Save Malaysians from political demagoguery

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Dr Mahathir Mohamad posted a blog entry entitled Dishonouring Umno in which he wrote:

1. Why is it that when I defend Umno or the Malays I am labelled a racist but not when others speak up for Chin Peng?

2. If speaking up for the Malays is considered racist then are the Malays to be denied their right to speak for themselves?

3. Liberalism is fine but it should not benefit only certain people and not others. By definition not benefitting certain people contradicts the very concept of liberalism.

4. I really don't think openly slugging it out on racial issues in Malaysia is healthy. But if that is what Malaysians want then they should be prepared to slug and be slugged.

This is my response to him:

Dear Tun,

Racism is defined as:

  • a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

  • a policy, system of government, etc, based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination, hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Therefore, until and unless it is shown that you indulge in any of the above, no one can justifiably call you a racist. Similarly, if you (or anyone else) believes that those who speak up for Chin Peng are racists, you need to show how they meet any of the above two criteria.

As far as I am aware, they have made no such arguments, but I will stand corrected if anyone can show otherwise.

I, too, believe that ‘openly slugging it out' on any issue is not healthy. However, that must not mean that issues of national interest are decided only behind closed doors by the elite few.

All Malaysians need to be able to discuss these issues (even sensitive ones), calmly, rationally and with goodwill and without trying to incite racist sentiments, or succumbing to them.

Leaders and statesmen (including your goodself) can help this along by leading through example and encouraging Malaysians to look beyond a communal one-upmanship to seek dialogue and consensus on shared concerns.

Sadly for Malaysia, some politicians, ex-politicians and the media seem to believe that they will be more powerful by returning to the days before the last general elections and even further back.

Therefore they frame all issues in racial, religious or communal terms and portray others as the enemies who seek to victimise and dispossess others.

While such actions and words are not necessarily racist, they constitute demagoguery, ie, a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears and expectations of the public - typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda and often using nationalist or populist themes.

May God save us from such politicians because in the end their message is just like that of the bully and the gangster, that Malaysians should shut up and comply or risk being ‘slugged'.

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