National Reconciliation requires Realisation, Non-Retaliation and Reforms

Rencana Rekonsiliasasi Nasional Memerlukan Realisasi, Bukan Tindakan Balas dan Reformasi

Shortly after the results of the 13th general election were announced, Prime Minister Najib promised to undertake a national reconciliation program. While the intention of that announcement may have been good, the actions and words of Prime Minister Najib and some of his cabinet ministers and Barisan Nasional leaders have been anything by reconciliatory. In fact, what we saw and what we continue to see are troubling signs that the desire is not to have national reconciliation but to have national retaliation.

This comes from a misguided and mistaken view that it was the ‘Chinese Tsunami’ that caused the BN to lose an additional 7 parliament seats and to fail to win back Selangor and Penang while in fact it was a ‘Malaysian tsunami’ that saw the opposition representation strengthened at the federal and state levels. Without this realisation, without a firm commitment towards non-retaliation and to undertake extensive reforms, Prime Minister Najib’s national reconciliation plan has died before it has even taken off.

It was not a ‘Chinese Tsunami’ that allowed Kelantan to be retained by Pakatan Rakyat. It was not a ‘Chinese Tsunami’ that almost saw Pakatan take over the state government of Terengganu where 96% of all voters are Malay. It was not a ‘Chinese Tsunami’ that allowed Pakatan to capture the 88% Malay seat of Kuala Terengganu, the 98% Malay seat of Kuala Nerus, the 96% Malay seat of Dungun, the 64% Malay seat of Temerloh, the 61% Malay seat of Alor Setar, the 57% Malay seat of Sepang and the 66% Sabah Bumiputera seat of Penampang. It was not a ‘Chinese Tsunami’ that saw PAS increase its state seats in Selangor from 8 to 17, all of them in Malay majority areas.

It was a ‘Malaysian Tsunami’ which saw all three Pakatan parties increase their share of vote in Peninsular Malaysia. It was a ‘Malaysian Tsunami’ which allowed Pakatan to win 713,000 more votes than Barisan Nasional in Peninsular Malaysia. It was a ‘Malaysian Tsunami’ which allowed Pakatan Rakyat to win 51% of popular vote in Malaysia thereby making the BN a minority supported government. It was a ‘Malaysian Tsunami’ which saw BN’s vote share in Perlis – a 85% Malay state - fall by almost 5%. It was a ‘Malaysian Tsunami’ which saw BN’s vote share in Pahang – a 70% Malay state – fall by 4.3%. It was a ‘Malaysian tsunami’ which saw BN’s vote share in Sabah – a 80% Sabah Bumiputera state – fall by almost 7%. It was a ‘Malaysian tsunami’ which saw BN’s vote share in Johor – a 53% Malay, 39% Chinese and 7% Indian state – fall by more than 10%.

BN leaders, including Prime Minister Najib, do not want Malaysians and even their own supporters to know that there are many Malay, Sarawak and Sabah Bumiputera majority seats where the support for the BN has fallen significantly but not by enough for the BN to lose these seats. For example, in the 81% Malay seat of Kangar, UMNO’s support fell by 16%. In the 66% Malay seat of Sungai Besar, UMNO’s support fell by 10%. In the 49% Dayak, 44% Malay / Melanau seat of Saratok in Sarawak, BN’s support fell by 24%. In the 70% Dayak seat of Baram, BN’s support fell by 17.4%. In Sabah, the BN won 4 Sabah Bumiputera majority seats of Kota Marudu, Keningau, Tenom and Pensiangan with less than 50% of the popular vote. By trying to portray this as a Chinese tsunami, BN leaders are trying to hide the fact that the BN continues to lose support in these seats, as they have in the 13th General Election, this ‘Malaysian tsunami’ will sweep them out of power in the 14th General Election.

It was tremendously irresponsible of Najib to call the 13th General Election a ‘Chinese Tsunami’. Najib’s statement, directly and indirectly, sent a signal to the public that it was acceptable to single out the Chinese community as being ‘disloyal’ to the BN and hence, appropriate action needed to be taken against this community. None other than Najib’s own deputy, Tan Sri Muyhiddin Yassin was quoted as saying that ‘The clear message is that the majority of the Malays, Indians, Bumiputera, Orang Asli, Siamese community as well as those in Sabah and Sarawak still support the BN. We will continue to give them greater assistance, that is what we will do’. By excluding the Chinese community from this group and by ignoring the fact that many Malays, Indians, Bumiputera, Orang Asli and Siamese also did not support BN, the Deputy Prime Minister is effectively singling out the Chinese community to be ‘assisted less’!

Former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah, in a post-elections forum organized by the UiTM Malaysia Alumni Association and the Gabungan Melayu Semenanjung, warned the Chinese to prepare for a possible backlash from the Malays for their alleged ‘betrayal’ against the BN. At the same forum, Tan Sri Abdul Rahmad Arshad, Pro-Chancellor of UiTM, called for the abolishment of vernacular schools because he blamed them for causing the racial polarization that led to the BN losing the popular vote in the 13th general election. More recently, the new Chief Minister of Melaka, Idris Haron, has decided to close down the Jonker Street night market reportedly because the voters there did not support MCA and by extension the BN. Of course, who can forget the provocative headline by Utusan – Apa Lagi Cina Mau? Najib opened the door with his irresponsible ‘Chinese Tsunami’ remark, the others merely took his lead. This is another clear demonstration that Prime Minster Najib’s call for a national reconciliation is an empty one.

Not surprisingly, the BN government has continued with its targeting not just of the Chinese voters but also against Pakatan Raykat leaders, NGO activists and has even threatened to take action against Malaysians who are not supportive of Barisan Nasional. Many of the organizers of the #Black505 public rallies have been charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act, an act which is supposed to protect the right to organize peaceful rallies but is instead used to unreasonably restrict this right. Others have also been charged under the Sedition Act for emphasizing the need to have these public rallies in order to protest against the unfair practices associated with the 13th General Election. Those who have been charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act and the Seditions Act include some members of this august house, including the MP for Ipoh Timur and the MP for Batu. Husam Musa was even detained overnight while on his way to attend the recent 622 rally at Padang Merbok.

Even former UMNO leaders such as Tamrin Ghafar have not been spared and has been charged under the Seditions Act. The BN government have also targeted members of civil society including student leaders such as Safwan Anang and Adam Adli as well as the leader of the Anything But UMNO (ABU) movement, Haris Ibrahim by charging them under the Seditions Act. There have even been remarks by Immigration Director-General Datuk Alies Ahmad who warned that passports of Malaysians overseas could be cancelled if any of them were to continue to protest the results of the 13th General Election in foreign countries. If there is anything sincere or substantive about Najib’s 1Malaysia slogan, it is that his government is consistent in targeting and persecuting Malaysians from all backgrounds as long as they voice out their support for public rallies to protest against the unfairness of the 13th General Election.

Ironically, it seems that Prime Minister Najib’s strategy for achieving National Reconciliation is to unite public opinion against the Barisan Nasional government through the persecution of Pakatan leaders, members of civil society and the average Malaysian who highlight the many problems associated with the 13th General Elections. This is not a National Reconciliation Plan but is instead a National Retaliation Plan.

One of the key people responsible for racializing the 13th general elections’ campaign and its aftermath is former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir. He accused me of wanting to disrupt the good relations between the Malays and the Chinese in Johor when I decided to leave my former seat of Ipoh Timur to contest in Gelang Patah. After the 13th General Election, he blamed the DAP for playing on racial sentiment to draw Chinese support away from the BN. If Dr. Mahathir really wants to know who the real racists are, he should look to the party and leaders responsible for fielding PERKASA’s Zulkifli Nordin in Shah Alam and for making way for PERKASA chief, Ibrahim Ali, to contest as the ‘de facto’ BN candidate in Pasir Mas. He should look to those responsible for sending former Johor Menteri Besar, Abdul Hani Othman, to replace the MCA candidate in Gelang Patah. These are the real chauvinists, the real racists.

By comparison, all the Pakatan Rakyat parties broke new ground in the 13th general elections. The DAP broke new ground in 2013 with the successful election of 2 Malay MPs (Zairil Khair Johari in Bukit Bendera, Penang and Mohd Ariff Sabri bin Abdul Aziz in Raub, Pahang), 1 Malay ADUN (Tengku Zulpuri Shah bin Raja Puji in Mentakab in Pahang) and 1 Kadazan ADUN (Dr. Edwin Bosi in Kepayan in Sabah). In terms of Indian representation, DAP now has more Indian MPs (6) and ADUNs (14) compared to MIC (4 MPs and 5 ADUNs).

The DAP broke new ground in 2013 by fielding 7 Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputera parliamentary candidates. In fact, DAP fielded more Sarawak Bumiputera candidates (6) compared to Chinese candidates (5) in Sarawak.

Dr. Mahathir also accused the DAP of fielding Chinese candidates only in Chinese majority constituencies. Again, Dr. Mahathir has failed miserably to do his homework. The DAP fielded 8 Chinese candidates in non-Chinese majority parliamentary seats including P135 Alor Gajah which is 58% Malay. DAP won 7 of these mixed parliament seats including P128 Seremban which is 44% Malay, 41% Chinese and 14% Indian.

DAP also fielded 12 Chinese candidates in non-Chinese majority state seats including N1 Titi Tinggi in Perlis which is 76% Malay and N14 Kelebang in Melaka which is 60% Malay. The DAP won 10 out of these 12 state seats including N11 Derga in Kedah which is 56% Malay and N21 Duyong which is 50% Malay.

All in all, DAP won 9 parliament and 17 state seats which were non-Chinese majority (less than 50% Chinese voters) including P80 Raub which is a 50% Malay parliament seat and also N30 Mentakab, which is a 50% Malay state seat. Both of these seats were contested and won by DAP Malay candidates.

At the same time, PAS also fielded a Chinese non-Muslim candidate – Hu Pang Chow, the head of the PAS Supporter’s Club - in the parliament seat of Ayer Hitam in Johor. PAS also fielded an Indian non-Muslim candidate – Kumutha A/P Rahman – in the state seat of Tiram in Johor.

PKR was also successful in breaking new ground in Sabah by successfully electing 1 Kadazan MP (Darell Leiking in Penampang) as well as 3 Kadazan ADUNs and 2 Sabah Muslim ADUNs. At the parliamentary level, PKR has 16 Malay, 9 Chinese, 4 Indian and 1 Kadazan MP.

From the perspective of trying to bridge ethnic divides and build bridges among the diverse communities in Malaysia, the Pakatan Rakyat parties have been doing this way before the elections. These efforts are reflected in the ethnic composition of our candidates and by extension of our elected representatives. We are way ahead on this issue, unlike the BN, who is starting this national reconciliation process only after the conclusion of the 13th General Election.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah