COMMENT China's Ambassador Huang Huikang's visit to Petaling Street last Friday seemed to have evoked anger and frustration among Malay extreme groups.
Umno Youth and Perkasa, the so-called ethnic “champions” and defenders of Malay rights, questioned the nature of Huang’s visit and about his remarks that ethnic discrimination of minorities general and in particular might have an adverse impact on the bilateral relationship between Malaysia and China.
Huang's visit last Friday was on the eve of a planned rally by "red shirts", who threatened to expel Chinese from the Petaling Street for their engagement with nefarious economic and business activities.
Moreover the fact that Petaling Street has been dominated by Chinese traders for a long time and the absence or small presence of Malay and Indian traders have not gone well with Malay extremist groups that were sponsored by certain Umno leaders.
After the earlier "red shirt" pro-Malay and anti-Chinese rally, the focus then shifted to the visible presence of Chinese traders at Petaling Street.
The proposed “red shirt” rally to expel the Chinese raised the ethnic temperature in the country to unbelievable proportions. The country’s national leaders, especially from the BN, were nowhere to be seen in terms of lowering the social and ethnic tensions.
Ironically, the rally seemed to have elicited the support of certain Umno leaders, leaders keen to prop-up the corrupted leadership of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
As we understand, the “red-shirt” demonstration had nothing to do with addressing Malay grievances or safeguarding Malay rights, but rather it had to with propping up the beleaguered leadership of Najib.
Unable to obtain the support of the general public, Najib seems to have resorted to relying on Malay extreme groups to sustain him in power.
With growing calls for his resignation, Najib seems to rely on ethnicity and Malay extremism to be in power. The 1MDB scandal and the fact that he received RM2.6 billion in his private accounts continues to haunt him and Umno, both nationally and internationally.
Huang's visit might have been coincidental as his visit took place during the time of the Chinese moon cake festival, or it could have been timed to soothe the feelings of the Chinese traders over their insecurity in relation to the impending demonstration against them.
Even if it was deliberate, there is nothing terribly wrong with this. If our national leaders have failed to offer assurances to our own ethnic Chinese community, there is nothing wrong for the Chinese ambassador to be forthcoming in his comments to reassure them that there were laws and security agencies to protect the rights of minorities in Malaysia.
China emphasises building relationships
Moreover, Huang also said that his country, China, would not be happy to note that some extremist groups in the country might affect the strong bilateral relations with Malaysia.
Is this unwarranted political interference in the internal affairs of the country? I think not!
As we understand, China always emphasises building relationships with states rather than communities in the region. China places importance to bilateral economic and trade relations.
It is obvious any attacks on Chinese minorities would have adverse effect on the relations. The same thing goes to India. Both are growing powers.
While state-to-state relationship is important, both the countries continue to maintain a close relationship with their respective diaspora for social and cultural ties. Is this political interference?
When innocent Indians were attacked, injured and killed in Kampung Medan in Kuala Lumpur in the early 2000, the matter was a concern of India simply because Malaysia’s national and local leaders failed to prevent this ethnic attack.
Are we to be surprised when the Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee, in his courtesy call on then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, raised the issue of affected Indian families of Kampung Medan and sought reassurance from Malaysian authorities that such a thing would not be repeated? However, this matter did not receive the attention of the press at that time.
The United States has raised issues of deplorable situation of human rights, human trafficking and other related matters from time to time, but the responses of the extremist groups have been muted.
Why? Simply because these groups do not have the courage to confront the US, or deliberately avoid confrontation as it might affect the “servant-master” relationship between those in Putrajaya and Washington!
Malay extremist and racist groups, especially those affiliated with Umno, are opportunistic and behave like robots. With the direction from the above, they would not dare to demonstrate against Chinese or any other ethnic minorities.
If Malays have been affected, then the fault is not with the Chinese, but with those Umno leaders who have failed to address the numerous problems of the community. By and large, the vast majority of Malaysians is peace-loving and they want better and more harmonious relations with members of other ethnic groups.
Let us remind the racist Umno leaders, and others, that if Malaysians are not taken care of and subject to threats and attacks, the world is not going to watch over the matter silently.
If our national leaders fail to mitigate the worst effects of racism and religious extremism, then it creates a vacuum only to be filled by certain powers. In the final analysis, who are to be blamed?
P RAMASAMY is Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang and state assemblyperson for Perai.