Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Time to heal


by Zaid Ibrahim

After 30 years of mollycoddling, the Prime Minister now has a real task at hand. The BN’s victory is not a sweet one. Datuk Sri Najib Tun Razak has to save the BN and himself sooner rather than later. His statement about national reconciliation, however, woke me up instantly. He has positioned national reconciliation as his most urgent priority, and so it should be. He has lost practically all Chinese support in the country, and has at the same emboldened Malay extremists to continue on their warpath to further strengthen Ketuanan Melayu, even if imperils our unity.

As a former colleague, I know him to frown on combative politics. He was always more interested in placating and pleasing, but this will not do when dealing with UMNO extremists. He tried hard to please them by putting Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Nordin up as election candidates. Sometimes his speeches to an UMNO audience bear the same uncompromising trademarks that peppered former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Ibrahim’s speeches—even Najib’s oratory style has been modulated to sound fiery. But I for one still think he has real concern for national unity. Let’s see what he will do in the next few weeks.

I will believe him to be serious about national reconciliation if he can, for a start, do the following:

Disband Biro Tata Negara, a department first started to open Malay eyes and minds to nation-building and how they can participate in the process. However, it has turned into dangerous, fascistic propaganda training that creates fear and even hatred for other races. It’s totally unproductive and gives no positive outlook to the Malays at all.
Explicitly repudiate Perkasa and the likes of Dr Mahathir, Ibrahim and Zukifli. The PM no longer has any excuse to tamely obey the wishes of Dr Mahathir as he now has his own mandate. Anything less will not do.
Instruct the Attorney-General to repeal the Sedition Act, unless he is willing to apply the law fairly and without favour. Any UMNO/Perkasa statement must be viewed objectively as the law dictates and action must be taken against those who break the law. It should not just be applied to Karpal Singh and Lim Kit Siang.
Immediately reorganise Utusan Melayu and the Media Prima Group so that media operators and journalists stop poisoning the Malays with dangerous rubbish, which has become standard practice. If the Prime Minister is unable to see the damage done by these people, then he is not fit to talk of national reconciliation.
The Chinese are not asking as much as Hindraf chairman P. Waythamoorthy did on behalf of the Indian community, which the Prime Minister has willingly obliged. The Chinese are just asking for respect and to be treated fairly. Sure, the Chinese are economically better off than the Malays, but this has nothing to do with wanting to feel included in the way this country’s affairs are managed. The Prime Minister must once and for all repudiate Ketuanan Melayu, a concept that is meaningless yet brings so much division in the country.

Some will say the Chinese are also extremists and their newspapers are also inflammatory.  Well then, apply the law fairly and prosecute them—but you can’t allow Utusan to get away with murder and complain when the Chinese react. The Chinese do not need to vote for an UMNO leader to keep their businesses running. Punishing the Chinese will not work as they are self-reliant and wily. The more the Prime Minister relies on the likes of Ibrahim and Zulkifli, the less chance an UMNO politician will get the Chinese vote.

In any case, there are Malays who will come in support of the Chinese and other ethnic groups because these Malays want to see peace and stability in the country. They abhor indiscriminate policies and they want to see unity in the long term. It’s already clear that DAP would not have done so well if not for the support of the Malays.

Finally, please stop calling Kit Siang a racist. He is a respected leader of the Chinese community and has served many years in Parliament. The Prime Minister would do well to bestow him with the title “Tan Sri” for his many years of service, just as the former Opposition Leader in Parliament Tan Chee Khoon was.

By doing these things the Prime Minister will undoubtedly be subject to serious body blows from the Perkasa patron and even his own deputy. But if the Prime Minister truly wants to unify the country, he has to have the stomach for it

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