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Monday, April 25, 2011

When wolves cry ‘wolf’

by Zairil Khir Johari
The Malaysian Insider

When a known liar accuses someone else of lying, whom do you trust? In a nutshell, that is the predicament faced by the proverbial boy who cried wolf. And, of late, there have certainly been many boys crying “Wolf”.

The 2011 Sarawak election has been a successful one, insofar as the DAP is concerned. However, our success has now rendered us victims of a vicious hate campaign being propagated by the BN and its media.

A quick glance at news items last week reveals a barrage of high-profile attacks on the DAP. First it began, unsurprisingly, with an editorial from Umno mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia, calling upon the BN to forego Chinese support because, ostensibly, the community has turned its back on the government. Such ungrateful citizens! We gave them the right to vote, and they dared to vote against us?

Awang Selamat’s call-to-arms was immediately followed up by a fellow Utusan editor, who went one step further by announcing the need for a “1 Melayu, 1 Bumi” movement in order to unite the “divided” Malay community.

And this is apparently necessary because Malay political power is now under threat by the Chinese, who, despite making up only 25 per cent of the Malaysian population, is suddenly capable of taking over the reins of power. I for one am glad I had a different maths teacher.

If that wasn’t enough, the president of the MCA decided to bay for blood as well, essentially threatening the Chinese community in Sarawak for their folly of daring to vote for anyone other than an “approved” BN representative.

Last but not least, joining in the chorus was a retired prime minister-turned-blogger and part-time amateur historian, said to be working on his latest book: “Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah (Di Alam Fantasiku)”.

In his usual manner, subtlety was dispensed with. The DAP is a racist party that has brought racism to Sarawak! Ruh-roh! Only the BN can truly represent the needs of the various races in Malaysia.

Phew! At the rate they were going, one would have thought the DAP had single-handedly won control of the Sarawak government. Imagine if we had actually won every seat we contested. Gasp, that would give us control over a whopping 15 out of 71 seats! Seriously, maths lessons?

Yet we should not dismiss their delirium wholesale. Let us look further and attempt to deconstruct their arguments. As it appears, the DAP’s alleged “racism” is predicated upon:

a. A mainly Chinese-member base and support.

b. The fact that we only seem to win Chinese-majority seats.

c. The “Malaysian Malaysia” slogan.

First of all, I would like to point out that every single DAP member, whether Malay, Indian, Chinese or Iban, is, above all, a Malaysian. However, if we insist on going into racial semantics, then let me be as clear as possible.

There is a world of a difference between a party with a large member base derived from a certain community, and a party with a racialist agenda. Just because a party has many members of one race does not automatically mean the party’s agenda is based along racial lines.

Similarly, when Umno is accused of being racialist, it is not because it is a Malay party, but because it espouses policies like “ketuanan Melayu”, which is not only outwardly racist but also extra-constitutional.

Now, despite deriving most of its members from one community, the DAP’s message is clearly non-racial. Our struggle is one for democracy, justice and a fairer distribution of wealth. Our campaign, and this was especially evident in Sarawak, was focused entirely on issues such as abuse of power, corruption and an authoritarian leader who has long overstayed his welcome.

If any of the above is considered racist in any way, it is only for two reasons. Either it is presumed that only Chinese Malaysians are concerned about the problems of our country, or that the aforementioned problems afflict only one race. And, unlike the MCA, we know neither to be true.

Next, the DAP does indeed win in mostly Chinese-majority seats, but how is that surprising? Being a party that is traditionally urban-based, and since most urban centres happen to be Chinese-majority, isn’t it only natural?

However, it is also important to note that many of the seats we contested and won in Sarawak were marginally Chinese majority. Hence, most of those wins would not have been possible without the votes of the other races. Thus, it is a fallacy to assume that the DAP appeals to only one section of the community.

Also, having spent the last few weeks in Sarawak, I can confirm that politics there has much less to do with race compared to Peninsular Malaysia. In fact, as my fellow columnist June Rubis so marvellously observed, nearly everyone in Sarawak is able to stake a claim on more than one of the many cultures that make up the colourful state. In fact, Sarawakian society is so plural it makes some of us Peninsular Malaysians envious.

Lastly, the DAP’s old war-cry of a “Malaysian Malaysia” is deemed to be offensive, despite the fact that it does not differ greatly from the BN’s versions, i.e. “Bangsa Malaysia” or its latest incarnation, “1 Malaysia.” Why is anything only kosher when the BN does it?

Desperation is obviously in the air when the BN will resort to anything in order to maintain its grip on power. But at what expense? The BN’s racialised posturing, in the form of fear-mongering and outward racial mobilisation, is clearly threatening Malaysian unity, and yet they claim that the DAP is trying to break the country in two.

However, despite all the spin, Malaysians are no longer so easily fooled. The Sarawak election is proof of that. This is what happens when we have finally realised that the boy crying “wolf” is actually the big, bad wolf himself.

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