Zainuddin’s infantile but dangerous gambit to racialise Kajang by-election is utterly irresponsible and cause of worsening racial polarization in Malaysia

Former Cabinet Minister Tan Sri Zainuddin Yassin is up to his mischief of communal politicking again.

He said in his blog that the Chinese community has a “golden opportunity” to regain the trust of the Malays in the wake of the so-called “Chinese Tsunami” of Election 2013.

He said: “The Kajang by-election is not the chance for Malays to repay the ‘Chinese Tsunami’ but must be seen as a golden opportunity for the Chinese community to overturn Malay views that the Chinese can no longer be trusted as political allies.

He said that “it is undeniable that this trust was broken by the ‘Chinese Tsunami”.

Zainuddin said a BN victory would also serve as a platform to rebuild Chinese-Malay co-operation that will benefit racial harmony, boost the economy and stabilise the political climate in the country.

Zainuddin’s infantile but dangerous gambit to racialise Kajang by-election by describing it as a golden opportunity for Chinese to regain the trust of Malays in the wake of so-called “Chinese Tsunami” is utterly irresponsible and it is prevalence of such racist attitudes in the corridors of power which is the cause of worsening racial polarization in Malaysia.

It is most deplorable that while the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had used his 2013 New Year’s Message to try to clarify his unfortunate and inappropriate term of “Chinese Tsunami” on the night of the 13GE, which was downright racist, against his 1Malaysia signature policy and contrary to his talk of “national reconciliation”, Zainuddin wants to resurrect the spectre of “Chinese Tsunami” to racialise politics in Malaysia.

This was also why the Utusan Malaysia, of which Zainuddin was formerly editor-in-chief, had carried the screaming headline “What else the Chinese want?” as an immediate follow-up to Najib’s initial “Chinese Tsunami” statement on 13GE polling day.

I was not the only one who immediately challenged Najib’s “Chinese Tsunami” sweeping generalization. Among those who disagreed with Najib at the time were:

6.5.2013 – Datuk Kadir Jasin, former editor of Umno-owned New Straits Times – who said Barisan Nasional’s (BN) weaker showing in the 13GE points to a strong wave of rejection from all Malaysians and not just from the minority Chinese.

On BN losing winning fewer seats both in Parliament and the State Assemblies, Kadir asked: “Is it not possible that this is not a Chinese tsunami or racial chauvinism but a Malaysian tsunami that is centred on the aspiration and new reality, especially among young voters”?

7.5.2013 – Datuk Dr. Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) founding director of Institute of Ethnic Studies (KITA): The outcome of Election 2013 was not simply the result of a “Chinese tsunami” as Najib has claimed but a major swing in the urban and middle-class electorate that saw Malaysia’s urban-rural rift widen.

Despite the increase in Chinese support for PR, the political tsunami had also swept with it “large numbers of the Malays”, many of them forming part of the country’s middle- to upper-class voters.

“They received Malay middle-class support, especially urban areas. So the DAP majority increased because of disgruntled Malay young voters’ support…in conclusion, to label racial polarization is too easy. Two other factors operate simultaneously with race: class (rich-poor, middle class) and spatial (urban and rural).”

Dr. Lim Teck Ghee, Centre for Policy Initiative (CPI) director: PR won more than half of the popular vote, showing that the coalition had received support from “large numbers of Malays and other non-Chinese voters”.

“The results in Selangor, which has the highest percentage of urban populations, as well as in the other west coast states, certainly showed this urban middle-class trend.

“Large numbers of Malays form part of this middle class, perhaps as many as non-Malays.”

10.5.2013: Merdeka Centre executive director Ibrahim Suffian: Election 2013 was not simply a “Chinese tsunami” as it showed a major swing among the multiracial urban and middle-class electorate against the BN.

At a time when the Prime Minister and Cabinet has just responded positively to the olive branch by the Pakatan Rakyat for a Leaders’ Summit for “national reconciliation” to put an end to the dangerous trend in the country which has threatened the very fabric of our plural society because of incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension, Zainuddin’s attempt to turn the Kajang by-election into racial contest by resurrecting the “Chinese tsunami” is an act of great national disservice most unbecoming of a former Cabinet Minister.

In the 13GE, 59.3% or 1,044,758 voters in Selangor voted for Pakatan Rakyat while 38.94% or 685,502 voters supported Barisan Nasional.

Zainuddin can hope that the majority of voters who had voted for the PR in 13GE would change sides to vote for BN in the by-election, but what is the logic for Zainuddin to turn the Kajang by-election into a communal affair, claiming that it is a chance for the Chinese to redeem themselves and regain the trust of the Malays?

Zainuddin must respect the democratic rights of the 59.3% of the electorate who voted for Pakatan Rakyat in Selangor – also the 67.7% or 492,863 voters of the Penang electorate, the 53.7% or 412,949 of the Kelantan electorate, and most important of all, the 51% or 5,624,084 of the national Malaysian electorate who voted for Pakatan Rakyat to elect the government of their choice without turning their democratic rights into a communal issue.

It is sad that after 56 years of nationhood, a former Cabinet Minister and former editor of a leading newspaper is still so steeped in communal thinking that it is very clear that he is completely bereft of any notion of Malaysian identity as espoused by Najib 1Malaysia policy.

For the information of Zainuddin, the 59.3% of the electorate in Selangor and 51% of the electorate in Malaysia who voted for Pakatan Rakyat come from all races who support the concept of power-sharing as represented by PR in contrast to the power-sharing of BN, which is basically power monopoly of UMNO Baruputras.

The power-sharing formula of Pakatan Rakyat will not undermine the political power of the Malays, the constitutional position of Islam and the Rulers and will ensure that there is a place under Malaysian sun for every one in pursuit of the Malaysian Dream, whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazan, Ibans or Orang Asli.

The question is whether the Kajang by-election is going to be a symbol of “national reconciliation” where all racial and religious incitement of hatred, conflict and tension will end or Malaysians will see the worst case at racial and religious polarization as Zainuddin has tried so early to instigate?

This is why it is urgent and imperative that the decision of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet last Wednesday to positively respond to the olive branch of Pakatan Rakyat on national reconciliation should be acted on immediately without any delay, so that both coalitions can agree on a code of conduct in the by-election which completely bans all incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension or to raise the spectre of May 13.

The Pakatan Rakyat representatives are prepared to meet with Barisan Nasional representatives immediately to finalise the agenda, place and date of such a Barisan National-Pakatan Rakyat Leaders’ Summit. The ball is in the court of the Prime Minister and the BN leadership.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah