THE disproportionate response to the recent “slipper garland” proposal by an MIC delegate highlights once again what the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) government really values above all else.
Umno politicians have been falling over themselves in the rush to defend Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad against an MIC delegate’s suggestion to garland the former premier’s portrait with slippers.
Tan Sri Muhiyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein and Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir were quick to express their disappointment, shock and hurt at M Sukumaran’s “insolent, rude and extreme” remarks made during the recent MIC general assembly. Cheras Umno division chief Datuk Syed Ali Alhabshee stated that insulting Mahathir was akin to insulting all Malay Malaysians, although how that is true was not established.
Utusan Malaysia, which reported on these leaders’ responses, also made it clear its indignation. Jangan biadab, screamed its front page on 15 Sept 2009. MIC perlu minta maaf, blared another headline on their four-page coverage of the issue. Four-page? Yes, that’s right.
Amidst the clamour, Sukumaran was swiftly suspended on 15 Sept 2009 by MIC president Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu, who himself had earlier criticised Dr Mahathir albeit without referring to any footwear. A heartfelt and humble apology was then given by the disgraced delegate, just two days after he was catapulted into the limelight by his offending statement.
“I regret having uttered those words (‘slipper garland’). I regretted it very much. I sincerely hope Mahathir will accept my apology,” Malaysiakini reported him as saying. “I was carried away emotionally when I made the remark which had seriously hurt the feelings of Mahathir,” he added.
Slippers vs cow-head and threats
Now, let’s compare Hishammuddin’s response to the slipper suggestion with his response towards the cow-head protesters who threatened violence if a Hindu temple was relocated to their neighbourhood in Shah Alam.
“I view this suggestion as extreme and disrespectful. We must never forget our values and culture of respecting others. If we want others to respect us, then we must accord respect to others,” The Star quoted the home minister as saying on 15 Sept 2009.
One wishes Hishammuddin was referring to the cow-head protesters, but he wasn’t. He was chastising the MIC delegate for his slipper suggestion.
In fact, Hishammuddin had, several days earlier, welcomed the cow-head protesters into his office and defended them in a press conference, a video report of which the government now wants Malaysiakini to remove from its news site.
Embarrassing doesn’t even describe the value judgement that an Umno vice-president and cabinet member has displayed in his responses towards these two issues — one a merely rude suggestion, and the other a serious show of intolerance and threat of violence.
And even though Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin did condemn the protesters, no Umno leader has called for the cow-head protesters to apologise to all Malaysians for their threat of violence. Selangor Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo even explained, on behalf of the protesters, that the cow head was actually meant to show how “stupid” the Pakatan Rakyat state government was in its actions.
Slippers vs Penan
Umno leaders have also been alarmingly silent about the revelation by a government-appointed task force of the sexual abuse of Penan women and girls in Sarawak by timber company workers.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said at a buka puasa event on 10 Sept 2009 in Kuala Lumpur: “…[T]he government will never condone this. We cannot condone even though they live far away from the capital, that’s why the government authorised the report.”
But keeping the report under wraps for nearly a year would make anyone wonder if the Umno-led government really cared.
In the meantime, now that the report’s findings have been made public, neither the prime minister nor any other senior Umno leader has voiced concern for the Penan. Shahrizat’s ministry has also failed to convince citizens that concrete and immediate steps are being taken to protect the Penan and ensure their welfare and safety.
Young Penan woman (Pic courtesy of Sofiyah Israa @ Flickr)
Since the March 2008 general election, calls have been growing for the BN to rethink the race-based politics that has kept them in government for more than 50 years. In the past, Umno has let its partners in the coalition, such as the MCA and MIC, speak up on Chinese and Indian Malaysian issues. This formula is not just lacking in terms of ensuring national unity; it’s myopic in protecting the legitimate rights of all Malaysians.
The responses of Umno leaders to recent events prove just as much. They tell us that Umno’s main priority is in ensuring that particular interests are protected. These interests, however, don’t include those of minority communities such as non-Muslims and the indigenous people.
Additionally, there are many other ethnic groups that are not directly represented in the BN formula such as the Penan. There is no Penan-based party in the BN. With the current model, who then is supposed to speak up for them? Should the Penan have to set up a National Penan Party and win seats in Parliament before their plight is taken seriously by the government?
A government for all Malaysians
In the run-up to the Umno Youth chief contest earlier this year, all three candidates — Mukhriz, Khir Toyo and Khairy — stated that Umno should meet the needs of all races.
For this to happen, the principles of fairness, inclusiveness and justice should be applied in addressing issues, regardless of race. In the past two weeks, however, we have seen from Umno leaders’ responses to several issues that these principles are not what drive the Umno leadership. If nothing else, their responses have instead called to question how far a race-based party can claim to speak up for and protect all Malaysians.
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Ken liew says
The problem always lies on the LIE and LIES. Did they really mean what they [said]: “A government for all Malaysians”?
1Malaysia? Rakyat didahulukan, pencapaian diutamakan?
Why not start to walk the talk? When will [they] stop breaking promises?
NEVER has always been the answer.
The double standards are so blatant and offensive, [they] speak volumes of the uncivility and ill regard Umnoputra has for all that are not with them. There is a patent lack of soundness and goodness in them as they are too drawn into the cesspool of opiate delights which they can never get out by their own volition.
Many Malaysians have seen and understood the destruction Umnoputraism has wrought upon the nation these last decades, where corruption and cronyism are pandemic. However, they are still propped up by communal sentiments, ironically by the very people they impoverish under the veneer of “ketuanan”.
Umnoputraism is a disease, debilitating and cancerous that must be eviscerated by the Malay [Malaysians] themselves, for they must come to an understanding and realisation of its darkness of soul, not so much of their kins[people], but by opportunists who have hijacked and corrupted their Malay identity in the name of race and religion.
Andrew I says
A friend concludes that, judging from his posting experience and what he reads, comments are published in their entirety on Take Det’s blog.
One can only surmise that he has been called worse, since this is usually the case if you don’t moderate.
The moral of the story? Some people want to change, but others are not quite up to accepting that fact.
Malaysian Heart says
This article is sharp and incisive; it gets to the heart of the matter and drives a stake through it. A real humdinger (no pun intended). Please write more.
“It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought of as a fool than to open it and have the fact confirmed”. Hishammuddin’s recent spate of contrary statements, his contrary stand on the cow-head incident and the slipper issue, all go to show that here is a future prime minister (surely that is the position he is being groomed for) who does not know what is right and what is wrong.
And worse, he appears to wallow in a permanent state of confusion as to what is expected of a leader. Perhaps he does not care what the people think of him having been groomed to think that “inheritance” of the nation’s top political job is his birth right. But hold on! What he stands for is not what his Pa and Grandpa stood for – not by a long mile. We trusted them. He forgets that he needs our trust too. Without that, his holding of any political position will just be a joke. And the country cannot afford that.
Very well said! When someone makes a statement on anything, the listeners will be able to judge his [or her] knowledge and intelligence. In this case, it says a lot about Umno leaders who are the main governors of this land. God save Malaysia…
Can any race-based political party speak for all Malaysians? Your implied answer of “no” is spot on! The silence about defending the voice of the marginalised by Umno leaders is deafeningly loud! It is indeed time to move on from race-based politics as the way forward for all true Malaysians.
long wai says
What about the action of the Penang Umno guy who tore up the photo of Koh Tsu Koon? This is rougish to the brink of madness.
Stephen Tang says
So much hooha about the Penan, no comments received from Dato Hassan Sui? Is he a […] Penan? Anybody, pls.
When asked by Al Jazeera to respond , the deputy chief minister of Sarawak said that if the Penans do not want development, “we cannot bring it to them”. The life and culture of the Penans does not demand modern and sophisticated space-age development. They lead simple lives.
Why can’t they be left alone? Why bulldoze their land? This is done out of pure greed, and nothing else. There is only so much you can eat, spend on this earth… you cannot bring it with you after that.
We do not need to develop Sarawak by raping all its forests, to the most remote and mountainous reaches, to the extent of using heli logging. […] May God have mercy on the Penans, and may God bless Sarawak and our federal politicians with the merciful conscience [to] move away from greed.
Sang Wira says
Islam condemns hypocrisy. [Umno], its leaders, cronies, the heads of its media are hypocrites. Do they need an angel to come down to show them the right path? Their actions have blemished their race and religion. How will they answer to their God in the afterlife â€” that it was all for the party?
That MIC [delegate] only said [it] but never did [anything about it]. But Umno has short memory. When Khir Toyo presented brooms to his officers for bad performance, did they ask for apologies?
The BN government always practises double standards and will spin whatever to their advantage. They will apply the law of the jungle to win any impending cases, even though it is bad to set a new precedent.
Umno only stands for one thing: by Umno, for Umno, of Umno. The 1Malaysia idea is nothing more than a charade to buy votes […]
We have leaders who have a biased, inverted, warped and totally bankrupt sense of right and wrong. It is beyond shameful, it is nauseating.
If Hishammuddin can endorse the actions of the cow-head protesters and sympathise with their cause, then there should be no reason for MCMC to order Malaysiakini to remove videos of the protest.
MCMC says the videos are “offensive” but what is offensive to A is totally acceptable to B. Furthermore, the Multimedia Act says no one is to make videos “with the intention to offend” and since it was not the intention of Malaysiakini to offend anyone with the videos, it means that they have not technically contravened the Act.
Obviously there is a fine line between what is “offensive” and what is not, therefore, in interpreting and enforcing the Act, common sense should prevail. The Malaysian general public is NOT offended by the videos. Furthermore, didn’t the Home Minister himself say the protest is valid? The conclusion is therefore that the videos should not be removed.
But the bigger picture is that the moral compass the leaders base their judgment on is skewed. They endorse the inflammatory actions of a group of 50 odd Malay [Malaysians], demand removal of videos to please some offended Malay [Malaysians], ignore the plight of defenceless Penan, condemn the rude remark of one Indian [Malaysian] delegate…I could go on and on. Doesn’t that look biased to you?
The problem lies in the mindsets of BN leaders. Over the last 52 years, they have had their thinking along racial lines embedded in their subconscious. This thinking is now controlling them, and thus, we observe the way they react to situations as mentioned by TNG. They must now consciously re-engineer their mindsets by first changing their thought patterns, and then backing these thoughts up with action. Hopefully, over time, they will be able to think across racial lines truthfully. God help them all.
Our crop of ministers shows us what 50 years of Umno rule have produced – a bunch of [incompetent people] from the crappy education system. They can’t rationalise what they say and [their statements contradict themselves]. Is there any wonder that the trust level is very low? How can Malaysians be proud to be represented by low-quality ministers locally and abroad. It is a shame!