In just two days – Sept 23 and 24 – three developments summed up the sorry state of the ruling establishment. And caused sensible Malaysians to lose further faith in the government. In the first, the deputy prime minister played the role of Pontius Pilate by washing his hands of a responsibility the public had expected him to fulfil.
In the second, a former prime minister showed his racist true colours and desperation when he said Malays would lose power if Pakatan Rakyat took over the government.
In the third, the police arrested a cartoonist, just hours before the launch of his latest book. On what charge? Wait for the government to decide.
What we are witnessing is not surprising. These three events are manifestations of dinosaur thinking, which by now should be extinct. But those who adhere to them seem to think they’re still effective, which must mean they cannot be qualified to lead a progressive nation.
Muhyiddin Yassin may have some fine print in some rules of procedure to back him up in regard to the Kedah school principal who uttered racist remarks to his students. On Sept 23, he said any action against the principal can only be taken by the disciplinary board of the Public Services Department (PSD), headed by the director-general.
However, the public is asking: “But you are the education minister. And also the deputy prime minister. Surely, you have certain powers to act on something as heinous as racism, to send out a positive message to the people?”
The public is also asking why the report by the Ministry of Education team investigating the incident is taking so long to be considered. It was given to the PSD on Sept 4. Has the time been mostly spent instead on digging up the PSD regulations to provide Muhyiddin with an escape clause?
If you asked any sensible Malaysian, they would tell you Muhyiddin has simply “copped out”. He is not thinking like a Malaysian Leader No 2, one who must do the right thing in the Malaysian interest regardless of other factors.
His action shows he is thinking as a party leader, bound by considerations of race. On that score, you might be able to excuse Umno – and Muhyiddin – for thinking that no action against the principal means no loss of votes for the party. Better that than appeasing other races and risk losing Malay votes. That’s dinosaur thinking of the second highest order. Very un-1Malaysia.
Meanwhile, what has happened to the case of the Johor school principal who allegedly told her Chinese students to go back to China and insulted the religion of her Indian students? It seems all quiet on the southern front. Which also happens to be Muhyiddin’s territory. And Umno’s.
Dr M, the top dinosaur
I alluded earlier to dinosaur thinking of the second highest order. What about dinosaur thinking of the highest order?
That honour must go to Dr Mahathir Mohamad. On Sept 24, he said that if Pakatan Rakyat came to power, even if the resulting prime minister were Malay, he would be a tool of others. As an analogy, he said when Mohamed Nizar Jamaluddin was menteri besar of Perak, “he followed the DAP’s orders”. He was heading “a Chinese government”.
This is actually nothing new from Mahathir. He has expressed these views before, in his bid to instil fear in the Malays that they will lose power and be overrun by non-Malays. Lately, however, he has been stepping it up. He is working more and more on conditioning the Malay mind into believing who the enemy is, even if it’s imagined.
This is dangerous divisive politics, but does Mahathir care? This is regressing to the politics of fear, which he generated when he was prime minister, but which many voters rejected during the 2008 general election. Again, does Mahathir care?
What seems clear from his recent sustained onslaught is that he’s getting more desperate in wanting to keep Pakatan out of Putrajaya. He apparently fears the consequences of Pakatan in government. From all the talk that has been circulating about aspects of his administration – and we’ve seen just an example in the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the VK Lingam case – he might be hauled up to answer some questions. Understandably, he would not want to live through that ordeal.
Meanwhile, Nurul Izzah Anwar of PKR has challenged Mahathir to a debate “to clarify if his ‘fear’ for the Malays is really about loss of power or, in reality, loss of wealth for the chosen few”. Would the old man of the past have the guts to take on the young leader of the present and the future?
Govt cuts off its nose
As for the third event, the arrest of cartoonist Zunar (Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque) has merely created a new popular hero in the movement for a better Malaysia. And it has made the government look worse for stifling free expression. Which is why it doesn’t make sense that it should resort to
What’s even more damning is that there was no clear indication of what Zunar was being arrested for. According to his lawyer, Latheefa Koya, the authorities were not sure whether to charge him under the Sedition Act or the Printing Presses and Publications Act.
In this age of the Internet and speedy communication, arresting someone for producing a book of political cartoons is reflective of dinosaur thinking. Even if the cartoons are critical of the government, it speaks better for the government to tolerate its right to be published and disseminated, and to acknowledge that its creator enjoys the freedom of expression.
This is guaranteed in the Constitution, and we are supposed to be living in a democratic state. So let a thousand flowers bloom, let a thousand voices vie for attention in the marketplace. Perkasa is given their voice, why not Zunar?
Is it due to the fact that he is Malay and therefore more of a threat, because his ideas might appeal more to the Malay masses? Is it because cartoons transcend language and can express in one picture what a thousand words might not?
Whatever the reasoning, it overlooks one crucial point. Zunar is not alone. There is a resistance movement. Not an organised one, but it’s there. And it’s like the mythical Hydra. If you cut off one head, another will grow to take its place. Perhaps more.
So, to put it idiomatically, the cutting that has been done in the Zunar arrest is not quite what was intended. It is more a case of the government cutting off its nose to spite its face.
That’s what happens as a result of dinosaur thinking.