he time has come for all political leaders to set an example as leaders for all Malaysians to deplore all actions which could provoke inter-racial and inter-religious discord and disharmony and end all politics of race-baiting in the country.
DAP leaders and I have no hesitation in deploring the incident where two Bersih 4 rally participants stomped on the picture of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, for this is not the political or civic culture we want to see in Malaysia.
This is not a stand which I had only taken now, but which has always been my guiding principle in Malaysian politics which in three months’ time on Dec. 1 will mark my full 50 years of political involvement.
This is also not the first time where the DAP had been blamed for something which had nothing to do with the party.
For instance, in January 2014, Penang UMNO staged a gangsterish and most racist demonstration against the DAP in response to a kangkung-theme flash mob event against the Prime Minister, stuffing kangkung into the mouth of Najib’s effigy.
The Penang UMNO demonstration was a most irresponsible, incendiary and seditious incitement of racial and religious hatred, tensions and conflict, threatening with the rhetorical question: “Does DAP want another May 13” and carried the most blood-curdling racist and religious slogans and banners, even with one banner in blood red with the screaming words:“Because of DAPs leaders mouth, May 13, 1969 happened…Want some more?” and other inflammatory banners like “ABCD – Asal Bukan Cina DAP” and “DAP is the enemy of Islam”.
The problem was that the DAP had nothing to do with the kangkung flash-mob event, and I myself was shocked at the stuffing of kangkung into the mouth of Najib’s effigy, as I regarded it as offensive and knew that it would be distorted and manipulated by irresponsible elements to further incite and inflame emotions, even trying to racialise it as an attack by the Chinese against a Malay Prime Minister.
This is of course a great fallacy because Najib is not a Malay Prime Minister but Prime Minister for all Malaysians, but such distinctions would not stop racists and extremists from fomenting racist responses – as is even happening now over the Bersih 4 rally.
At the time, I did not keep my views private but went on public record that I disapproved and deplored such an action.
The worst example of such irresponsible race-baiting are the lies – which are still being spread on social media – accusing me of being the cause of the May 13 , 1969 riots in Kuala Lumpur, that I had led anti-Malay processions through the streets of Kuala Lumpur shouting anti-Malay slogans and hurling anti-Malay insults resulting in the May 13 riots when I was not even in Kuala Lumpur at the time. I was in Kota Kinabalu to campaign for independent candidates as polling day in Sabah was scheduled to be held after the voting in Peninsular Malaysia.
In my nearly 50 years in politics, I have never stepped on the photograph of any political leader.
Penang Chief Minister and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Guan Eng and I had been accused of stepping on the photographs of former Perak Pakatan Rakyat Assembly members whose defection resulted in the collapse of the Pakatan Rakyat Perak State Government in February 2009 – and there was supposed to be photographic evidence of such acts.
This is untrue and distortion of the truth. The organisers of the Perak DAP State Convention at the time had displayed the photographs of the defected Assembly members at the entrance to be stepped upon, but both Guan Eng and I did not want to do so, and what the photographs captured was our stepping over the photographs to avoid stepping on them.
Politics should not be about stepping on the photographs of our opponents, however strong our differences or intense our dislike, but about policies and programmes for the political, economic, educational and social upliftment of Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region, age, gender or party affiliation.
This was why in September 2012, I had urged the Prime Minister to fully accept the apologies tendered by the two 19-year-old teenagers Mohammad Ammar A Rahman and Ong Sing Yee as well as by their parents for their stepping on Najib’s photograph on the eve of National Day celebrations bearing in mind that “To err is human, To forgive divine”.
Even in that case, I made my position clear right from the beginning – that I do not approve or condone Mohammad Ammar and Ong Sing Yee’s actions as what they had done was wrong and deplorable; and Malaysians have a right to expect more civilised conduct by every Malaysian in public life.
However Malaysians are rightly concerned at the Barisan Nasional government’s heavy-handedness and double standards in handling such matters.
As the DAP Seri Delima Penang State Assemblyman, RSN Rayer has rightly pointed out, the police should not practise double standards but must also act against UMNO and pro-UMNO elements who had breached the law in even worse ways, committing deplorable and despicable acts such as urinating, setting fire and splashing animal blood on pictures of opposition leaders.
There is a long list of cases where Pakatan Rakyat and civil society leaders like Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, the late Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat, Bersih Co-Chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenivasan had been publicly insulted and humiliated but met with no government interest or action – including no instances of official sanction or condemnation.
All patriotic Malaysians, whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans or Ibans, and regardless of whether they are in Barisan Nasional orOpposition want peace, harmony and tolerance to continue as the hallmarks of Malaysian nationhood.
They should step forward to expose and isolate the dangerous extremists who want to inflame and incite racial and religious hatred, tensions and conflict for their short-term opportunistic objectives as the overwhelming majority of moderates in Malaysia cannot remain silent but must act immediately so as not to allow a tiny handful of extremists to destroy Malaysia.
The incident in Kuantan where Guan Eng, Teresa Kok and my photograph were the target of attack of UMNO and pro-UMNO people and such-like incidents elsewhere in the country are work of people who want to create a “racial diversion” – by stoking racial and religious tension, hatred and temperature to distract national and international attention from the scrutiny on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the UMNO/BN leadership on the financial scandals and the political and economic woes plaguing the country.
What better way than to raise the flag that the Malays and Islam are under threat in Malaysia!
The advice of the National Laureate A. Samad Said last November when the spectre of “Malays and Islam under threat” was raised just before the UMNO General Assembly is still most pertinent and valid.
Pak Samad pointed out that despite claims of a growing threat against the Malay community, the country’s leadership has remained in the hands of Malays and is still led by a party which claims to represent the Malay community.
Pak Samad that it is most peculiar that allegations of Malays under threat are constantly being played up and he advised the Malay community not to be too obsessed about claims that Malays are under threat.
Pak Samad asked:
“How are Malays under threat? How can Islam and Malays be threatened when those in power have been Malay for over five decades?
“What have the Malay leaders been doing for five decades (if Malays can be under threat)?”
Why should the country’s race relations be held to ransom every time UMNO hold its annual General Assemblies or when the UMNO President feels that his political position is threatened in UMNO and Government?
All the six Prime Ministers from the nation’s independence in 1957 were Malays – Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein, Tun Mahathir, Tun Abdullah and currently Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Have they all, or some or one of them, betrayed the Malays as Prime Minister to cause the Malays and Islam to be still under siege 58 years after Merdeka?
If Malays and Islam are under threat, it is not just the concern of Malays and Muslims, but the concern of all Malaysians regardless of ethnicity and faith, because we are all one people who want a successful Malaysia to rise from our diverse races and religions.
Patriotic Malaysians do not want Malays and Islam under threat, just as we do not want non-Malays in Malaysia, whether Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, Orang Asli or Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism to be under threat.
If Malays and Islam are under threat, they should be the concern of all non-Malays and non-Muslims, just as any problem of Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, Orang Asli or Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism under threat in Malaysia should be the concern of all Malays and Muslims in Malaysia!
We want to build a Malaysia where the Malays and Islam are not under threat – just as the non-Malays and non-Muslim religions are not under threat.
Otherwise, Malaysia would have failed in our constitutional compact to create an independent and sovereign democratic State founded upon liberty and justice, where “Islam is the religion of the Federation but other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony”, ever seeking to defend and uphold peace and harmony among its people and to perpetuate peace among nations.
Bersih 4 shows the way to build such a Malaysia – for the 500,000 people who streamed into Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu for the Bersih 4 overnight rally on August 29 and 30 came not as Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans or Kadazans; not as Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs or Taoists; but as Malaysians – and this is why the spirit of Bersih 4 is such a great threat to the politics of race of UMNO!
(Media Conference Statement at Penang DAP Hqrs on Wednesday, 2nd September 2015 at 11.30 am)