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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are We Celebrating Barisan Nasional Day?

By Kee Thuan Chye | Malaysian Digest

BARISAN Nasional (BN) has already started campaigning for the general election – even though it has not yet been called – and the Election Commission (EC) is doing nothing about it.

What’s more, BN is campaigning on a large scale and everyone can see it. It has done this by unabashedly hijacking the National Day celebrations and using it to promote its own propaganda.

The theme for the celebrations is Janji Ditepati (Promises Fulfilled) which does not sound at all like a National Day theme. It instead speaks for BN, which desperately wants to tell the rakyat that it is a government that delivers.

The National Day theme song is glaringly partisan – but for BN, not for the country. Also entitled ‘Janji Ditepati’, it highlights BN’s latest initiatives and hints that it’s time for the rakyat to show its gratitude to BN.

Look at some of the lyrics:

Janji sudah ditepati, Kini masa balas budi.

(Promises have been fulfilled, Now it’s time to return the favor.)

This is crass; it’s really asking the people to vote for BN. This is outright “I’ve helped you, now you help me”.

But why should it be for the rakyat to balas budi? BN was voted in to serve the rakyat. Why must the rakyat be grateful for that? In fact, if anyone should balas budi, it should be BN.

The song, however, is not about the rakyat. And the chorus that follows proves it:

Janji siapa? Janji kita. Janji apa? Janji Satu Malaysia.

(Whose promises? Our promises. What promises? The promises of One Malaysia.)

The song is clearly about BN. The “kita” in it refers to BN. And the mention of “Satu Malaysia” obviously connotes the slogan of the BN Government.

The worst is yet to come, in the final verse:

Ini janji kita, BR1M Satu Malaysia. Ini janji Satu Malaysia, terima Satu Malaysia. Kata kita dikota, Klinik Satu Malaysia. Janji kita ditepati, Kedai Satu Malaysia.

(This is our promise, BR1M One Malaysia. This is the promise of One Malaysia, accept One Malaysia. We have kept our word, Klinik Satu Malaysia. We have fulfilled our promise, Kedai Satu Malaysia.)

The BR1M 500-ringgit handout to households earning less than RM3,000 a month is mentioned. The 1Malaysia clinics set up to offer cheap medical services are mentioned. The Kedai 1Malaysia set up to offer lower prices for basic necessities is mentioned. What is this if not BN trumpeting its populist attempts to win the electorate’s votes?

These are lyrics for a song? If not for the fact that they are so crude and cheap, we should be rolling on the floor roaring with laughter.

How can such shameless propaganda be the stuff of our National Day theme song? It is even totally without style and subtlety. Not to mention substance.

Real songwriters would wince at hearing such lyrics. These are not lyrics, these are slogans.

The song is not celebrating National Day. It’s celebrating Barisan Nasional Day!

And it’s no wonder that the person who wrote this doggerel is Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim. Not only is he not a real songwriter; he is also caught in a time warp. Even Nazi propaganda had better style than this.

Rais is out of his depth. He is in the wrong mode. Perhaps he could write the lyrics for BN’s elegy.

Our National Day has never been so blatantly perverted. That National Day is for promoting the country, not the government, is something any Malaysian should know, most of all BN. There is a clear distinction between “government” and “country”, so let’s make sure we get it right.

National Day is for consolidating unity among the people, taking stock of where we have come to as a people, instilling a sense of pride in the country. It is not for instilling gratitude for the ruling party and fishing for votes.

Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi, however, doesn’t think that Janji Ditepati means janji BN. He gives it a bizarre twist: “It can be interpreted as ‘the people’s promise’ to maintain peace, stability, tolerance, unity and harmony.” What is this illogical rubbish? The onus is not on the people to do all that; it’s the Government’s responsibility. Why is he a deputy minister when he can’t even spin it right?

Obviously, BN has sunk to an all-time low in its desperation to cling on to power.

By right, the EC, as a supposedly independent body, should make a report against BN for transgressing election regulations. It is very clear that the campaign period permitted by law can start only from nomination day. As it is, the general election has not even been called.

And surely the fact that BN is exploiting for its own campaign something as wide-reaching and large-scale as National Day celebrations is not only unfair but criminal, even if such exploitation may not fall under the Election Offences Act 1954.

What BN could be hauled up for can be found in Part III of the Act that relates to corrupt practices. Article 10 covers the offence of giving or promising voters money, gifts, etc, to influence their vote. Isn’t BN influencing voters with its boast of promises fulfilled and its call for the people to “balas budi”? Aren’t BR1M, Klinik 1Malaysia and Kedai 1Malaysia among the money and gifts that BN has been giving to ensure a return of favours?

However you look at it, isn’t that pork barrelling, and if so, isn’t BN culpable for it?

If the EC won’t do anything, then the rakyat must consider this question: If a party entrusted with governing the country would hijack an event that is important to Malaysians for its own selfish purpose, how should the rakyat treat that party come the day of reckoning?

Oh, by the way, in case the EC hasn’t noticed, Janji Ditepati is also BN’s election campaign slogan. But then again, perhaps the EC considers that a mere coincidence.

Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, now available in major bookstores. The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer.

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