desensitization and the Boiling-Frog syndrome
2008 Budget Debate Speech (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
National unity is one of the
challenges of the Prime Minister’s Department but it is sad and scandalous
that on the occasion of the 50th Merdeka anniversary celebration, there
has been an escalation of incidents which further undermine national unity
and polarize race and religious relations.
The most recent incident was the demolition of a 40-year-old Hindu temple
at Kampung Rimba Jaya in Shah Alam, Selangor last week, showing utter
contempt of the Selangor State and Shah Alam Municipal authorities for
legitimate and constitutional rights and sensitivities to the extent that
even the MIC President, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu had yesterday to
momentarily announce the cancellation of all MIC Deepavali Open Houses, to
be reversed a few hours later.
Why couldn’t the demolition of the Kampung Rimba Jaya Hindu temple wait
for a week for Deepavali to be celebrated by the Hindu devotees? Why
couldn’t the Selangor and Shah Alam municipal authorities allow time for
the Hindu temple to be relocated?
What action would be taken against the Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri
Mohamad Khir Toyo and the Shah Alam Municipal authorities for their
insensitivities in demolishing the Hindu temple in Shah Alam, seriously
damaging the process of nation-building?
Another grave setback to national unity and nation-building took place
just today – at the UMNO Youth General Assembly, where for the third year
consecutively, the UMNO Youth leader and Education Minister, Datuk Seri
Hishammuddin Hussein wielded the keris and attacked those who had
criticized him for his keris-antics in the past two years as “real
Last week, Hishammuddin 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
I am reminded of the Boiling-Frog Syndrome. 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
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
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
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
For the sake of national unity, such Hishamuddin keris-antics and
“desensitization” should end forthwith.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman