus to the opposition parties to unite against me.

To counter the second point, BN supplements these attacks by trying to play up divisions within Pakatan Rakyat. Their pitching of Malay unity to PAS has so far failed in rhetoric, but with promises of government positions and their ability to dig up skeletons in the closet, who knows?

Between incessantly making personal attacks and outlandish accusations against the opposition, and trying to play up their divisions, Umno has by and large made the first approach the dominant part of its political strategy. To which I say: maybe it’s time for a different approach?

Sure, the outrageous accusations have been effective in crowding out Pakatan Rakyat’s legitimate criticisms of BN in the headlines.

Craziness sells more papers and produces more hits on the Internet. In this year alone we’ve had a purported sex video of Anwar Ibrahim, the continuation of Sodomy II, Perkasa’s perennial madness, the relentless portrayal of the DAP as racial extremists and now the Christianity episode. But the opposition remains united.

Let’s make it perfectly clear: BN cannot be defeated overall in a general election because they make the rules, and the rules rule them out from losing, bar internal sabotage or horrific political miscalculations by the leadership. The question is how can they effectively stem the opposition’s ascendancy.

The emergence of a credible opposition has soured the political fortunes of certain sections of BN. The MCA and Gerakan have been wiped off the political scene, while many Umno members used to the old ways are unwilling to accept the challenge of fighting free and fair elections. Umno has faced questions over its credibility for the first time in decades. Their paranoia over losing power has driven them to go on the offensive against the opposition in the government-controlled media. However, their overzealous approach has increased the opposition’s resolve to stick together, as we have seen in this latest debacle, making their problem even worse.

PAS and the DAP have developed a strong rapport that would be otherwise unthinkable given their lack of ideological coherence. It was heartening to see the dignified stand both parties took when Utusan broke the news of the Christian plot. But then again, it’s easy to take a stand against the silly.

My solution to BN’s problems is this: stop pitching the crazy and give the opposition parties a break. Stop creating situations that force the opposition parties into a siege mentality and unite to form the coalition against idiocy.

Let them keep Selangor. Let the partnership run its course. When the time comes, we’ll see if the DAP’s centre-left social justice ideas can fall in line with PAS’s Islamic brand of social conservatism. I, for one, would like to see an earnest debate between the two parties on prevention vs cure policy solutions on social issues such as teen pregnancies and unwanted babies.

PAS has earned plaudits among middle-class-dominated suburbanites of Kuala Lumpur for its stand on religious moderation, but does it have an economic blueprint that matches the aspirations of the same group of people? In other words, if the common enemy, that is Umno, is temporarily out of the scene, can PAS and the DAP really work together?

In my opinion, an effective partnership between PAS and the DAP, if achieved, would represent one of the greatest accomplishments in Malaysian politics, not least because of the tremendous sacrifices that the leaders of these two parties have made over the decades for Malaysia. While it would be foolish to conclude prematurely that the two parties’ ideals are irreconcilable, conjuring up such a partnership will require strong political leadership from both camps. This paragraph is flush with idealism because sometimes I feel it’s our only hope against the current political discourse.

The first PAS-DAP experiment in Perak failed miserably due to the DAP’s own failings. We can only hope lessons were learned from that episode.

* Lim Yin Kuin reads The Malaysian Insider.

  1. #1 by k1980 on Wednesday, 11 May 2011 - 8:42 am

    umno damned stupid. Just ask Ahmad to bury a few M16s and parangs and then bring reporters to show them as being stored by the christians for an uprising. Then declare emergency rule and dissolve the opposition state govts in Kedah, Penang, selangor and kelantan. Get back 2.3 majority because all opposition leaders packed off to kamunting.

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 11 May 2011 - 9:33 am

    The writer criticism and suggestion is valid BUT he assumes UMNO can do without the crazy and silly. Because at the core of that craziness and silliness is the corruption and abuse of power UMNO cannot do without – not since Mahathir came into power. Because they can’t do without the corruption and abuse of power, what we have seen lately is merely extrapolation of that rotten core.

    As LKY said, once the core is rotten, its hopeless. If you try to deal with all the fringes of the craziness without dealing with the core, that fringe will attack that core with bigger vengeance. Its the nature of feudalistic regime. Datuk T is an example. Imagine what they would do with Najib, if Najib went after them – Anwar’s plight would look like a cakewalk.

    The writer may have a point but the argument lacks rigours. Nope, these craziness and silliness is Karma.

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