Two speeches by UMNO Ministers in Permatang Pauh yesterday highlighted the urgent need for UMNO to get a real education in democracy by being sent to Opposition benches with the end of its national monopoly of power since Merdeka in 1957 and Malaysia in 1963

Two speeches by UMNO Ministers in the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign yesterday highlighted the urgent need for UMNO to get a real education in democracy by being sent to Opposition benches with the end of its national monopoly of power since Merdeka in 1957 and formation of Malaysia in 1963.

The first was the haughty, arrogant and insufferable statement by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who said that applications for agricultural funds and projects in Permatang Pauh will not be approved if Pakatan Rakyat wins the by-election again.

Speaking at the Kuala Mengkuang polling district, Ismail said:

“This is an agricultural area. I will surely approve if it is Suhaimi Sabudin (BN candidate) who is making the applications.

“If it is (PKR’s president and candidate Datuk Seri Dr) Wan Azizah (Wan Ismail), she will not even get past my office lobby.

“There is no reason for me to see her. She is from the opposition.”

Ismail, of the “call to Malay consumers to boycott Chinese businesses” notoriety, who not only highlighted the ingrained racist thinking of certain UMNO Ministers but also the double standards in the “administration of justice” by the Police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers, clearly had no notion that his Ministerial responsibility is to 30 million Malaysians regardless of race, religion, territory or political affiliation; that he is not paid by UMNO funds but by public funds by all taxpayers and his duty is to be a Minister for all Malaysians, and not just to UMNO (which, eventually, ends up in only UMNO cronies)!

In a truly democratic administration, a Minister who make such petty-minded, anti-people and undemocratic sentiments would be immediately hauled up by the Prime Minister and made to retract his statement, even facing the risk of being sacked from the Cabinet, with or without such a retraction.

But not in Malaysia, and Ismail is even preening himself for his outspokenness to espouse UMNO interest at the expense of national interest.

This is one reason why UMNO Ministers must be taught a lesson in democracy by sending them to the Opposition benches.

PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar has urged the Election Commission (EC) to investigate Ismail’s statement as it was akin to bribery under the Election Act 1954.

Nobody expects the Election Commission to take any notice of Ismail’s electoral offence or Malaysia would not have been ranked in the lowly No. 114 out of 127 countries surveyed in terms of the country’s polling system in a study by the Electoral Integrity Project – where Indonesia was ranked 51, Thailand 88 and the Philippines 91.

The second example was furnished by the UMNO Vice President and Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein who warned that “changing leaders” could lead to worsening of problems, and the countries he cited to substantiate his warning are Libya, Iraq and Egypt pointing to the fate of their former leaders, Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak.

Hishammuddin rhetorically asked: “They (the people) were so angry at Gaddafi that they shot him, at Saddam who was then hanged, at Mubarak (who was jailed).

“I want to ask the people of Permatang Pauh. Were the problems of these countries solved?”

Of course, Hishammuddin got the “no” answer he had expected.

Malaysians are flabbergasted by the examples Hishammuddin had chosen to warn about the dangers of changing leaders.

Hishammuddin is right that changing leaders can lead to better or worse leaders, but to cite Libya, Iraq and Egypt as examples which can befall Malaysia if there is a change of leaders is not only completely out of place but reflects a most undemocratic mindset.

In the first place, there is not much of a democratic setting or culture for Gaddaffi’s Libya, Saddam’s Iraq or Mubarak’s Egypt to talk about.

Does Hishammuddin really think that Malaysia’s democratic governance should be held on par with Gaddaffi’s Libya, Saddam’s Iraq or Mubarak’s Egypt, which may be why there is an upsurge of repression in Malaysia, not only in the persecution and victimisation of Pakatan Rakyat leaders and NGO activists but in the enactment of one repressive law after another.

We are in the midst of major police crackdown, after a peaceful May Day celebrations by over 20,000 people in Kuala Lumpur yesterday calling for the abolition of the oppressive 6% Goods and Services Tax, turning May 1, 2015, into Najib’s 2015 Black Friday mass arrests, reminiscent of Mahathir’s 1987 Black Tuesday “Operation Lalang” mass arrests on Oct. 27, 1987 under the Internal Security Act.

The voters of Permatang Pauh should in fact use their vote on May 7 to condemn the repressive and malicious post May Day rally mass arrests last night.

Among those arrested are the DAP National Organising Secretary and MP for Seremban, Anthony Loke, former Bersih Chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and PSM secretary-generral S. Arutchelvan.

The voters of Permatang Pauh should use their vote on the by-election polling day to state loud and clear on behalf of 30 million Malaysians (i) to condemn the spate of arrests post-May Day peaceful demonstration; and (ii) that Malaysia does not want to be compared in democratic governance with Gaddaffi’s Libya, Saddam’s Iraq or Mubarak’s Egypt but with developed nations which Malaysia aspire to join in 2020, like the United Kingdom, European Union countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, or Asian democracies like Japan, South Korea, India and Indonesia, where a change of government during elections is not regarded as a national catastrophe but a normal democratic choice of the people.

It is curious why Hishammddin is talking about the perils of change of leaders at a time when pressure is mounting inside UMNO for Najib to step down, as that was not his stand when pressure mounted after the 2008 general election for Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down as Prime Minister.

Is Hishammuddin suggesting that if Muhyiddin takes over from Najib, a scenario like Gaddaffi’s Libya, Saddam’s Iraq or Mubarak’s Egypt could be enacted? May be Hishammuddin would care to elucidate.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah