PETALING JAYA, 13 April 2009: Don’t blame Chinese Malaysians for the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s loss in the Bukit Gantang by-election — that’s MCA’s response to Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who called the community there “unappreciative”.
MCA Information and Communication Bureau head Lee Wei Kiat was referring to Muhyiddin’s remarks in an interview with Utusan Malaysia on 12 April in which he said “the drop in Chinese support is like as if there is no appreciation towards what we (the BN) are doing.”
Lee, in a press statement today, said the MCA “took exception” to the remark and said there were larger issues that explained why Chinese Malaysians in Bukit Gantang voted for the PAS candidate.
“It is not the mere allocation of RM1 million during the campaign period that the Chinese [Malaysians] are hence expected to be indebted to the BN and therefore vote BN. Non-Malay [Malaysians] do not like to be treated as beggars where only at by-elections, more road upgrading works are performed, (and) allocations to schools, non-governmental organisations and charities pick up,” Lee said.
The question posed by the Utusan reporter to Muhyiddin was why, even though RM1 million was given to a Chinese school during the by-election, Chinese Malaysian voters still did not support the BN.
Preliminary analysis of the 7 April poll shows that about 75% to 80% of the Chinese Malaysian vote went to PAS. The BN captured about 57% of the Malay Malaysian vote.
Children being entertained by a lion dance organised by Gerakan in an effort to woo voters
in Bukit Gantang who are keen opposition supporters
Lee said for the BN to win back Chinese Malaysian support, it would have to do much more than making contributions during by-elections.
“An entire overhaul in the drafting and implementation of government policies is needed where every Malaysian citizen is accorded equality as guaranteed under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution.
“Malaysian citizens have the right to a decent life, free of bigotry, adoption of meritocracy, full and even access to equal development where aid is delivered on a need basis and not racial hegemony,” he said.
Lee said other reasons for the BN’s loss included the lack of Malay Malaysian votes to carry the coalition through.
He noted Bukit Gantang was a predominantly Malay-Malaysian seat, where the ethnic group comprised 63.5% of the electorate. While the BN had increased its share of the Malay Malaysian vote, it was still not enough for the coalition to win.
Lee also raised local issues in Bukit Gantang that contributed to lack of Chinese Malaysian support. He noted the dissatisfaction of fisherfolk in Kuala Sepetang over matters that affected their livelihood, such as diesel subsidies, red tape in applying for licences, and seemingly selective enforcement by marine police days before voting.
Land title issues were also another long-standing problem that “raised resentment”, Lee said. These concerned applications for renewal of leasehold land titles, and inability to claim ownership of Temporary Occupation License (TOL) land despite people having lived and worked there for generations.
Lee also cited a list of other “troubling” issues on the national front such as the implementation of the New Economic Policy, racial preferences in the intake and promotion of non-Malay Malaysians in the civil service, selective police enforcement against civil liberties in peaceful vigils or demonstrations, and misuse of the Internal Security Act.
Religious issues that caused non-Malay Malaysians unhappiness included conversions without consulting family members, decisions imposed by the religious authorities such as in the case of burials, inheritance claims, and determining the faith and custody of a minor whose religious identity is under dispute.
“These have only served to alienate the non-Muslim community,” Lee said.
Lee also said the recently concluded Umno general assembly last month did not inspire confidence in non-Malay Malaysians as a party leader had asserted that independence was forged only by Umno and the Malay rulers, forgetting the other communities who had played their part.
Lee said the history of the Chinese in Malaya and then Malaysian had shown their loyalty to their country.
But he believed that corruption, cronyism, perceived judicial bias, racial and religious discrimination and intolerance had reached a head and caused non-Malay Malaysians, particularly those in the peninsula, to favour the opposition in the March 2008 general election.