Uncommon Sense with Wong Chin Huat: Lahad Datu — How might Malaysians vote in the GE?


Should Najib be rewarded now that Malaysia appears to have won the battle but only after the loss of eight Malaysian police officers? Should Sabahan voters instead punish the BN for the failure of coastline control for decades and the treacherous project of enfranchising foreigners which led to this incident?

THE Malaysian security forces finally launched a military offensive against Filipino militants who landed on Sabah’s shores on 9 February 2013 to reclaim it for the Sulu Sultanate. Deaths have mounted, with more than 50 Sulu militants and eight Malaysian police personnel killed. (Update: an unidentified teenager was shot by Malaysian forces on 10 March.) But the Barisan Nasional (BN) government initially appeared more interested in negotiating with the armed intruders and downplaying their hostile intentions.

The Nut Graph asks political scientist Dr Wong Chin Huat what to make of the government’s response and what impact it may have on the coming general election.

TNG: What are your comments on the BN government’s initial response to the invasion?

The government seemed to initially adopt an appeasement policy towards the foreign combatants who invaded our land and openly claimed ownership of it. The invaders landed on 9 February and on 18 February, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein actually claimed they were neither terrorist nor militant.

It took 25 days for the Malaysian security forces to take action on 5 March. By then, two police commandos had been killed on 1 March in Lahad Datu and another six the following day in Semporna. Hishammuddin had tweeted on 28 February that our security forces had not fired any shots but were shot at that morning.

It does seem that our government was initially bending over backwards to downplay the threat from the invaders. Especially when compared with their contrasting attitude when they detained Australian Senator Nick Xenophon at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal and thendeported him.


What do you think are the reasons for the government’s slow response?

There are three possible answers to our government’s initial appeasement policy.

First, our authorities could be pacifist to the core. They might beat up unarmed Malaysiandemonstrators to maintain public order but they will not mess with foreign combatants. In that sense, Xenophon’s problem was not that he interfered in Malaysian internal affairs, but that he didn’t do so backed up by over 100 militants. In Hishammuddin’s words, “Since they had guns, it is important our action does not lead to bloodshed.”

Mahathir (© Syrenn | public domain)

Mahathir (© Syrenn | public domain)

Second, there are the conspiracy theories. Against the background of Tun Mahathir Mohamad’s Project IC, some theorise that the Sulu militants are part of the BN government’s plot to enfranchise more foreigners. The talk of the militants coming to claim land offered to them, claimed by Filipino sources, fuelled this line. Another variant pursues the possibility that the crisis was manufactured to either frighten the Sabahans to vote BN or to generate patriotic sentiments which BN may ride on. Alternatively, this could be used to justify an emergency in Sabah. The traditional media accusing the opposition leaders of triggering the crisis adds credibility to this variant of conspiracy theory.

The third possibility is of course that the authorities have acted flawlessly. The appeasement in the first three weeks was part of the game plan to make the Sulu invaders look unreasonable, hence paving the way for their annihilation later. In other words, the delay and seeming indecisiveness were all part of the master plan.

Which possibility is the most likely?

It is difficult to say. It is unlikely that the claim about land being offered can be validated. Even if this is true, the Kiram clan may not press this as they may be busy negotiating to avoid criminal charges by both the Philippines and Malaysia.

It is also subjective whether the three-week delay and appeasement manifested by Hishammuddin emboldened the Sulu militants’ aggressiveness and contributed to avoidable loss of Malaysian lives. A critical assessment that truly puts national interests before partisan interests may not be possible for now as the nation is seemingly engulfed in a mood of unconditional patriotism.

What effect could this invasion and the BN government’s response have on the election results in Sabah and in Malaysia as a whole?

Thatcher (© Jay Galvin | Flickr)

Thatcher (© Jay Galvin | Flickr)

It really depends on whether Sabahan and Malaysian voters will accept a Johnny-come-lately Margaret Thatcher in Datuk Seri Najib Razak. When the Falkland Islands were invaded by the Argentineans on 2 April 1982 in an undeclared war, an emergency Parliament meeting was convened. Thatcher rallied her Parliament and the nation to start a campaign which saw the British triumph in 74 days. Looking like another determined and brave war leader after Winston Churchill, Mrs Thatcher won the nickname “Iron Lady”.

In contrast, Najib let his ministers handle the crisis while he went on his election campaigns, showing little sense of urgency. No emergency Parliament sitting has been convened despite calls from the opposition and the public to do so to enable national deliberation and resolution. Instead, the home minister made unimaginably appeasing remarks, as described earlier.

Read more at: http://www.thenutgraph.com/uncommon-sense-with-wong-chin-huat-lahaddatu-how-might-malaysians-vote-in-ge/