History’s lessons

by Karim Raslan
The Malaysian Insider
Jul 05, 2011

JULY 5 — Malaysian contemporary history has started to loop back on itself. Instead of going forward and progressing, we are going backwards, repeating the past: Sodomy 1 and Sodomy 2, Bersih 1 and Bersih 2.

There are those who would argue that the political missteps have little impact on our economy. I would disagree. In order for the Malaysian economy to grow further and move to the next level, we need a political transformation — we need an injection of transparency, accountability and the dynamism that comes from an open society.

Sadly, the forces of darkness are too powerful and entrenched. As such much of the flow of domestic capital and human resource overseas is directly attributable to the government’s determination to reject change.

When talk of Bersih 2.0 first surfaced a few weeks ago, I remember thinking it was a total waste of time. To my mind, the civil society agenda had been sidelined by widespread concerns over galloping inflation and rising prices.

However, instead of being forgotten Bersih 2.0 has become more and more prominent. This is not due to its promoters’ savviness. Indeed, the government is directly responsible for the escalation. The shrillness of the mainstream media’s coverage and the government’s hard-headedness has brought us to this impasse.

Over the past few weeks Bersih 2.0 has become a lightning rod for political change — dividing society. To my mind this is faintly ridiculous since the movement’s stated aims are simple enough for anyone to accept. How can we reject the call for clean and fair elections?

First off we need to bear in mind that Bersih 2.0 also raises a fundamental question: namely the Freedom of Assembly —which is guaranteed in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

However, since the race riots of 1969, the Malaysian government has essentially taken a view that this freedom should be curtailed for the fear of disruption. The fact that we are still fearful of racial violence some forty years on from May 13th is an indictment of feebleness of our achievements since 1969.

Wasn’t the New Economic Policy supposed to have redressed such imbalances and restructured Malaysian society towards a harmonious end? Have we failed to grow and/or mature since those race riots? Aren’t we stronger and more resilient as a nation?

There are three other points which I’d like to make here:

Firstly — and this is something I’ve been saying for many years now — is that the internet along with Facebook and Twitter have flattened traditional hierarchies and established structures.

As such, the mainstream media is no longer the sole source of information and opinion. This technological shift demands a similar shift in terms of mindset and strategy from political parties and indeed, governments.

Needless to say, I have seen little evidence of such a change amongst the Barisan Nasional and Umno leaders most of whom prefer to hide behind the laws rather than debate issues openly. Indeed, the BN’s political philosophy and record is much better than many realise. I would argue that poorly informed and incompetent ministers are doing more to torpedo the government’s credibility amongst the Malaysian public than the opposition.

Secondly, in handling Bersih 2.0, the authorities have to realise that the key players are now from PAS. Anwar Ibrahim is a shadow of his former self. Ambiga Sreenevasan’s abrupt dismissal of his offer to stop the demonstrations reveals his diminished stature.

However, PAS’ ulama are not conventional politicians. Locking up and/or beating Tok Guru Hadi Awang would turn him into a political giant. Victimizing the ulama would outrage popular sentiment and propel PAS even further to the forefront.

Thirdly and finally, it would be wise to bear in mind that as Winston Churchill once said: “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”

Many of the factors present in the run-up to the historic 2008 polls are present once again — inflation, a dramatic swing in the Sarawakian state elections, disaffection amongst Chinese and Christian communities not to mention simmering discontent in the cities and urban areas.

The Barisan Nasional and Umno are no longer setting the agenda. Instead, wittingly or not, they appear to be following an opposition ‘play-book’.

In such a context will history repeat itself? Could it be that, Tsunami 1 will be followed by Tsunami 2…the choice is Barisan’s.

* Karim Raslan is a pundit on regional affairs and a columnist with several regional newspapers.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 12:23 am

    NR, HH, MY, UmnoB learnt fr racist MMK n tried 2 imitate MMK’s ways 2 lie, con, scare, suppress, corrupt, punish, lock up, divide n rule
    4 d sake of dis nation’s future, voters MUST make a decision n choice in d next GE
    Time 2 eliminate UmnoB/BN (remember how they handled BERSIH 2.0) 4 d good of dis nation n its citizens

  2. #2 by monsterball on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 12:30 am

    The fear of loosing power when the power is given not inherited have made the UMNO B leaders doing and talking nonsensical things.
    The fear of loosing power is real..as we can see they cannot think or do things that the vast majority Malaysians have trust in them at all.
    The hypocrisy is so clear too.
    This fear is by rouges and thieves are not afraid to loose power but afraid to be arrested and charge in courts..for massive corruptions and looses all their wealth and properties…besides landing in jail.
    This is not about history repeating itself.
    It is about a band of robbers and thieves …robbing and stealing for decades..with total confidence not to be caught…and only possible….if they can govern forever.
    It is about Judgement Day have come for them…and it’s real.
    It is about People Power out to change the government that UMNO B is most afraid of.
    They provoke and create issues out of no issues for one good reason….to declare Emergency Rule…as the last resort.
    Our King stepped in and make sure Malaysia is a democratic country…which is making UMNO B job more difficult.
    The future looks bright for a Malaysian Malaysia…and that frightens the crooks most.
    Bluffing days are over…will not work with smart Malaysians.

  3. #3 by donplaypuks on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 12:30 am

    “The fact that we are still fearful of racial violence some forty years on from May 13th is an indictment of feebleness of our achievements since 1969.”

    Wrong Karim. Stop being an UMNO/BN apologist. It is sign of the desperation of this UMNO leadership which wants to cling on to power at any and all costs!

    That’s why they raise the spectre of 1969 everytime someone wants to legitimately protest against their one sided policies and corrupt practices.

    Now we heard it straight from PM Najib’s mouth:

    ” Who doesn’t know about Ambiga. She’s the one who threatened Islam.”

    That’s State sponsored racism and religious bigotry.

    And we heard it also from that foul mouthed an low IQ Ibrahim Ali:

    “That bloody Hindu woman.”

    And the fascist actions of the cops in arresting those wearinf Yellow Bersih T-shirts and claiming Dr. Jeyakaumar wanted to “wage war against the King” and re-introduce Communism?

    That’s a police state if ever there was one!

    we are all of 1 Race, the Human race

  4. #4 by yhsiew on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 12:35 am

    ///Could it be that, Tsunami 1 will be followed by Tsunami 2…the choice is Barisan’s.///

    If Umno/BN do not reform, the rakyat will reform them. After Tsunami 1, Najib promised reform but where was his reform? Didn’t we see retrogression instead of reform?

    Umno/BN risk being punished by the rakyat come GE13 for failing to reform.

  5. #5 by Cinapek on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 12:39 am

    UMNO/BN is locked in a time warp and cannot see the forest for the trees. They are so caught up in the superficial problems that the Bersih 2 rally might cause that they fail to see the larger picture. And because they fail to see the larger picture their actions and reactions made the situation worse. And Perkasa, their outsourced stormtroopers, UMNO Youth and Utusan, with their belligerence made the situation worse for UMNO by blinding them to the effects of their bad decisions.

    More than anything else, the neutrals are alarmed at the infantile reactions of the Home Minister, the PM and the PDRM’s heavy handedness in dealing with the situation. They are also alarmed at the personal attacks on Ambiga. The general public now view this Govt. as arrogant and incapable of putting up any good counter arguments or have the brains to do it and all they know what do is to use brute force when they cannot win an argument. The people dread that this will be the way going forward and the Bersih movement is gaining momentum because the people wants to stop the BN Govt dragging this country into an abyss of no return.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 2:19 am

    ///Ambiga Sreenevasan’s abrupt dismissal of his offer to stop the demonstrations reveals his diminished stature///

    Ambiga got wise. She has to face the music and face ISA if she presses on. As far as Anwar is concerned, he is already facing the music and however Bersih 2.0 turns out – peaceful or turn ugly- he has nothing lose but likely to gain from the political standpoint.

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 2:23 am

    Ambiga didn’t bring any opposition politician to Istana. She went earlier.

  8. #8 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 3:36 am

    黄色起义: 诉求一个干净、公平的选举制度
    马来西亚选民用神圣的选票来推翻贪污揽权, 种族极端 和低能的政府

  9. #9 by trublumsian on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 4:13 am

    Ambiga declined Anwar’s offer because she has maintained all along the rally is to promote fair election and is not political. Unlike the BN numbwits she does not mix things up. Ambiga did right and did it well.

  10. #10 by Winston on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 5:14 am

    The problem, the real problem, is how to obtain a level playing field
    for the elections, all elections.
    The politicians, who want fair and clean elections must put all their minds
    and might towards this end.
    The Bersih 2.0 march is but one of the objectives towards this end.

  11. #11 by isahbiazhar on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 5:23 am

    THE GOVERNMENT IS DIGGING ITS OWN GRAVE.First it did not abolish the Sedition Act.This alone shows that the government cannot rule without the Sedition Act.Secondly rising prices had affected the poor and middle class people.Thirdly Sabah and Sarawak are asking for greater share of the oil wealth; not forgetting Terengganu which had been taken a ride by the great Mahathir.Christians,Hidus and Buddhists have been treated badly by the government.After 54 years of rule all the wealth are enjoyed by the BN and UMNO.When the advanced countries are giving free education up to the university level, the Malaysian government is trying to make money out of its people.Taxes are going up every year that it shudders to think how the average Malaysian going to live in the future.The Chinese ,the Indians and the other Bumiputras are not treated as citizens of the country.Soon foreigners will dominate the country when the economy isopened up to them.The Malaysian government coffers are dried up to take up equal investment overseas to balance the flow as one way flow will be detrimental to the country.The stiffling of the opposition parties and not respecting them as equal made UMNO a pariah party in the eyes of the world.All these will give rise to another Sunami which will be the end of one party dominancy in the country.The timely intervention of Mizan had saved Najib but it had not saved him from the final defeat.

  12. #12 by k1980 on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 7:40 am

    //Tsunami 1 will be followed by Tsunami 2//

    More likely cfour1 is to be followed by cfour2, then cfour3, and so on…

  13. #13 by k1980 on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 7:43 am

    Now that ambiga is so powerful, will jibby divorce loh see mah so that he can hitch up with the former?

  14. #14 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 8:09 am

    Will BERSIH 2.0 invite Silat exponents, led by Melaka CM, 2 perform in d stadium?

  15. #15 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 8:16 am

    Talk of election is foolish. There is no way Najib is going to do it for the next 12-24 months. He probably is thinking of ways to squirm his way into delaying for more than mandated 5 years.

    But his immediate problem now is how to face his own party. The next UMNO General Assembly is really where the sparks are going to fly. Najib is on the floor, hurt and possibly wounded irreversibly. The issue is what will the right wing and particularly Mahathir do about it?

    Najib’s career is over unless he face down Mahathir and the likes of Perkasa.

  16. #16 by Comrade on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 8:16 am

    BN must either reformed or be reformed
    If they the government of the day
    Repeat what they have wrongly performed
    Then Tsunami 2 will be on the way

  17. #17 by Comrade on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 8:26 am

    ‘either reformed’ should be ‘either reform’

  18. #18 by wanderer on Wednesday, 6 July 2011 - 8:36 am

    The political Beggar Parties, MCA MIC and Gerakan are history!!…UMNO on the way to the achive shelf as well…matter of time.
    History shows true Malaysians have the will to get the nation bounce back to sanity and democracy…even the Agong must have realized, “Enough is enough”…he too must earn his super!

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