If the Cabinet today cannot set the country right to address and resolve the multiple crisis of confidence plaguing the country, then it is not a Cabinet Malaysians need

Today’s Cabinet meeting is a critical one for the nation as it will be the last Cabinet meeting before next Wednesday which is a public holiday for Malaysia Day.

This is not because next Wednesday commemorates the formation of Malaysia 52 years ago but because of a “racially-fuelled” Umno or pro-UMNO Sept. 16 red-shirt rally which the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM) secretary-general Datuk Seri Syed Hussein Al-Habshee has warned would have “castastrophic” consequences.

In a statement yesterday, Syed Hussein said the rally will “trigger negativity and erosion of business sentiments, affecting foreign investors’ perceptions and tourism and add further pressure on the ringgit”.

The secretary-general of NCCIM, which represents the Malay, Chinese and Indian chambers of commerce and industry, said he feared the effects of the rally could cripple the Malaysian economy, halting its ability to recover.

He said: “It might leave us without fixes to yield a quick recovery process.”

To hold a racially-charged rally for UMNO or pro-UMNO Malays to counter a purportedly and completely-untrue allegation of a Chinese Bersih 4 rally on Sept. 16 also subverts and destroys the very theme of “Sehati Sejiwa” which the Cabinet had chosen for this year’s independence day celebrations covering both Merdeka Day Anniversary on August 31 and Malaysia Day Anniversary on Sept. 16.

Malaysians should able to remember what the then Communications and Multimedia Minister, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said in early June when announcing the Cabinet choice of the “Sehati Sejiwa” theme, which is to reflect the spirit of solidarity, understanding, togetherness and humanity of all people in the country.

In less than three months, the Cabinet itself has forgotten the reasons for the choice of the theme “Sehati Sejiwa” for the Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day celebrations as the UMNO or pro-UMNO Red Shirt rally planned for Kuala Lumpur next Wednesday will be the very antithesis of the theme of “Sejiwa Sehati” for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region, age, gender or politics – as it is the very opposite of the symbolism of the spirit of solidarity shared by all Malaysian citizens no matter where they are.

Instead of the symbolism of “unity in diversity” and “unity is strength”, the Red Shirts represents the discredited “divide and rule” practices initiated by the British colonial era, which Merdeka Day of 1957 and Malaysia Day of 1963 were meant to be the beginning of the journey to slay and bury more than half a century ago.

Sarawakians and Sabahans will be fully justified to be greratly aggrieved and alienated that on Malaysia Day, UMNO leaders are sponsoring an anti-Bersih Red Shirt rally, showing how little regard or respect they have for the anniversary marking the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia comprising Peninsular Malaya with Sarawak and Sabah.

The greenlight given by the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi for the Red Shirt rally in Kuala Lumpur on Sept. 16 has taken everyone by surprise, as it was Zahid himself who had repeatedly warned that the authorities would take “stern action” against the “mastermind” and participants of the Bersih 4 rally and even personally signed the order banning Bersih 4 T-shirts as “undesirable” items on the eve of Bersih 4 rally.

Zahid’s “greenlight” for the Sept. 16 UMNO or pro-Umno Red Shirt rally is all the more shocking as the Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Noor Rashid Ibrahim had announced that the “Red Shirt” rally will not be allowed to take place due to safety concerns.

In view of the highly-charged and seditious nature of the pre-publicity for the Red Shirt rally, inciting and provoking racial hatred and tensions, is the Police going to investigate Zahid as to why the Home Minister is encouraging the holding of the Sept. 16 Red Shirt rally, when he said that UMNO members will not be barred from participating in the Red Shirt rally?

Can Zahid explain why he is now talking about the “individual rights of Umno members” to attend the Red Shirt rally when he had threatened punitive action against those who attended the Bersih 4 rally?

Furthermore, why the government has “no opinion” on the Red Shirt rally when he was so gung-ho and hawkish in his condemnation of the Bersih 4 rally, even personally signing the order to ban the use of yellow Bersih 4 T-shirts?

UMNO Ministers and deputy minister should know better and set an example to all Malaysians, but some of them like Ismail Sabri and Ab Aziz Kaprawi are in the forefront to endorse the Red Shirt rally for a Malay protest against the alleged but spurious Chinese show of force against Malay political power in the Bersih 4 rally.

The Cabinet meeting today is very crucial and if the Cabinet cannot set the country right to address and resolve the multiple crisis of confidence plaguing the country, then it is not a Cabinet Malaysians need at this critical hour.

The Cabinet must end the drift afflicting the country in the past two months and come up with a new blueprint to initiate a virtuous cycle of development to restore confidence by focussing on the issues of transparency, integrity and good governance.

Is the Cabinet capable of rising up to this challenge?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah