FINALLY, the general elections are over. Congratulations to the Barisan Nasional (BN) and to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. In a previous column, I had expressed my preference for Najib to be our prime minister instead of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Now that Najib is leading the government with an even smaller majority, that means we can be hopeful he will be more mindful and conscientious in his leadership. What a great result.
On polling night, I was touched to hear Najib’s declared intention for national reconciliation in his very first press statement after the results were announced. As the numero uno in this country, Najib’s role in forging national reconciliation would be pivotal, and the man should be savvy enough to handle such an ambitious project.
However, a project such as national reconciliation would require all our cooperation and input. It cannot be accomplished by one man alone, even if he was the PM. So, let me start the ball rolling with some ideas towards national reconciliation.
It’s time to put behind us the divisive politics of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Let’s face it: the BN did not face a formidable opposition capable of taking over the government until Anwar surfaced as the leader of Pakatan Rakyat (PR). And the Anwar Ibrahim phenomenon itself, ironically, is a Mahathir legacy. Mahathir’s divisive politics needs to be put to an end. His patronising top-down leadership style has to stop. Yes, Mahathir did many good things for the country in his 22 years as premier, but we are a different country today.
It’s time to stop the pretence and draw the line with Perkasa
Najib cannot expect national reconciliation while continuing to allow Umno to tango with Perkasa. The way Umno made way for Datuk Ibrahim Ali in Pasir Mas fooled no one. Let’s face the facts: both Ibrahim and Zulkifli Noordin, who had been thumping their chests over Malay rights, lost in predominantly Malay constituencies. Their results would have been far worse had they stood in mixed constituencies. The message is very clear: Malaysians reject extremist politics, and if Umno wants to lead Malaysia, it should start rejecting the same. After all, it was not the MCA or Gerakan that won the elections but Umno.
Stop thinking along racial lines
It’s easy to start talking about a “Chinese tsunami”. But do not forget, the opposition won substantial non-Chinese votes. On the flip side, Chinese Malaysians voted for many non-Chinese opposition candidates, including from PAS. This was despite the dreadful hudud messages that were consistently delivered over the traditional media.
The support for the opposition seems broad-based, and that is bad news for BN’s future. This is especially in light of the fact that many BN constituencies were won with razor-thin margins. There is a strong tide of dissent and it is not originating from Chinese Malaysians alone. The earlier the BN starts thinking beyond racial lines, the better it is for them in the upcoming elections.
No, it’s not all about the economy
Since we’re talking about Chinese Malaysians, let’s also talk about what is perceived to be the most important factor for them, i.e. the economy. Contrary to Mahathir’s assertion, a strong economy is simply not enough. No, there is no intention by Chinese Malaysians to usurp political power. Not that I know of, anyway.
But Chinese Malaysians want to be part of the nation-building process. They want to feel that they belong to this country. They don’t have a “homeland” to go home to. This is their home and their future. They are tired of being the bogey to scare Malay Malaysians into submission to Umno. Chinese Malaysians do not like fear-mongering. Umno cannot spout Malay supremacy and entitlements, and call non-Malay Malaysians “pendatang” and still expect Chinese Malaysian support on just the strength of the economy.
It’s time for Umno to start building bridges with to Chinese Malaysians directly
The MCA and Gerakan have been rejected. If they put their hands to their hearts, they themselves should know why. So, how can Umno win the hearts of Chinese Malaysians? By building bridges directly with them. Don’t go through MCA and Gerakan as intermediaries. Don’t rely on cronies who are more than willing to give a buck to earn a buck. Don’t be duped by tycoons who throw lavish dinners. Chinese Malaysians will attend out of courtesy, or for the meal, but that signifies nothing. Don’t rely on “I love PM” T-shirts given out to college students who are made to wear them. (Clue: If a group of young people turn up in uniform, you can bet your last ringgit that the uniform was compulsory).
Take a leaf from PAS’s books. Chinese Malaysians seem to have lost their fear of PAS, which even fielded a Christian candidate as their own even if he lost by more than 7,000 votes. Why can’t there be a Kelab Penyokong Cina Umno as well? I’m sure this club will very soon attract more effective members than the MCA.
Chan Kheng Hoe thinks it’s time Malaysians stop the politicking and move on with life. There’s a nation to be built.