Stop papering over cracks

By Charles Santiago, FMT

As the nation marches towards its 54th Merdeka celebrations, the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition government continues to lead the nation with no accountability. Not even a semblance of it lurking in the shadows.

Umno’s leadership has failed the people making it unlikely that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s bruises would disappear anytime soon.

Najib’s self-styled unity slogan, 1Malaysia, and public claims of a united nation only go to show the premier’s disconnect from ground reality.

What is worse is that the simmering racial and religious tension in the country is carefully engineered by Najib & Co.

In Malaysia, stirring racial and religious sentiments have become fashionable ways of ensuring the ruling elite’s continued hold on power.

Playing up issues of apostasy, indulging in smear campaigns against opposition politicians, openly playing double standards, using the police to instil a climate of fear among the people, engaging in backdoor deals to win the next election are some of the crucial issues gripping the nation.

But just like over the years, we see the government preparing an ambiance of pomp and glamour to usher in the country’s 54th year of independence from British rule. Najib has even thought out a costume and colour theme for the celebrations.

It is delusions to believe that a fusion of dances and colourful parade would make brewing discontent on the ground go away. Najib must know, by now, that this is no child’s play.

Getting out of control

Come Merdeka Day, we would watch the Malays, Chinese and Indians taking part in the parade, as a sign of unity and mutual respect for each other. And yet this neat juxtaposition is misleading.

In reality, we have seen some leaders promising bloodshed over unverified allegations of proselytisation by some churches.

These vile-mouthed villains have no qualms reading out statements which stoke racial sentiments outside police stations.

While the government acts with lightning speed to nab opposition politicians and human rights activists for alleged illegal gathering, they ignore the ramblings of these political leaders.

Government-owned print and electronic media are given a free hand to further fan racial flames in the country.

Opposition newspapers and alternative media have to resort to self-censorship or have their publishing licenses revoked. The online media are constantly harassed for writing the truth.

Government channel, RTM1, has falsely linked myself and my colleagues Ean Yong Hin,  Boo Cheng Hau, Tan Kok Wai, and Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s Dr Nasir Hashim to a Facebook group called the “Murtads in Malaysia and Singapore”.

Checks with my Facebook friends have shown that many were added to the group as the administrator of these groups do not need permission before doing so. But the irresponsible reporting by the television station caricatures the extent of dirty politics in the country.

Government leaders certainly know stirring racial sentiments could get out of control. The nation had borne witness to the riots of 1969 and 2001. But potentially damning issues are fashioned by Umno leaders to frighten the Malays and bring them back to the party fold.

Blatant cover-ups

After all, Umno and BN leaders are adamant about winning the next general election at all cost.

The government’s only concern is about winning the four states ruled by the opposition and ensuring two-thirds majority in Parliament.

In order to see that materialize, government’s leaders are injecting venom into our political veins without caring two hoots about the consequences of their actions.

Playing up racial sensitivities is not their only devious plan. It is also registering permanent residence (PR) holders and illegal immigrants to shore up its voter bank.

The Election Commission is nonchalant about revamping the electoral system and is aligned with the government, raising questions about the integrity of the electoral body.

Although the EC and government are waltzing together, locked in each others’ arms, the people are getting fed-up with decades of abuses which are ingrained in the electoral system.

Their dissatisfaction was candidly marked when tens of thousands of people defied police orders and rallied on the streets, despite the presence of stern-looking cops and baton-wielding anti-riot policemen, to call for free and fair elections on July 9.