Friday, March 14, 2008


- The Case Of Three Blind Mice Out To See The World-

It’s a witch’s brew that’s been concocted by the DAP in Perak, the kind served with a floating red cherry. Winning 18 from a field of 56 cannot be so good as to make the others bow before demands issued by the power-inebriate and to change the system as though the newly won wonderland provided free a magic-wand to wish away constitutional and institutional impediments for “Malaysian Malaysia” to become instantly real.

With one knee-jerk DAP leader, Lim Kit Siang, almost held contempt the Perak Sultan, the state constitution, and his strange bedfellow, the Pas, without whom his party cannot form the government in Perak.

DAP won only 18 in a field of 56 in the state. With the PKR seven it could only count to 25, four short of the 29 required to rule with a majority of one. Pas has six, the arithmetic giving the combination 31 from 56 and hence, also a fair share of the meat.

Thus, three names were submitted to the Regent of Perak, Raja Nazrin, one representing each of the trio. It had to be that by force of the simple numbers.

The Regent in his wisdom chose the Pas candidate and Kit Siang boomed his objection in terms that would involve the palace in politics. Calling for the DAP to boycott the swearing-in of the Mentri Besar at the istana on 13 March, he slid the spanner into the works. Both the system and the culture had become his enemy.

His apology feeble, the ambers he stoked became fanned into a fire when the Perak DAP state assemblypersons disagreed with him and instead demanded eight of the 10 Exco seats in the government leaving one each for the PKR and Pas.

The party was wishing to lunch on the lion’s share at the expense of its mates, having agreed previously to take six and leave two each for the PKR and Pas.

Clearly one from the trio was going blind into power and the blind spots afflicting it were enough for the Perak Regent to decide the pact was not fit to form a stable government.

He cancelled the swearing-in of the new Menteri Besar and has since asked the three parties to give him in writing their acceptance and support of the candidate he had chosen.

It is Kit Siang and the DAP that had gone high on the samsu before the carnival had begun. It was lucky Raja Nazrin was not someone who would bear a grudge. Pas and PKR were victims of circumstances. They had all agreed on the principles of the power-sharing and that failed to keep to the detriment of Kit Siang and the DAP in Perak.

But what’s really behind Kit Siang’s objection and the DAP becoming grabby are the big questions people are asking and the answer is simply both have lost their heads feeling the power in their hands for the first time in the party’s blessed life. The character weakness shall remain a sore point. The DAP will have to prove it is a temporary malady.

Some people are swiftly seeing into the strange development the familiar mask that’s been a disguise of communalism. It is the demand for “Malaysian Malaysia”, which some are now saying is semantically “we rule our way, for us, the Chinese.”


The DAP wants out all constitutional provisions that provide for Malay Special Rights and those that deny non-Malays the right to becoming Menteri Besar in all Malay States.

It is also against race-based affirmative action. It wants meritocracy in all fields, including in the Administration and in education, while keeping the Chinese schools intact, denying shared life-space for the children as they grow.

Some Malays conceive this as demanding to colonize. But in states where the Opposition can rule, it has only won 18 seats of 56 in Perak, 13 of 56 in Selangor and 20 of 40 in Penang. In Kedah it has but one seat.

Immediately after taking power in Penang it announced it will dismantle the New Economic Policy (NEP), resulting in a quick reaction. More than 3000 demonstrated at KOMPTAR where the new chief minister, Lim Guan Eng, had not had time to warm his seat.

He reeled into instant apologetics, saying he merely said he wanted open-tenders and not continue with the negotiated-tenders he alleged the BN government applied. The result is a blurring of the policy intent and the others in the pact had to save him – united we stand, but together we may still fall, of course.

In Perak the imbalance of woes blew into a circus. It caused a malady of conflicting policies and perceptions within the trio even before the government had been installed. The samsu must have been super-strong.

The PKR is willing to retain Malay Special Rights and accept the ethnic-based affirmative actions with the condition all communities shall equally benefit from the government’s pantry.

The Pas also accepts the NEP and is merely wishing to remove the corruption that goes with it. According to the Prime Minister, Pak Lah, 85 percent of the projects in the Bumiputra affirmative action basket fell to Non-Bumiputra beneficiaries. It must have been via graft, thievery and syndicated brigandage.

On the NEP and Malay Special Rights the Pas is largely the same as the PKR and differ mainly about Islamic Law.

But the larger problem with the Pas, and therefore with the pact, is about how it thinks. For instance, while the rest of the capitalist world required the Welfare State because of the industrial reserve of four percent needed to keep industry assured of labor supply, the Pas wants it because it is in the Holy Book no matter if the country is capitalist, socialist or something in-between.

It’s the same about slavery. While the West decided to do away with the institution so as to enlarge the consumer base for industrial society to succeed, the Pas wants to free slaves because the Prophet of Islam did it and it is “recommended” by the Holy Qur’an.
It is dogmatism about which the younger set of Pas members want moderated and modified.

The DAP, on the other hand, is a social democrat and a secularist, now showing itself rather of a greedy brat and a chauvinist, something the others in the pact will have to decide whether to take into an Alternative Front or simply retain as a needful artifice in a pact of political convenience.

DAP obviously wants the upper hand wherever it has won the most seats regardless of the constitutional and cultural impediments. The penance it will have to do to retain the people’s support has mounted to a heap higher than Golgotha.

How it shall fare in the future now hangs in a limbo somewhere between heaven and hell. It will have to pay a heavy price for the disappointing display of drunkenness, swigging the witch’s brew so early in the day.

Heaven obviously did not devise these sorts of conflicts to happen in Malaysia. Previously it was done by the Pas. Now it is the DAP’s turn to go backside up in a sort of yamseng that isn’t even proper in gutter-politics.

Failed State

On March 13 the Regent of Perak decided the trio would never make it together and rather than risk having a failed state, he cancelled the swearing-in of the Menteri Besar, leaving Perak without an elected government for more than a week.

There are sensitive issues the pact will have to deal with before it can gain the people’s confidence, and especially earn more Malay votes in the next general elections. The most critical is about who owns Malaya and the Malay States.

Malaysia is historically a crude British colonial product. Citizenship as we know it today became a legal option only in 15 September 1952 when via an Ordinance the British Raj decided 2.72 million Malays and Aslis were citizens by birthright and 1.157 million Chinese and 222,000 Indians became “automatically” citizens by fulfilling residency requirements in 1953.

That was to repay the Chinese Communists, especially, for their services to the British in its fight against the Japanese and to win over the other Chinese against the Communist Insurrection launched in 1948.

More meaningfully, it was a means to forge a Malayan citizenry to enable self-government and subsequently, Independence.

In the 1955 election for self-government the Alliance that was formed to represent the Malays (Umno), the Chinese (MCA) and the Indians (MIC) could finally be tested and the coalition won 51 of 52 seats contested.

In the 1959 federal election, of 104 Parliamentary constituencies up for grabs in Malaya, the Alliance proved its worth and took 74. From the remaining, the Pas took 13 and rose as a specter since, green as a cabbage leaf, but bearded for disguise. The Socialist Front gained eight and PPP got four.

The experiment to provide citizenship to the Chinese and Indians to secure Malaya from the communist threat worked. But what it also implied was a consensus on a social contract, the charter of which is the Malaysian Constitution before the distortions had damaged the purity of the intended laws and liberties.

Then it must be remembered Umno was born in the grounds of the Johor palace to secure the Malay royal houses against “Mad” MacMichael’s use of force to coerce the Sultans to agree to the Malayan Union in 1946. The Malayan Union would have turned the whole of the Malay States into British Crown Colonies like Singapore, Malacca and Penang.

Thus, among the ground rules between the trio in the Alliance was the consensus that the Malay states belong to the Malays and all citizens share the country without displacing the Malays from their special privileges. Non-Malays can lead the Executive in Penang, Malacca and the Federation.

It must be clear then that the Malay special privileges can only be removed with the consent of the Malays themselves, i.e. when they are ready to set those aside. In other words, it should be achieved by persuasion. Revolutionary change would spill lots of blood. For what?

Is It Not Enough?

Is it not enough for the non-Malays to be able to take as a whole the governments in Penang, Malacca and the Federation? Is it “nice” that the Chinese insist they keep their own schooling system to hold intact their identity and culture and then demand to be freely accommodated in all sectors and all privies?

It would be good for the PKR and the Pas to let the DAP have all 10 Exco posts in Perak so that they do not have to bicker over the meat. The people will react if the greed gets out of hand. Take the lot and be done, but the Perak constitution prefers to maintain the Malay state as a Malay state.

The social contract was carefully observed by the Alliance. Until the PAP of Singapore had entered the show after the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the social contract was meticulously and gracefully observed. PAP demanded “Malaysian Malaysia”, causing a stir that forced its separation from Malaysia two years later.

To the Malays, the DAP has since been remembered as a leftover of the PAP, and dancing to the same tune, the rhythm of which is reminiscent of the Chinese bid to takeover the country immediately after the Japanese Occupation.

While most people remember the Malays had had to fight against the Communist terrorists from 1948, the historical facts enlisted the Koumintang into the ruinous racist extravaganza beginning in 1942.

In 1942, Kuomintang guerrillas operating in the Jeli to Grik and Lenggong watersheds burned down isolated Malay villages. They killed those who tried to escape and took some captives. The captives were enslaved and forced to work in plantations.

Later the Communists in the MPAJA (Malayan Peoples’ Anti-Japanese Army) likewise took turns to coerce Malays, wishing to collect taxes they imposed and to use the Malays as informants.

The Malay reaction came late, in mid-1944, but it was surprisingly strong and decisive. They fought against guns mainly with the parang panjang (machetes).

Continued coercive activities such as these brought about the formation of the Home-Guard and the Special Constabulary (SC) under General Templer in the mid-1950s.

For the first time the Malays from the kampungs were trained in the use of firearms and posted to man the roads and villages all over the country, to secure their Tanah Air (homeland).

Under the Home-Guard, barefooted Malay men and women were trained to use the shotgun, pump-gun and the 303, to defend their kampungs and their Tanah Air from “Chinese”. There were “bamboo-spear” (tombak) squads and “squatter-staff” (sticks) squads.

It was the kind of mobilization from which fables were born. Some Malay women, we were told, had even shot their husbands in the leg for merely mentioning then name of another woman they met in the training courses. Such was the temper that was aroused among the women, and such too was the courage of their husbands to continue eyeing other women.

These remain like living fables in the collective memory of the Malays, and in Umno it is a raison d’etre for the establishment of the party. It is the soul of its élan. The Malay wants and needs to believe this country remains his. The others he calls “Orang Asing”, aliens, even if they are citizens.


The Malay sultanates affirm that heritage and hence, it is very much a part of the Malay existential personality. He “owns” the Raja-Raja and they in turn affirm the country belongs to the Malays, defining his self with his homeland through his Raja.

This “feudalism” will need time to change. It is a cherishment, viewed as a little “nicety” of Malay culture that provides him the psychological security he requires to be living in a shared political space with the “aliens” (Orang Asing) who are economically still his better.

Kit Siang, ramboed through that Malay “nicety”. Though he apologized it is still the kind of thing you must never do to become government. The damage is done and the penance will have to be made.

He had struck against constitutional monarchy and along with the DAP, made himself vulnerable. This constitutional monarchy is doing to Idris Jusoh in Trengganu what the Opposition had failed to do. Is that not a “nicety”?

But Umno, MCA and MIC will certainly recall 1944-56 and 1969, the gist of that being a counter-action against the “Tsunami” that grounded the BN to a jarring halt, knocking the Gerakan into the graveyard, the PPP into the backstreet and the MIC into a sudden recall of Subramaniam, Samy Vellu’s allergy. Is there still the BN in West Malaysia, in a hospital intensive-care ward somewhere?

Still, it is better for the DAP to remember the counteractions have begun. What has been a larger than surprising win can now go into severe systematic debility. Victors should learn to be magnanimous, and dutifully humble to the nation, the people and their own constituencies. They must also be collectively accountable.

Everyone I talked to did not wish to give the DAP a warning. They issued reprimands. ----a. ghani ismail, 14 March 2008

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