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Abdullah speech at the UMNO General Assembly most disappointing for in coming out to defend and validate Hishammuddin’s inflammatory keris-wielding antics in the past two years he is showing that he has subordinated his promise to be Prime Minister for all Malaysians to his position as UMNO President

Media Statement          
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The mass media are in a swoon with adulation for the speech by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the UMNO General Assembly in his capacity as UMNO President.

However, they had completely glossed over the most disappointing parts of Abdullah’s speech, as in coming out to defend and validate UMNO Youth Leader Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s keris-wielding antics in the past two years; Abdullah had shown that he has subordinated his promise to be the Prime Minister for all Malaysians to his position as UMNO President.

When Abdullah lashed out at those who had criticized Hishammuddin for the brandishing of the keris at the last two UMNO Youth General Assemblies, claiming that such criticism was done to spread fears among the non-Malays, Abdullah had chosen to ignore or forget that among those who objected strongly to Hishamuddin’s keris-wielding in the last two UMNO Youth General Assemblies were component parties of the Barisan Nasional, particularly MCA, Gerakan and MIC.

Or have MCA, Gerakan and MIC been “desensitized” to accept that there was nothing wrong with Hishamuddin’s keris-wielding antics in the last two UMNO general assemblies and that it was MCA, Gerakan and MIC leaders who were being irresponsible and immature in expressing strong protests against such keris-wielding?

Last week, Hishammuddin had said that despite nation-wide controversy and protests he would continue to unsheathe the keris at the UMNO Youth General Assembly this year until the non-Malays become “desensitized” to it.

Had Hishammuddin been given an assurance by MCA, Gerakan and MIC leaders that they have become “desensitized” to the keris-wielding antics to encourage Hishamuddin to wield the keris for the third year consecutively at the UMNO Youth General Assembly on Wednesday?

In Parliament later on Wednesday, I had criticized Hishammuddin’s “desensitization” stance as akin to the Boiling-Frog Syndrome.

This is what I said in Parliament during the debate on national unity in the debate on the 2008 Budget on the Prime Minister’s Department:

“If you put a frog into boiling water, the frog will immediately jump out. But if you put the frog in cold war and increase the heat of the water slowly, it will get accustomed to the increasing heat.

“This is not the first instance of the ‘desensitization’ strategy, using the Boiling-Frog Syndrome, in nation-building which will result only in greater disunity and polarization in plural Malaysia.

“We can see this ‘desensitization’ strategy in the Islamic state issue, where the arbitrary and unconstitutional revision of the Merdeka Constitution and social contract to make Malaysia an Islamic State is periodically repeatedly hoping that over the passage of time, Malaysians will get desensitized to it from their initial outrage and indignation and to begin to accept Malaysia as an Islamic state.

“Another is the New Economic Policy, which was meant to be a 20-year policy from 1970 to 1990. Today, we read of the latest demand by the Malacca Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam that bumiputra quota should be 40 to 50 per cent – another example of ‘desensitization’ of UMNO policies!

“What is most objectionable about the NEP is that it is eventually a small section of Umnoputras who benefit at the expense of the Malay masses.

“Let me make it very clear that non-Malays in Malaysia fully accept keris as a symbol of justice whether at national or state government level.

In his opening speech of the UMNO Youth, Wanita and Puteri Assemblies yesterday, Deputy UMNO President and Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said:

“When Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj declared that the date of Merdeka would be Aug 31, 1957 at a special rally held in Bandar Hilir Malacca on Feb 20, 1956, he was handed a symbolic 100-year-old keris by Wanita UMNO which the Tunku then unsheathed, kissed and thrust towards the sky. This act was witnessed with great jubilation and pride by all races who were overjoyed about the forthcoming independence. At that instance, the keris was a symbol of the success of a united struggle.

“And so when UMNO Youth produced the Panca Warisan keris and raised it symbolically, it was quite unfair for the opposition to turn it into a political issue. The UMNO Youth was not declaring hostilities but was instead reaffirming its struggle within the boundaries of the Federal Constitution.”


“This is precisely the point. Tunku’s unsheathing of the keris was the symbol of national unity and accepted by all communities, but Hishamuddin’s unsheathing of the keris was the symbol of national disunity which was why it was so divisive and polarizing.

“The issue is not the use of the keris but the context in which the keris was used. When Hishammuddin unsheathed the keris, it was not to unify Malaysians regardless of race but in a confrontational, combative and hostile manner which tramples on the rights and sensitivities of the other communities.

“For instance, Hishammuddin’s unsheathing of the keris at the UMNO Youth General Assembly was made in the contest of extremist, incendiary and seditious utterances such as:

• “When tension rises, the blood of Malay warriors will run in our veins”;

• “Datuk Hisham has unsheathed his keris, waved his keris, kissed his keris. We want to ask Datuk Hisham when is he going to use it”; and

• “Hak Orang Melayu tidak boleh dicabar, jika tidak orang Melayu akan mengamok, peristiwa Mei 13 akan berulang yang ianya akan lebih teruk daripada tahun 1969 yang akan menjadikan Kuala Lumpur padang terkukur”.

“Even MCA and Gerakan had initially strongly protested against the symbolism and implications of Hishamuddin’s keris antics, although MCA Youth was later reducing to waving the Malaysian Constitution and Gerakan to proclaiming the Rukunegara principles!

“For the sake of national unity, such Hishamuddin keris-antics and “desensitization” should end forthwith.”

It is most regrettable that instead of keeping his distance from Hishamuddin’s keris-wielding antics, Abdullah has now decided to fully embrace Hishamuddin’s divisive and polarizing antics.

It is a great error of judgment for any UMNO leader to assume that just because MCA, Gerakan and MIC leaders can easily be “desensitized” on any issue in a the Boiling-Frog Syndrome, that this “desensitization” and Boiling Frog Syndrome should be the new modus operandi for the nation-building process in plural Malaysia.

I call on the Prime Minister to dismiss all notion of the Boiling Frog Syndrome as modus operandi for nation-building in plural Malaysia.



* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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