Politics, in Malaysia, is about race and religion. And no Malaysian can escape that. And this is why the 30 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament should not cross over yet, not if it is going to be 30 non-Malay Members of Parliament. It should only happen if the 30 are half Malay and half non-Malay.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
It would be nice to be able to celebrate a white Christmas this year. But it does not snow in Malaysia so this may be quite impossible to wish for. Nevertheless, white and black are mere personal preferences and what is white to some may be black to others. Anyway, what is wrong with black when they say black is beautiful? So we have a ‘black’ or almost black US President who will soon be living in The White House. And certainly they will not change the name to ‘The Black House’ just for the sake of Obama. So white or black, what does it matter? As Deng Xiao Peng said: never mind if it is a black cat or a white cat -- so long as it catches a mouse.
A ‘white’ Christmas to most Malaysians would be to wake up on the morning of 25 December 2008 to changes in Malaysia. And ‘change’ here would mean a Pakatan Rakyat government heading the federal government of this nation. Would this be something hopeless to wish for? Would Santa fulfil our wish list this Christmas? Many are no longer holding their breath after the ‘aborted’ 16 September 2008 ‘change’ that did not happen. And it did not happen on the rescheduled date as well. So those who still hoped for a ‘delayed action’ now no longer harbour any hope.
But it is not as simple as many thought it would be. Sure, all it takes is for at least 30 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament to cross the aisle over to the ranks of the opposition. Is this so difficult? Are there not at least 30 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament amongst the 140 who clamour for change, as do 50% of the almost 11 million registered voters who voted for the opposition?
Actually, not all the 11 million registered voters came out to vote. As what happened in the 11 general elections before the 8 March 2008 general election, only about 70% of the registered voters came out to vote. The balance 30% stayed home, as they had done since two years before Merdeka in 1955 when we had our first (municipal) elections (the first general election was in 1959). And 12 general elections have shown that only 70% of the registered voters bother to vote. The other 30% do not care who rules Malaysia.
Then we had the 5 million eligible voters who did not even bother to register as voters. So only half the 16 million or so eligible voters actually cast their vote. 8 million Malaysians voted on 8 March 2008 and 8 million more either did not vote or did not register to vote. Half the ‘eligible’ Malaysians sought change. The other half were not concerned what happens to this country. That is the reality of the situation.
And the opposition got only 50% of the votes (which means votes from 25% of the eligible voters). But the 50% that the ruling coalition garnered (which also means votes from 25% of the eligible voters) helped them form the government in all but five states plus they managed to form the federal government with slightly under the two-thirds majority that it hoped it would get. But it still managed to form the federal government, nevertheless, with just half the votes.
Would 30 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament crossing over to Pakatan Rakyat help solve our problems? Not if the 30 are all non-Malays and the MP for Pasir Mas, Ibrahim Ali, plus the MP for Kulim, Zulkifli Nordin, cross over to Barisan Nasional to reduce Pakatan Rakyat’s majority even further. And we really do not know how many more Pakatan Rakyat MPs, or even some State Assemblymen/women, are lurking in the shadows waiting for the word to change sides. And this is not impossible to happen.
Umno’s nationwide campaign since 8 March 2008 is brilliant, though dangerous. Umno is saying that the Malays have lost political power. Umno is saying that 8 March 2008 was a repeat of 11 May 1969. And the solution to this problem must be the same as the 13 May 1969 ‘solution’, says Umno. This has not only worried the non-Malays but even the Malays as well. And some of these Malays include the Rulers or the Raja-raja Melayu. Umno is playing an extremely dangerous race game and is stoking the sentiments of the nationalist Malays. And there are many nationalist Malays still around, as the Permatang Pauh by-election has proven.
In the Permatang Pauh by-election, Anwar Ibrahim won two out of three votes. This is superb by any standards. But it was the first-timers or young voters who almost unanimously voted for Anwar. In the saluran 4 in one of the UPUs (unit peti undi) or polling stations where the first-timers voted, Anwar garnered more than 400 votes against Arif Shah Bin Omar Shah’s mere 7. But in saluran 1 of that same UPU where the old-timers voted, it was a 50:50 tie between Anwar and Arif Shah.
This means, while the first-timers or young voters were almost entirely with Anwar, the old-timers were split 50:50 between the opposition and Umno. There are many pre-Merdeka voters who still root for Malay nationalism and who do not want Umno out of office. Permatang Pauh proved this as will the Kuala Terengganu by-election probably also prove on 17 January 2009.
Therefore, Umno still has a strong following. There are many who still want Ketuanan Melayu to remain. Sure, they are no longer the majority. They have now been reduced to a minority. But the numbers are still significant, nevertheless. And these are the people the opposition has to win over. But it is not easy to win them over when prejudice, suspicion and distrust cloud their thinking. And to wait for them to die before the majority ‘Malaysian-minded’ swamp the minority ‘Malay-minded’ will take too long to happen. We will need at least another ten years to see this become reality. So this will only happen by the 14th or 15th general election long after 2020.
Thus far, the Umno ‘race-card campaign’ has not quite succeeded. Malaysians are not that bad at maths, though the teaching of maths has ding-donged between English and Bahasa Malaysia. Barisan Nasional has 140 Members of Parliament, 79 of them Malays and 61 non-Malays. Pakatan Rakyat, in turn, has 43 Malay Members of Parliament against 39 non-Malays. This means both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat are ‘Malay-majority’ coalitions.
But what happens when 30 non-Malay Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament cross over to Pakatan Rakyat? This would still give Barisan Nasional 79 Malays but it will be reduced to 31 non-Malays. This would make Barisan Nasional even more Malay than it is now. But Pakatan Rakyat would now have only 43 Malays against 69 non-Malays. So, while Barisan Nasional has become even more ‘Malay’, Pakatan Rakyat would become a ‘non-Malay’ coalition. And this would also mean that a ‘non-Malay’ government now runs this country once Pakatan Rakyat, with its 112 Members of Parliament, forms the federal government.
This is what concerns the Malays, the Rulers included. And their concern is not that the Malays have ‘lost political power’ and that the non-Malays have now ‘taken over’ this country. After all, they can even accept a non-Malay Prime Minister. So why fret over a non-Malay majority coalition running this country when the Prime Minister is still Malay? Their concern is that Umno will use this issue to ‘prove’ to the nationalist Malays that, finally, the Malays have lost political power, as they had been saying all along since the 8 March 2008 general election in their many road-shows the length and breadth of this country.
This is what Anwar has to guard against. And the Malays, as well as non-Malays, have told him so. The Rulers too have expressed their concern at the possible backlash from the nationalist Malays who will be led to believe that the Malays have lost political power. And if the numbers do not add up then this would make Umno’s job easier. Umno will have no problems convincing the nationalist Malays that the Malays have lost political power.
So, it is not just about the numbers. It is not just about 30 Barisan National Members of Parliament crossing over to Pakatan Rakyat. It is also about the ‘racial balance’. It is about 15 Malays and 15 non-Malays crossing over to enable Pakatan Rakyat to form the federal government with the ‘right’ balance that even Umno can’t quibble over.
The non-Malays do not like to hear this. It sounds too much like racism. Many Malays do not like it as well. But this is the reality of Malaysian politics that continues to haunt us. Politics, in Malaysia, is about race and religion. And no Malaysian can escape that. And this is why the 30 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament should not cross over yet, not if it is going to be 30 non-Malay Members of Parliament. It should only happen if the 30 are half Malay and half non-Malay. Then Umno will be silenced. Umno can no longer claim that the Malays have lost political power. Umno can no longer suggest that we are now seeing a repeat of May 1969. And Umno can’t propose that they need a May 1969 ‘solution’ to solve the ‘problem’.
Anwar must not just focus on changing the government. It is not about grabbing power. It is about peaceful change with no loss of life, limb or property. It is about a smooth transition where we can move forward to a better Malaysia -- not moving one step forwards and two steps backwards to the ‘dark ages’ of turmoil, distrust and polarisation. This must be what the game plan should be all about.
And Anwar knows this. The non-Malays, too, know this. And many Malays know this as well, the Rulers included. It is not just about the number 30. It is about a ‘solid’ 30. And ‘solid’ must be read as the number that Umno can’t use to turn victory for Pakatan Rakyat into defeat for race relations.