Now, if I were to take RPK’s postulation as the truth, it must follow that Mum must be included amongst those who must bear the burden and blame for the present state of the nation, whilst Dad is completely faultless [for voting BN].
“Actually, it is the Chinese and Indians who are to be blamed. They are the real traitors. Malaysia could have been saved a long time ago if not because of the Chinese and Indians. And now, cakap banyak! What a load of bullshit these Chinese and Indians. They know they are to be blamed but they pretend as if they are innocent victims of Umno’s injustice. I don’t mind if Umno wins the next election just so that the Chinese and Indians can face a few more years of punishment for the sins they have committed in keeping Umno in power for so long” – RPK, in his post, “Dosa Cina dan India kepada Malaysia”
If this was RPK’s way of castigating some of his commentators who he perceives to be racist in their comments, I’ll say no more on the matter.
If, however, it was intended as a statement of fact of general application, I will state my case here as to why I do not agree with my friend.
My late father was Malay.
In fact, more Malay than RPK.
He was never a card-carrying member of any political party nor was he ever a Malay nationalist.
Whilst in the civil service, he was referred to as the ‘Walking Webster’, such was his command of the English language.
At home, I don’t recall us ever buying the Utusan Malaysia.
It was always the Star and the New Straits Times.
Until he passed away in 2004, to the best of my knowledge, he always voted BN.
Mum, a Sri Lankan, as far as I know, always voted BN.
Now, if I were to take RPK’s postulation as the truth, it must follow that Mum must be included amongst those who must bear the burden and blame for the present state of the nation, whilst Dad is completely faultless.
To fully appreciate why my parents and, I dare say, a great many of their generation, were inclined to vote BN again and again, three dark episodes in our short national history need be re-visited.
First, May 13, 1969.
If, to this day, we are still in the dark as to what precisely triggered the inter-racial killings then, imagine how the adult generation then would have coped with the seeming prospect of a nation barely 12 years old on the verge of being torn apart through racial strife?
One can well understand the preoccupation of a citizenry, then, irregardless of faith or ethnicity, to see peace and stability restored.
It was against this national aspiration that the second dark episode took place : the tripartite Alliance coalition was dissolved, to be replaced by the Barisan Nasional, which effectively co-opted nearly all of the opposition parties into its fold, each component ostensibly entrusted to oversee the interests of their respect ethnic community.
In one foul swoop, the opposition was near decimated.
More importantly, the formation of BN then saw the seed of race-based, ethnic politics sown at national level, extended now to beyond Malaya, into Sabah and Sarawak, by the entry of political parties from the last two named into BN.
In his post, RPK opines that “…For almost 40 years the Chinese continued to vote for Gerakan in spite of the fact that it sold out the voters and joined the ruling government”.
I think the leaders of those parties that joined BN when it was first formed then sincerely believed that this was the right move to restore the stability and peace that the general populace desired.
I think this overall objective in the formation of BN to restore peace and stability continued right through the tenure of both Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn, but things started to go wrong soon after Mahathir took office. How and why this happened, if it needs to be stated, will have to wait for another day.
The third dark episode that had a tremendous effect on how my parents generation and the generations immediately after voted was Ops Lalang in 1987.
Firstly, Mahathir’s use of the ISA to cast the detention net far and wide, beyond his political foes to include civil society leaders, instilled a culture of fear amongst the people.
Secondly and, in my view, more pertinent to the issue at hand, many of the print media then, initially suspended, when allowed to publish again, were never the same. Where once they were known to be critical of the government when such criticism was warranted, they were now no more than government mouthpieces to spew pro-BN propaganda.
I would as such opine that for a long time, the desire for peace and stability, a culture of fear instilled in the people and a mainstream media-driven belief that only BN could ensure that stability caused many people, my parents included, to vote in BN again and again.
RPK tries to make out a case that ‘back in 1990, the Malays were already voting opposition while the Chinese, Indians and minorities of East Malaysia were still voting Barisan Nasional. It is only of late, four years ago in 2008, that the Chinese and Indians (not yet the minorities of East Malaysia) started voting opposition. But they talk as if the fight for change was a purely Chinese and Indian effort since the beginning of time’.
Well, the truth is that back in 1990, the original UMNO of 1946 had been declared illegal, Mahathir had gone on to form UMNO Baru, which is in fact the present day UMNO, the Baru having been conveniently dropped, whilst Tengku Razaleigh went on to form Semangat 46. The ex-UMNO members, now in Semangat 46 and then working with DAP through the then Gagasan Rakyat, would certainly have accounted for an increased Malay vote for the opposition.
Speaking of the increased Malay vote for the opposition in 1990, my friend, Khoo Khay Peng, makes an interesting observation in his post, ‘Gerakan wanted out too in 1990′, where he notes :
“During the 1990 elections, Razaleigh and Lim Kit Siang flew to Sabah to receive Pairin into the Gagasan Rakyat fold..The PBS under Pairin had agreed to leave BN and join Gagasan Rakyat bringing along the state of Sabah. This defection was kept in secrecy, nobody knew about it, not even the BN.
After this, Razaleigh was supposed to fly to Johor to meet up with leaders of another major party from the Peninsular Malaysia who had shown interest in defecting to the Gagasan Rakyat. That party was Gerakan.
All things were running smoothly until Pairin made public the PBS’s defection and everything fell apart with the meeting with the Gerakan was called off. If Pairin had withheld the announcement, Gagasan Rakyat would have two states in its pouch before the polling day.
The strategy was that Razaleigh would announce the defections on polling day and hoped to catch the BN with its pants down. But the early announcement gave the BN ample time to muster its propaganda machine to attack Razaleigh with fraudulent claims that Gagasan was Christian-ising the Malays.
In the end, the Malays left Gagasan in droves“ .
As I recall, there is truth in the last sentence.
In 1991 or 1992, Perkasa’s Ibrahim Ali, then Semangat 46 youth chief, went back into the UMNO fold.
And in October, 1996, Tengku Razaleigh disbanded Semangat 46 and with most of the members, went back to UMNO.
The 1990 elections also saw Mahathir’s trademark spill over from the party elections into the general elections that year : money politics.
As 1 of 6 lawyers policing the polling stations in Kota Baru that year, I and several others witnessed first hand attempts to bribe some of the poorest Kelantanese who were coming out to vote.
And Aliran reports that the problem of phantom voters and an unreliable electoral roll is not a recent phenomena but even plagued the 1990 GE.
Kit Siang, speaking in Parliament on 15th March, 1991, categorised the 1990 GE as the dirtiest ever.
In that election, UMNO won 71 seats, MCA 18 seats whilst MIC won 6 seats.
On the opposition side, DAP won 20 seats, Semangat 46 won 8 and PAS won 7.
If one were to take a simplistic analysis of this figures by assuming only Malays voted UMNO and the opposition parties of Semangat 46 and PAS, the Chinese only voted for MCA and DAP whilst the Indians only voted for MIC, it could be argued that the Chinese were the main contributors to the opposition whilst the Malays largely contributed to the BN win that year.