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Jan 22, 2008

Why Is Najib Trying To Link Kampung Baru Malays Into A Purely Umno Created Problem?


Malaysia yesterday defended its crackdown on dissent, including the arrest of ethnic Indian activists and suppression of street protests, saying it had averted a serious risk of racial violence.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak raised the spectre of the country’s worst race riots, when almost 200 people were killed in clashes between ethnic Chinese and Muslim Malays in May 1969. “If the Malays of Kampung Baru come out then we have the spectre of a serious possibility of a racial clash in this country,” Najib said. The Malay enclave was one of the flashpoints of the 1969 riots.

“There were signs that they were preparing to come out so we had to tell them, ‘look, don’t make the situation any worse’,” he said. “The government was actually taking action to prevent anything worse from happening.”

Unprecedented street protests by ethnic Indians, which police broke up with tear gas and water cannon, opened a new fault line in Malaysia’s increasingly tense race relations last November.

Five leaders of Indian rights group Hindraf, who claim the community is the victim of discrimination at the hands of the majority Malays, are now being held without trial under tough internal security laws. The five, together with at least 78 supporters in different parts of Malaysia, began a hunger strike yesterday to protest against their detention, activists said.

Najib—who as deputy premier is expected to be Malaysia’s next leader after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi—defended the use of the much-criticised Internal Security Act (ISA) on the Hindraf leaders.

“A great deal of people thought we should have used it earlier, but if we had used it earlier there could have been pros and cons, those who say we are not tolerant, we are autocratic, we are not democratic enough,” he said. “So by allowing things to pan out and for us not to use the ISA early, I think when we used it the vast majority of Malaysians supported it.”

The Hindraf rally came two weeks after another rare demonstration organised by electoral reform campaigners, which saw 30,000 people take to the streets. They were also dispersed with tear gas and water cannon.

Emboldened by the new mood, civil society groups and non-governmental organisations have held several smaller street protests in the capital, despite not having a permit. Police have broken up peaceful demonstrations, and Najib said there was a limit to the government’s patience.

“We are responsible for peace and harmony in this country and public order,” he said. “We are quite tolerant in this country, but if it comes to the point I suppose when push comes to shove, we have to be firm about it.”He declined to specify what action would be taken at that stage, saying: “We know what to do.”

Najib indicated the National Front coalition government could lose ground in general elections expected to be held in March, which follow a torrid few months that have included the protests as well as food shortages and a ministerial sex scandal. After a resounding victory in 2004, which reversed losses in 1999, commentators say the pendulum is likely to swing against the government again.

“We don’t want a dip (in seats), but our benchmark has always been a two-thirds majority,” Najib said. “Even during the worst of times, say in the 1999 general elections, we still managed to attain a two-thirds majority and I don’t expect this time to be worse than 1999,” he said.

Najib admitted that the race-based component parties that make up the coalition were “going through some problems” and that the government had a big job to soothe the public over forthcoming fuel price hikes. “We have to manage it. We have to manage between good governance, good macro management of the nation, as well as possible reaction from the public. As long as it’s seen to be equitable I think people will accept it,” he said. (Gulf Times)

***** Taking a leaf out of Dr Mahathir's book and hoping to scare the living daylights out of non-Malays, this scion of an aristocratic family from Pahang has very cleverly tried to link the common folk of Kampung Baru into his strategy of hiding Umno's gross culpability in the level of dissatisfaction expressed by Malaysians as a whole.

If Hindraf had led the rally to highlight Indian unhappiness at the way that they have been discriminated and marginalised in the name of bangsa, agama dan negara, it is because Umno's ally, MIC had been sleeping all this while. Hindraf merely told the truth about the rampant racism prevailing in the country which is even now being avidly practised and overseen by Umno.

But people like Najib who feel more at home listening to untruths and make belief about 'happy and grateful' Malaysian citizens, become very unhappy when confronted with the real facts. And not finding any rational argument or answers to Hindraf's allegations except to totally deny everything which in hindsight even he must feel is a little stupid, Najib deviously raises the spectre of May 13.

But the Kampung Baru of today has traveled far from the hotbed of Malay parochialism it was in the late 60s. The Malays there are no more the illiterate and poor simpletons who could be easily manipulated by evil Umno politicians. But Najib and his ilk would like to maintain the image of its inhabitants as parang brandishing, violence-prone fanatics ever ready to put on a red headband and chop up the first non-Malay they see while screaming 'Allāhu Akbar'.

It is frightening that Najib is next in line for the premiership. This is one man whose succession to the presidency of Umno should be delayed as long as is humanly possible for the greater good of the nation as a whole.


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