The mislabelling game
|Datuk Jema Khan is a former Sabah Umno Youth leader. He is now a businessman pushing the Agenda Liberal Melayu in Facebook .|
OCT 31 — It seems that there are still interest groups in Malaysia that like to label their opponents with the intention of casting them in a bad light with the general population. Our own Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was once labelled a “Malay Ultra” early on in his political career by his detractors. He had to work hard during his time in government to shake off this label. It continues today with the various political parties being pigeonholed by their opponents.
Umno is said to be racist, the MCA is cast as the party of the well-to-do Chinese towkays and the MIC as a party controlled by thugs. On the opposition side, PAS is cast as a theocracy that wants hudud, the DAP as a chauvinistic Chinese party and PKR as a party of Umno has-beens who would desert the opposition if the price was right. If the above labels are all accurate, then Malaysia is truly a lost cause.
My own experience and belief is that none of the above parties are all that they are made out to be by their detractors. The problem is that the mudslinging has been going on for far too long and many within the various parties have lost any sense of probity.
At the same time, it doesn’t take much intellectual capacity to pigeonhole your opponent in the hopes that the electorate dislikes your opponent more than they dislike you.
Of course there are voices on both sides of the political divide that have constructive ideas that can bring the nation forward. But somehow their voices seem to be drowned out as a result of the political melee.
At the same time the various political parties also don’t wish to confuse their base support with too many issues and thus want their own party leaders to toe the line.
If not for the various party diktats, I am fairly confident that I could get a few middle- to upper-ranking leaders from every major party to sit down and even agree to certain fundamental issues affecting Malaysia today. Unfortunately, compromises and accommodations when agreed by all parties would not give any party an advantage when it comes to the election. Every party wants to win the seats that it contests for and it is because of this that the mislabelling, mudslinging and gutter politics will likely continue.
It would be better if Malaysian political parties focused more on the issues affecting the normal man or woman in the street. If I am all for the teaching of mathematics and science in English, for the removal of the ISA and the EO, against the implementation of hudud and for the idea that the poor should be helped regardless of race, what party do you think I will eventually vote for? What I am trying to get at is that these issues should be above party politics.
I support Sisters in Islam, I support in principle Bersih’s move for electoral reform, I support the prime minister’s call for 1 Malaysia, I support the progressive think-tanks like IDEAS and most off all I support the various human rights groups in Malaysia.
What surprises me in Malaysia is that racial rights groups do not fully embrace the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1946 (UDHR). Don’t they realise that the failure of apartheid and the subsequent black empowerment in South Africa was a result of efforts by human rights groups? Don’t they realise that there are groups worldwide that are calling for the empowerment of their own races but use the UDHR to support their cause?
I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. After all, where else but in Malaysia are peace-loving human rights activists likened to the gun-totting communist terrorists of the past? Maybe soon someone will say that it is a tit-for-tat action against the Western imperialists for stereotyping Muslims as terrorists. Whatever it is, I will have to find quick snappy retorts to stereotyping.
Bollywood provided me with one for the West: “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”
If the communist label came up, I am considering a retort along the lines of “communists have guns but no god, I on the other hand, have a god but no guns.”
If the infidel label ever came up, my answer would be, “Don’t you know that in Malaysia the moment you are checked in, you can’t check out?”
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.