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Inferior food and politics

DURING the week of 19 to 25 Sept 2008, the Malay dailies focused largely on Teresa Kok’s detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA), issues of ethnic relations, and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s bid to take over government.

Kok’s detention and release a week later saw several senior politicians try to mitigate the resultant political impact, and to distance themselves from the episode.

On 20 Sept, Utusan Malaysia‘s report Pembebasan Redakan Polemik ISA — Najib quoted Datuk Seri Najib Razak as saying that the release of the Selangor exco member and DAP Member of Parliament for Seputeh would “help reduce the polemic on the act.”

“If the police believe that Teresa should be released, I welcome it,” Najib said.

On the same day, in Utusan Malaysia’s report Kuasa Polis Bebaskan Teresa, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said he was “not involved in the release and was only informed about the matter after.”

“This is normal; the police do not have to inform me or get my approval, and this can be done within 60 days [of arrest],” Syed Hamid said.

On 20 Sept, Sinar Harian in its article BN Tidak Terlibat Penahanan Teresa reported on Selangor Umno state liaison chairperson Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib as saying that the Barisan Nasional (BN) was “never involved in the matter” and did not influence the authorities to detain Kok.

Dog food

Kok’s detention and release gained further coverage when she became embroiled in a direct confrontation with Utusan Malaysia, which she claimed misquoted her on the quality of food she was served while detained.

In Teresa Tak Jaga Sensitiviti on 23 Sept, Utusan Malaysia quoted Muhammad as saying that “Teresa’s statement that the food she was served was like ‘dog food’ was arrogant and disgraceful.”

Muhammad said Kok “should not have made such a statement, and should have instead thought of the sensitivities of those who were not so [financially] fortunate.

“She should not say these things without thinking about others who can afford to eat only rice with salt or eggs.”

Defending Malay rights

On ethnic relations, a 21 Sept article titled Antara Maruah dan Kuasa in Mingguan Malaysia painted a grim picture for those it considered the defenders of Malay rights.

“Recently, there appears to be a planned movement to consistently attack any party that tries to uphold or defend Malay institutions. Such parties would be deemed racist, and what is worse is that some have to face legal action that would ‘silence’ them.

“The result is that to discuss Islam and Malay interests and rights is seen to be a sin, and those involved should be punished.

“But in reality, we have to be aware that this is all a planned strategy to ensure Malay institutions continue to be destabilised.

“Even though we see many other factions more racist than the Malays, nothing is made of their attitude. In fact, if we study blogs by opposition members, we can see that they raise sensitive and racial issues. Yet this is not considered racist, but seen by their supporters — including some Malay leaders — as the right to speak their mind.

“What makes it worse is that some leaders who represent parties that defend Islam are complicit in this.”

The article asked whether the Malay leaders involved understood that they were helping to undermine Malay institutions, and that this was a betrayal of their children’s future.

It concluded with a reminder that Malaysia gained independence through racial unity, “but the basis of its existence, which began with Tanah Melayu hundreds of years ago before the Portuguese’s arrival, should not be forgotten.”

Primitive political culture

Of the uncertain national political scenario — with Anwar’s delayed takeover bid and with Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s succession plans being reconsidered every other day — a Sinar Harian article titled Kesan Budaya Politik Primitif on 22 Sept said:

“The failure of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to form government by 16 Sept has become the butt of many BN leaders’ jokes. Some of what they say is illogical… perhaps they have forgotten that they, too failed [to take over the government] in Perak. The head of the opposition there, Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali, failed to bring down the state government by 31 Aug as he had claimed he would.”

The writer pointed out that over the years, the BN had asked opposition members to cross over on numerous occasions (1962 in Trengganu and 1994 in Sabah), and had organised motions of no confidence as well (in 1976 against former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Harun Idris).

The writer said Malaysia has a good political system, considering it has lasted 51 years, but the political process has not matured.

“This system appears almost non-operational and seems dependent on one person alone, the prime minister. This is not wise and is perhaps dangerous. Just look at the refusal of Anwar’s request for a special [parliamentary] sitting. It was wholly refused by Prime Minister Abdullah.

“This is an important matter because it is related to the government’s position. It has to be resolved quickly… That is why the Pakatan Rakyat is considering a direct audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong… But such a step would require His Majesty to be proactive and brave. His Majesty must side democracy and justice.”

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