by Maclean Patrick | FMT
In AD 64, 10 of the 14 districts of Rome went up in flames in a fire that raged for five and a half days.
Contrary to popular belief, Nero did not light the “Great Fire of Rome”. This was a rumour at the time and in order to deflect blame, Nero blamed the Christians. Thus, began the persecution of the Christians under Nero’s reign. During this period, Christians were tortured, fed to the animals and burnt at the stakes (illuminating Nero’s palaces during his parties to which we get the term “human candle”).
After the Great Fire of Rome, Nero organised relief efforts for all those affected. He opened his palaces to shelter the victims of the fire and provided food for the starving citizens. Nero played the saviour of Rome, winning over the hearts of the Romans with his charitable works. And when it came time to find fault, Nero placed the blame on the Christians without providing any proof whatsoever on their alleged involvement.
Now fast-forward to May 2011, and Christians were again falsely blamed for a fire started by a rumour. Only this time, the accuser and the ruler are in cahoots. While the nation simmers as religious and racial tensions rise – created largely by Utusan Malaysia and Umno – Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak steps in in an attempt at playing the good “cop”.
Shame on Najib, for like Nero, all your deeds are just for personal gains. All your deeds are to secure your position as head of this corrupt government. Shame on you that you would burn, at the stake, innocents just so that you may gain more support from the Malay grassroots.
There is internal bickering within Umno itself as to who will helm the party after Najib. And seemingly anxious to show his strength, Najib is working over-time to garner the support of the Malays as the nation heads towards the 13th general election.
This fear of losing the reins of government is further compounded by gains the opposition front made in the recent Sarawak state election. People are waking up and making a stand.
A huge mis-step was made by Umno and its various mouthpieces stepped out to attack the Chinese for their support towards the DAP, especially after the Sarawak state election. The poor mindset of the Barisan Nasional (BN) at that time was that all Chinese support had been thrown behind the DAP and therefore the Chinese had to be punished.
Thus, various accusations were levelled at the Chinese, prompting even the Chinese component parties within BN to state their stand. In all this bickering, did Najib step forward to stamp his authority as the prime minister of Malaysia? No, instead he allowed it to fester. And when the Chinese have been painted as enemies of the BN and the government, the same charge was hurled at the Christians.
It comes as no surprise that the DAP and the Christian community were jointly charged when Utusan Malaysia lied about a plot to Christianise Malaysia. And did Najib step forward to defend the minority group being targeted by this deluge of lies and unfounded accusations? No. Instead, he opted to keep quiet and being the opportunist, he would play the role of good cop.
Let’s not be hood-winked by the play being scripted here. Najib played it out as if the Christians were the one causing all the ruckus. Why then did Najib not meet DAP, too, since it was also labelled by Utusan Malaysia for being in cahoots with the Christians?
No, Najib was not out to calm matters. Instead, the matter has been turned on its head and the Christian leaders were made out as apologetic leaders apologising to the prime minister for even thinking about the matter. Did Najib in any way tell the leaders that they were not to blame but that it was Utusan’s fault for reporting lies? No.
Najib assured the Muslim leaders that Islam will remain the religion of the federation, and the Christian leaders assured the Muslims that Islam’s place will be respected.
Umno, Najib and Utusan Malaysia washed off their hands for an obvious misdeed. And for formality’s sake, Utusan Malaysia was only issued a warning letter and bloggers like Big Dog were allowed to continue yelping in their kernel.
Shame on you, Najib. You are the prime minister for all Malaysians and especially responsible for the minority voices in the country. Yet, you safeguard your own position first at the expense of the minorities.
You allow the nation to burn under the weight of mismanagement and turn on the minority communities, branding them as the culprits for your inability to control your reckless minions.
The problem in Malaysia is not so much racial or religious tension but rather it is a leader who is so out of touch with the principles of governing people of diverse backgrounds.
Maclean Patrick is a Kuching-based blogger and an FMT columnist.