When Anwar Ibrahim was arrested in 1998, only the Malays had turned up to protect him. This was the phenomenon in 1998, but it changed in 2012 when Anwar was acquitted of Sodomy II, because the Chinese were also present in front of the Jalan Duta High Court.
Back in the 1990s, the Chinese were still generally contented with the economic well-being of the country, without realising what the Malays had ‘seen’ themselves when Anwar was being arrested in 1998. The Chinese did not realise that the economic growth generated by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad was unsustainable until the country was hit by the Asian Financial Crisis in 1998.
We were still thinking that the country was going to grow at eight percent gross domestic product (GDP) on average, without realising that much of this economic growth was through government spending on the non-productive megaprojects such as Putrajaya and the likes. Billions of dollars were literally ‘burnt’ away on Dr Mahathir’s projects in order to make the country appear as expanding.
This artificial priming of the country’s economic growth was somehow derailed, and people realised that it was not sustainable.
Until this time, the Chinese were generally still supporting the BN. If not for the seats that were won through the support of the country’s Chinese community, Dr Mahathir would have been long gone.
At the height of Reformasi, Dr Mahathir could have been arrested or even beheaded for the sins that he committed during his premiership, but God spared his life in order to show him how his own creation - Umno Baru - has suffered defeat at the hands of the people. It was also good that Anwar’s Reformasi had no elements of violence. His was purely a democratic voice to restore the country’s democracy the way it had been dismantled by Dr Mahathir.
Yet, what we see is an ungrateful Mahathir and how he and his henchmen have become arrogant and corrupted. Umno leaders, one after another, were calling the Chinese pendatang (immigrants) and till today, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is still asking (literally) the Chinese - and the Malays and Indians as well - to emigrate if they choose not to vote for BN.
One Umno leader even said that without the Chinese votes, Umno can still be in power. Another Umno proudly said that no one can sink Umno, not even the finger of God.
These are arrogant words which continue to be muttered by Umno. They can no longer be tolerated by the Chinese community. In a democratic nation, it is entirely one’s right who he or she chooses to vote for, so what has that to do with Mahathir, Najib Abdul Razak or Zahid?
Then there was a weak Pak Lah
Dr M is also to be blamed for ex-prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s failure to bring the nation together, as much as Abdullah had tried. Although Abdullah managed to rally the people of all races behind him in 2004 with his simple slogan, “Don’t work for me, work with me”, Pak Lah - as he was fondly known - lost out to Mahathir in the end. Later on, a spate between Mahathir and Pak Lah continued to be dramatised.
The reason is because the ‘Team B’ (previously Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s camp) supporting Abdullah Badawi was already too weak, while Dr M had his own ‘Team A’ in what is now Umno Baru. The Umno that we knew before 1987, and after that year in what is now known as Umno Baru, are two different entities.
‘Team B’ is nearly gone, where Umno Baru is concerned. The Umno set up by former premier Onn Jaafar and used as the vehicle to fight for independence by the well-respected ‘Bapa Malaysia’ is long gone; what we have today is, in fact, Umno Baru. Legally, Umno can only exist as Umno Baru.
People from ‘Team B’ have either joined PAS or PKR, while others like Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir have formed their own parties which are aligned to Pakatan Rakyat. If Pak Lah had stayed on to lead the country - without the interference of Mahathir - the country would have continued to support Umno and BN.
Instead, Dr Mahathir’s camp won the battle against Tengku Razaleigh and formed Umno Baru, but gradually, they lost their ground outside of Umno Baru. What we saw then, had been simply more open discrimination against the other races. What’s worse is that the perpetrators of discrimination were allowed to go scot-free, while others had been interrogated by the police and thrown into the lock-ups.
In the case of the pendatang remark that became a heated row before the 12th general election in 2008, till today, the Umno politician has never been prosecuted for sedition; instead, a Sin Chew Daily reporter and a few others were hauled up by the police. Meanwhile in another incident, DAP’s Teresa Kok had been thrown into prison for a week under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA).
Then came the ‘clown’ (at least in my opinion) in Perkasa, Ibrahim Ali. I believe that the reason why both Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin were on Najib’s so-called “winnable” list - despite being out of Umno Baru - is because they were part of an entire game of politics known as “political intimidation”. Being seen ‘out of Umno’ should not deprive them of a chance to contest. This could have been the deal.
Najib, with his ‘1Malaysia’ slogan, went around to be the ‘Santa Claus’ and the ‘Good Guy’ who had to bow to the demands of Perkasa.
No one bought the proposition, because the Chinese community could see what was happening. Ibrahim Ali threatened to burn the Al-Kitab, but was never prosecuted for sedition. Najib, through Idris Jala, worked out some peace terms with the churches. This, too, did not work because people could see that justice was never been done.
When the churches were firebombed over the ‘kalimah Allah’ issue, the Chinese community had become somewhat critical of Umno. Wasn’t it Najib who hinted that not even the government could prevent the people from demonstrating over the word ‘Allah’? And now, despite the High Court’s decision, the BN government continues to press the issue further to the Appeals Court.
Over this issue, the Sarawakians and Sabahans had also turned against the Umno-led BN. All along, they probably did not fully understand the implications of a coalition being led by Umno, because for them, it was only their own political parties.
After that came a tainted Najib
Generally, what we see is a weak and tainted Najib who continued to bow to the demands of Mahathir. We hear about numerous cases of corruption in the magnitude of a few hundred millions of ringgit each, yet none of these cases were brought to justice.
Under Najib, the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal has also been cold-storaged, not to mention the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) Cowgate scandal and the numerous scandals involving Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.
The custodial deaths of a number of Malaysians - including Ahmad Sarbaini Mohamed, A Kugan and Teoh Beng Hock, has not been dealt with by Najib. Even Najib has a number of allegations which he has failed to answer involving the death of Altantuya Shariibuu and the Scorpene submarines case.
Najib has also not explained a number of issues which were being raised by Anwar Ibrahim. He has failed to take up Anwar’s challenge to a public debate. What this tells the people is that Najib has no credibility as a leader of this nation, when he could not even take up the challenge given by Anwar Ibrahim.
Dr Mahathir, who used to be very vocal, has not for once taken up the challenge to debate with Anwar. Anwar, and the rakyat as a whole, is of course not interested to debate with the younger people.
Najib has also spent millions of ringgit to boost his own image, which angers the Chinese community. Instead of an image, which is largely cosmetic and photoshop artwork, the Chinese community wants to see more integrity with the leaders that they have, having become already disgusted with the amount of corruption involving the police, the enforcement officers of local councils and city halls, and those in civil service.
Besides Najib, the Chinese community is generally also very angry with MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek. Many believe Chua should have stepped down when the GE13 results proved that he had been wrong with his selection of candidates. Therefore, the Chinese community sees MCA’s decision not to participate in the present cabinet as a punishment for Chua and his team, rather than a punishment for the Chinese community at large.
The likes of Lim Ah Lek and Ong Tee Keat are also long gone in MCA. While Lim Ah Lek had championed occupational safety and health, what has Liow Tiong Lai and Wee Ka Siong achieved in their terms as ministers? Liow is more popularly known for his lie told in the aftermath of Bersih 3.0, while Wee Ka Siong is best remembered for walking into a Dong Zong rally and claiming that he had been attacked by its members.
As for Gerakan, Koh Tsu Koon has led the party for far too long. He, too, was not seen as a performer. Even when he was in the Prime Minister’s Department after losing in the GE12, no one knows exactly what he has achieved for the Chinese community.
Against such backgrounds, would you expect the Chinese to support MCA, Gerakan and Umno? Of course not!
The mood has changed
These are just some of the reasons why the Chinese community has flocked to Pakatan Rakyat. They have seen enough of Umno Baru and Dr Mahathir’s poison, that they are fed up. Every other day, we are still reading seditious remarks being muttered by people like former Courts of Appeals judge Mohd Noor Abdullah and UiTM pro-chancellor Abdul Rahman Arshad.
There is also an awakening amongst the Chinese. Today, the sentiments are different. The Chinese realise that PAS - as a Malay and Islamic political party - is not as extremist a party as Umno and BN like to portray them.
For example, over the hudud issue, the PAS leadership has said that it can, and will only be implemented when there is a general consensus within Pakatan Rakyat to implement it. The Chinese also realise that PAS is open to the idea of them selling pork even in open public places, like what is being practised in Kelatan. They also realise that PAS Malays are more pious, and their fear of Allah had turned them into more friendly people.
The Chinese community also saw how, when the DAP was nearly deregistered at the eleventh hour of the 13th general election, it was PAS that came to the rescue. Most of us in the older generation understand that in 1969, PAS had not been involved in the May 13 incident. In fact, in Kelantan, the Chinese and the Malays were still enjoying their breakfast together in the same coffeeshops.
When the ‘kalimah Allah’ issue was burning hot, the Chinese community could see that both Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat of PAS and Anwar Ibrahim spoke up, quoting reputable Islamic teachers and the Quran and saying that there was no issue for non-Muslims to use the word ‘Allah’. This was also the respect that Prophet Muhammad showed to the non-Muslims in his days, and he did not prohibit them from using the name ‘Allah’.
In fact, none of the other prime ministers in Umno made an issue out of the word ‘Allah’ being used by non-Muslims. It is only when Dr Mahathir became the prime minister - and later his Umno Baru as well - that perpetuated this issue till today.
PAS today is seen as more credible than Dr Mahathir’s own brand of Umno Baru. In places where Umno traditionally won, they lost to PAS in the GE13. This is because Umno Baru is no longer being trusted by the Chinese community.
PAS, DAP and PKR have become the better alternatives than BN and Umno. This is a smack in the face of Dr M, who said that Umno won because the people had no other alternatives; on the contrary, 51 percent of the voters voted for Pakatan Rakyat, while only 47 percent voted for BN.
After these years in power and still arrogant, Umno Baru and Dr Mahathir have totally lost their credibility, not just MCA or Gerakan. Across the country, people are feeling that 56 years under the rule of BN and Umno Baru is far too long, and the time has come for change.
No amount of political intimidation would stop the people from stating their displeasure to Umno-BN. I, for one, would give the thumbs down to any BN leader even in public functions. This is because I am saying “Enough is enough!” unless Umno and BN learn to take a wise step backwards and concede defeat.
Come back again in the next few general election, maybe, the people will vote you back into power.
If you continue to fight the people, you will not last very long as a government. No government in this world can survive if it continues to go to war with the people. With this, I have to say that the Chinese are now willing to join force with our Malay brothers and sisters in Pakatan Rakyat to fight for a new Malaysia.
I foresee that, when ‘Tanda Putera’ is being released on August 28, it will only create polarisation between Umno’s three million members and supporters, and the rest of the country.
Truth will eventually prevail over a pack of lies; you can no longer contain the rakyat’s anger, their eyes are now wide opened. A gentle word of advice to Umno Baru: Better take defeat now than be cursed as a political party forever.