THREE weeks after the Barisan Nasional (BN) was returned to federal power, it’s clear that the coalition’s brand of politics is back with a vengeance. From dangerous ethnocentrism to arresting citizens for exercising their constitutional rights to demonising detractors, it is apparent the Umno-led BN and its allies refuse to change.
They say it’s hard for old dogs to learn new tricks. And the same is clearly applicable to those who have held on to power as the world’s longest elected coalition. Still, what else do the actions of Umno leaders and state and non-state actors, post-general election, signify? And does that bode well for citizens who want to see a better and fairer Malaysia?
“We won! We won!”
BN may have won more seats in parliament but it clearly lost the popular vote in the general election. Not only that, there is evidence that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) would have come into power if our electoral system had not been so corrupted and manipulated throughout the years.
Clearly, there is something wrong with a system that allows the BN to win nearly 60% of seats in Parliament despite securing only 47% of the popular vote. Indeed, academic-turned-Opposition Member of Parliament, Dr Ong Kian Ming, has pointed out that in any first-past-the-post system that is fair, any party or coalition which wins the majority of the vote (as PR did this election) would in fact win a higher percentage of seats than the percentage of popular votes it secured.
Secondly, there is also ample evidence to prove that it wasn’t “ungrateful” Chinese Malaysians which caused the BN to lose so much support in the elections. Malay Malaysians, too voted against the BN and for PR.
And yet, what is the Umno-led BN’s message despite the evidence that its victory is as ill-gotten as a fraudster who cheats to win? It declares, “We won! We won!” to the nation and the world. The unspoken subtext we should pay attention to, however, is: “We don’t care how we won! We won!”
The BN may still be in power and Datuk Seri Najib Razak may still be prime minister of Malaysia. But what is indisputable is that the government’s legitimacy has never been as questionable as it is today after 56 years of rule.
And like any fraudster, BN would rather get away with ill-gotten profits than fess up. Unfortunately, in this day and age, a growing number of Malaysians are asking themselves what business the BN has in holding on to its dishonest win. More importantly, a growing number also are willing to speak out against it.
And so it’s unsurprising that the state apparatus from the home minister to the police, with the help of non-state actors like Utusan Malaysia, have gone into overdrive. Unless they can assert BN’s legitimacy through the repetition of falsehoods, the forceful silencing or remonstration of detractors, or the invocation of Allah’s will and syariah principles, the government of the day may just find its power quickly eroding.
Hence, we have the new Home Minister Datuk Zahid Hamidi asserting falsely that any first-past-the-post system elsewhere would also have engendered the same results as in Malaysia. And Chinese Malaysians must be blamed and threatened so that it’s absolutely clear that only Umno’s continued rule can guarantee Malay rights against the economically powerful Chinese. Indeed, according to Umno-BN’s script, if the pre-dominantly Chinese Malaysian DAP were in power, Malay Malaysians can expect to lose out.
And any Malay Malaysian, such as Azran Osman-Rani and his supporters, such as Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan, must be especially vilified and excommunicated if they too challenge BN’s script of legitimacy. And what if some people dare to protest the legitimacy of the BN’s power or its fabricated script by calling a spade a spade and rallying for a government of the people’s choice? We can rest assured that the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers will act swiftly to arrest and charge these critics under the Sedition Act or any of Malaysia’s other repressive laws. Never mind that others such as Datuk Ibrahim Ali and former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah who have called for far worse things to happen in Malaysia have had no action at all taken against them. Absolutely no counter-script can be allowed if the BN is to be on top especially when staying at the top of the pole has become so slippery from all the grease on it.
What can Malaysians expect next? I’ll wager that there will be more arrests of Malaysians who want the people’s will, as so clearly indicated in the general election, to be acknowledged. Apart from student activist Adam Adli, the police also arrested 18 people who were peacefully protesting against his arrest outside of the Jinjang Police Station on 22 May 2013. The following day, police arrested PKR vice-president Tian Chua, PAS member Tamrin Ghafar and Asalkan Bukan Umno chief Haris Ibrahim for sedition.
And where arrests don’t take place such as in Penang, thugs have appeared to disrupt and assault peaceful demonstrators at least twice already.
And if one speaks up against the BN being in power and calls for a fairer electoral system, expect to be told to leave the country, give up one’s citizenship, or go live in the jungle. And if one happens to be Malay Malaysian and publicly critical, expect to be vilified in public for being an apostate, ingrate and traitor of the Malay race.
We can also expect Utusan Malaysia to continue churning out ethnocentric, ill-informed, provocative and divisive reports and commentaries. We should also anticipate that before long, any critic of Malaysia’s electoral system will be chastised for not just threatening Islam but also challenging the position of the Malay rulers. And I’ll bet my bottom dollar that media censorship, including the confiscation of PR party publications Harakah, Suara Keadilan and Rocket, will continue as the BN does its utmost to remain in power.
Some have astutely remarked that the BN will never learn or change. And it doesn’t help that Malaysians have to suffer another five more years of repressive and divisive rule by those who should not be in power but are because they cheated.
Still, there is some good news. The good news is there’s no going back to the way things were. More than ever before, so many more Malaysians have a sense that something is really wrong with our electoral system. And more than ever, more Malaysians are demanding for change.
Whether the BN lasts the entire five years of its term is left to be seen. But you know what they say about those who refuse to change? Change happens to them instead. And if the BN were smart, they would learn that the old tricks no longer work. Indeed, with Malaysians as engaged, courageous and creative as they are today, the old tricks may just be the BN’s undoing even before the next elections.
Jacqueline Ann Surin is saddened by news of yet another death in police custody. N Dharmendran’s torture and death while in custody is the fifth known death in custody since the year began. That means that on average thus far for 2013, one person dies monthly while in the custody of the Malaysian police. In 2012, there were 147 known deaths in custody. What kind of government allows the police to repeatedly get away with these deaths?