With all the fiery comments I heard from the recent UMNO General Assembly, it prompted a look back into what I've read about the circumstances surrounding the formation of Malaysia. That was when the much bandied about "Social Contract" and special rights and privileges of the Malays was cemented with handshakes lubricated with spit from the communal leaders at that time.
There are stark similarities between now and then, which leads me to the question: Is UMNO up to their old tricks again? Are they making moves to draw upon a tried and true method of solidifying their influence, in the face of recent issues and setbacks to their leadership?
Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. The Singapore Story.These comments are consistent with Patrick Keith's version of history in "Ousted! An insider's story of the ties that failed to bind".
(Excerpts from page 285-287 of the Abridged Edition)
But we had more reason to worry about Syed Ja'afar Albar, the hatchet man of the UMNO leaders hostile to Singapore. Originally from Indonesia but of Arab descent... he was a great rabble-rouser, skilful in working up the mob and, as I was to learn, totally ruthless and unscrupulous in his methods.
His English was not adequate for public speaking, but his Malay was superb, his delivery powerful. He did not need to be reported in the English-language press, which would have shown him up as a racist to English speakers not only in Malaysia but internationally. He concentrated on the Malay newspapers, and his most strident lines were confined to them, especially to the Utusan Melayu, which was printed in Jawi (the Arabic script) and not read by the Chinese, Indians, British and other Europeans. The Utusan had been bought by UMNO, and was Albar's weapon of choice for multiplying the effect of his speeches.
On 23 May, an editorial in the Utusan accused the PAP and me of inciting non-Malays to demand the abolition of the special rights of the Malays. On 11 June, the paper proclaimed, "Singapore UMNO directed to take steps to save PAP victims", The next day, another headline: "Malays in Singapore today facing threat, pressure and oppression by the government. Do not treat the sons of the soil as stepchildren".
This excerpt from one of his [Albar's] speeches was typical:
"I am very happy today we Malays and Muslims in Singapore have shown unity and are prepared to live or die together for our race and our future generation. If there is unity, no force in this world can trample us down, no force can humiliate us, no force can belittle us. Not one Lee Kuan Yew, a thousand Lee Kuan Yews... we finish them off... (Handclapping. Shouts. "Kill him... Kill him... Othman Wok and Lee Kuan Yew")..."
Does that rhetoric sound familiar or what? Compare it to the present:
'Umno is willing to risk lives and bathe in blood to defend the race and religion. Don't play with fire. If they messed with our rights, we will mess with theirs"On Nov 17, 2006, the government today assured that the position of the Malay language as contained in Article 3(5) of the Federal Constitution will remain unchanged.
“Don’t test the Malays, they know ‘amok’".
“...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?"
Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said: "we decided to revive and bring back Utusan Melayu".
This comment was corroborated off the record, over a breakfast cup of tea by virtually everyone I know from my parent's generation. Don't take Lee Kuan Yew's word for it. Ask your parents or grandparents.
Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. The Singapore Story.
(Excerpts from page 318 of the Abridged Edition)
The race issue overshadowed everything else. During a session of the federal parliament in November 1964, Dr Lim Chong Eu, MP and leader of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) based in Penang, commiserated with me over the two race riots we had suffered in Singapore. He said he had experienced it all. From his description of the disorders in Penang in the 1950s, I realised that what Albar and his UMNO Turks had applied in Singapore was a well-tested method. The police and the army held the ring while favouring the Malay rioters - usually bersilat groups, thugs and gangsters let loose to make mischief. Once passions were aroused and enough Chinese counter-attacked, even ordinary Malays joined in. When the Chinese hit back, they were clobbered by the police and army: law and order were enforced against them, not against the Malays. The result was a sullen, cowed population.
Perwakilan Pemuda, Ketua Penerangan Pemuda Umno Terengganu, Razali Idris berkata: “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. Umno rela mengorbankan nyawa dan bermandi darah untuk mempertahankan bangsa dan agama daripada bukan Muslim atau bukan Melayu.”And in the place of bersilat groups in the 50s & 60s mentioned above, we today have Mat Rempits whom Putera UMNO have been courting. For those who don't know yet, Mat Rempits are Malay youths who go joyriding in large packs on motorbikes. Of late, they have been involved in innumerable incidents of violence against other road users and generally anyone who has the misfortune to cross paths with them.
"Youth delegate, Information Chief of UMNO Youth Trengganu, Razali Idris said: "The rights of Malays cannot be challenged, if not the Malay people will run amok, the May 13 incident will be repeated. The difference is that it will be worse than 1969 which turned KL into a field of devastation. UMNO will sacrifice lives and a bloodbath to defend race and religion from non-Muslims and non-Malays".
They fit the bill, don't they? Young, violent, disenchanted with life, possessing little wealth nor further education and easily goaded by their handlers in the name of race and religion. And there are thousands of them, in all corners the country. They offer a potent mix of explosive violence, nationwide coverage, high mobility and proven ruthlessness for those who are able to commandeer their loyalties onto the dark path.
And what about the police and army? We can only hope and pray that if the situation goes from push to shove, that their conduct will be more even-handed and more professional compared with the 1950s and 1960s as depicted above. I am ever hopeful that there are those among them who subscribe to the force's true doctrine of "Bersih Cekap dan Amanah" and that they will tide us over any disaster.
And what of the other couple hundred thousand of RELA militia? Professionalism and even-handedness are not what they are known for. Recent news depict them as indisciplined, high-handed and abusive bullies. Whatever the case, it was a mistake to arm them with firearms.
Now... do I think that UMNO, in this day and age, will resort to the last step and do what they have, non-stop for an entire week, threatened to do? No. Definitely not. The 2500 fat cats have too much to lose by taking a harder line than simple grandstanding to their poor rural cousins. Though UMNO youth's outreach to the Mat Rempits seems ominous, UMNO has been trash-talking at each and every General Assembly for years. And it usually ends with guys like Pak Lah and co. trying to smooth things over with the rest of Malaysia by tickling our balls with reconciliatory press statements on their commitment to a multi ethnic Malaysia.
But I was never one to leave my fate to the tender mercies of others. The ONE THING we can do, which will guarantee the safety of Malaysia, and of ALL Malaysians - come hell or high water - is to ensure the integrity and professionalism of the police and armed forces. Ensure that their actions will be tempered by a fair and balanced perspective no matter what depths the racial situation might spiral down to. We need to urgently re-engineer the racial composition of the police and armed forces' rank and file.
The composition of the police and the army is skewed almost entirely Malay. In short, this is simply unhealthy in a multi-ethnic country and will not guarantee an even-hand when dealing with sensitive or passionate issues. For the sake of social equity and the preservation of communal peace (both tenets, ironically espoused by UMNO when defending their narrow brand of NEP), we must have a much higher proportion of non-Malays in the police and armed forces.
Therefore Chinese parents (and Indian ones too)..., the next time your sons and daughters have the ambition to become a policeman or soldier, do us all a favour and encourage them dearly. Do not even mention the old Chinese adage of "good sons do not soldier". If you do, you deserve to be bitch slapped.
Being a respectable soldier or police officer is much better and infinitely more honourable than being a vcd peddlar, ah long enforcer or small time gangster. And over the long term, the returns could be as good as the current alternatives favoured by the Chinese - especially if the IGP gets the full pay increase he wants. I'm confident that pretty soon, the government will realise that the first step to a professional police force is to compensate them at professional levels. So, salaries will not be such a big factor in the future. In addition, it will firmly shut the mouth of anyone who questions the loyalty of non-Malays to our country. That alone, is worth something, isn't it?
And don't be too concerned about promotions. Remember, the lower the rank, the bigger the gun. And going by UMNO's exhortations this year, firepower, not reason, is what matters.