The recent ISA arrests sparked shock, fear and concern in Malaysians but this politics of fear is not alien to us. Malaysians are now constantly being reminded of the May 1969 riots. That black incident in our shared history was linked to three issues, namely Ketuanan Melayu , the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the Islamic state. These issues in themselves shouldn’t pose any problems if they are not politicised and manipulated by unscrupulous politicians.
Acknowledging Malay dominance and Islam as the country’s official religion has never been a problem with Malaysians as together with this, the constitution also guarantees the right of every citizen to freedom.
Indeed, our muhibbah spirit helps to nurture a harmonic, multicultural Malaysian society that is the envy of many nations around the world.
However, ISA takes away our freedom and strikes fear into our society. Communal politics create unnecessary conflicts among ethnic groups, hence creating fear. No one should influence Malaysians to see differences as conflict. We should embrace difference (in ethnic, religion and ideology) in a spirit of tolerance and understanding.
Secondly, the NEP is not the only affirmative policy in the world. There is Black Economy Empowerment in Africa, the “Germany Eastern burden” after Germany’s reunification and the aboriginal empowerment program in Australia.
Why are there no problems in these countries when this issue is brought up for discussion but immediate protests over the NEP after the March General Elections? Was it another tactic by the government to keep the rakyat in line? It seems we can’t have a rational, educated discussion about the issue without the threat of ISA hanging over our heads.
Thirdly, the Islamic state issue is a favourite game of the BN. It enjoys pitting DAP and PKR against PAS. It also tailors its opinions on the matter according to its audience. For example, to a Chinese audience, BN works to strike fear by saying that if PAS takes over, it will set up an Islamic state and their freedom would be threatened. But in a Malay-Muslim setting like the Umno General Assembly, members go all out to play to the Malay gallery.
It is no secret that in the March General Election, Chinese and Indian voters were warned that if they voted for the opposition, their ‘voice in the government’ would be jeopardised. As for the Malays, they were told that if they supported the opposition, their rights could be jeopardised. Such blatant use of racism is sickening but the coalition still believes such tactics are valid. This only goes to show how out of touch the government is with the ordinary rakyat.
Malaysians have matured tremendously over the past four years, especially in political matters. The alternative media like blogs and Internet news sites have provided Malaysians with a refreshing new insight into Malaysian politics. Gone are the days where we depended solely on newspapers for our daily dose of politics. Indeed, mainstream newspapers are now facing the very real threat of becoming irrelevant in today’s new political landscape.
The beauty of Malaysians today is we can all sit down and discuss our issues like the adults we are. There is absolutely no place for the politics of fear in our society. The government should give the people more credit than to scare them with outdated, archaic mechanisms, whose ultimate goal is not to keep peace but to stifle freedom of speech. Hence, the draconian ISA must be abolished! Instead of resorting to this, the government might do better by listening to the rakyat and giving them a fair chance to express themselves without fear.