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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Malaysian Spring inevitable if BN refuses to come out of time warp

Sulaiman Kamal | 4:57 AM | | | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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In the aftermath of the Bersih rally Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai tried to bulldoze away reports that the police had fired tear gas and water cannons into the Tung Shin hospital by bare faced denials backed up by a cowed hospital board member despite the wealth of video, photos and eyewitness accounts. He soon suffered intense public and political attacks until he was forced to recant his earlier statements and ordered an enquiry. He even had to beg the public for sympathy with his piteous claim that some quarters were trying to pull him down.
Liow Tiong Lai’s brazen attempt to bulldoze away the inconvenient truth may have worked in the 1970s when the mainstream media monopolized the flow of information but it does not work now. Back then the mainstream media could make or break any issue but technology and the internet have overtaken their dominance. The public have alternative sources of information now and anybody with a mobile phone and a PC can be a photographer, videographer, reporter or commentator.
Why then did the unfortunate Liow attempted something so foolhardy? He was neither a maverick nor a fool but a living symptom of BN’s inability to deal with the public at large. Instead of moving with the times to deal with a matured and well informed public BN’s thinking seems fossilized in the past, stuck in the time warp of the 1970s while technology and socio-economic conditions have evolved far ahead.

Disconnect with information technology
In conjunction with the increased accessibility to information the people’s mindset have evolved to be more matured , critical and demanding. There are higher expectations for a cleaner, more democratic and more accountable government. No longer are we willing to accept whatever the government tells us at face value as if the government knows best.
BN has failed to recognize that disinformation no longer work because they have been superceded by technology. Beside alternative sources of news and opinion people are more tightly networked than ever before and share information efficiently through social media. This means that the state controlled media has effectively lost the ability to mould and shape public opinion to the will of the regime.
Yet another eloquent example of how the authorities have lost the plot is the mainstream media’s intense attempt to demonize the Bersih rally which fell flat when tens of thousands took to the streets in defiance of police warnings. The public are not impressed with weird fantasies used to demonize a rally for free and fair elections as if they do not know better.
The recent censorship of “The Economist” article on the Bersih rally using black marker pen has been heaped with ridicule over the stone-age method used to control information which has no doubt boosted readership of the article online.
Insulting our intelligence
We have witness time and again the almost bizarre statements of our Home Minsters from Syed Hamid Albar’s “ISA to protect a journalist” to Hishamuddin’s strange defence of the cow head protestors. Uneven application of sedition laws and double standards in law enforcement create disgust instead of admiration for law enforcement  When Umno Youth or Perkasa demonstrate they are exercising their rights but woe betide others who think they will be accorded the same treatment.
We also have an awkward sodomy case held together by string and glue shafted down the disbelieving throat of the public. We are told that the government cannot afford subsidies to the people but the even bigger subsidy to the IPPs cannot be touched.
The intelligence of the public is being insulted on a daily basis but to Umno they are not talking to educated well-informed Malaysians. In their minds they are still addressing half-illiterate simple minded kampong folks who will believe anything the government tells them. One wonders who the real simpletons are here.
Turning every issue into race and religion issue
Turning an issue into a race and religion issue is Umno’s speciality and they have elevated it to a fine art. There is no issue which Umno or their rightwing Perkasa cannot turn into a racial or religious issue.
Utusan and Berita Harian tried to turn the outcry over Teoh Beng Hock’s death into a racial issue by depicting the attack on MACC as an attack on a Malay institution. The Bersih leaders have been demonized as anti-Islam, anti-Malay, funded by Christians and Umno’s lackey Ibrahim Ali tried to frighten Chinese to stay at home and stock up on food. Even the anti-Lynas protest over health and safety concerns was twisted into a racial issue by some hired thugs
The opposition threat to BN’s political power is depicted as “Malays in danger of losing power” as if there are no Malays in PKR and PAS. Meanwhile the incessant racial and religious attacks on the Penang state government are too numerous to detail. The furore over the banning of the use of ‘Allah’ for non-Muslims was depicted as an attack on Islam.
This practice of using race and religion as a defensive measure is a throwback to the days of British divide and rule which Umno adopted and expanded. The Malaysian public is frankly revolted with such abhorrent posturing in a multi-racial society. It’s time they learn that Utusan Malaysia’s racist outpourings have no effect on the majority of Malaysians and only serve to destroy BN’s multi-racial credentials.
Peddling old fears
Old fears die hard but they can be put to rest. For too long has BN used the ghost of May 13 to subtly threaten the minorities to vote for BN but continuing to trot out this old bogeyman is getting stale. Yet we still see oblique references to May 13 from the likes of Mahathir, Perkasa and even MCA leaders, usually in the vein of “we do not want another May 13”.  All the effect they have is vomit inducing disgust rather than fear.
What about Chinese fear of an Islamic state? MCA President Chua Soi Lek demonstrates how fossilized his mentality is by trying to resurrect this old fear in by-elections. In an age when Chinese are comfortably voting for PAS he still keeps flogging this dead horse. Someone should tell him how foolish he sounds when he rants on and on like a broken record.
Imprisoning people without trial has no place in a modern democracy and only earns the wrath of right thinking people. The ISA was meant to be a weapon of terror but frequent abuse has reduced its fear status.  It is an outdated tool which turns its victims into heroes instead.  Its victims know they cannot be held long because the length of their incarceration is in direct proportion to BN’s political damage.
The last time the ISA was used on the Hindraf 5 it turned them into heroes and caused BN to suffer at the polls. But the authorities have not learned their lesson yet and have repeated their power abuse with the unjust detention of the PSM 6.
Practicing Gutter Politics
The new politics which evolved after the last general election is the politics of engagement, performance and accountability. Malaysians expect more matured politics between the ruling party and the opposition but are dished out the gutter politics of sex and sodomy with state oppression thrown in.
Is it so important to pursue Anwar Ibrahim with all the might of the state over the alleged private violation of an individual’s arse, given consensually if the charge is to be believed? Spreading pornographic filth over a dubious sex video involving Anwar only serves to backfire on its perpetrators than smear its victim.
Selangor state legislator Elizabeth Wong was also the victim of such gutter politics. Opposition elected representatives have also been victims of spurious charges like biting a policeman, obstructing a policeman, sedition or illegal assembly. The general principle is that if you haven’t been charged with something you aren’t somebody in the opposition yet.
Malaysians expect the ruling party to engage with the opposition rather than indulge in such gutter politics. It is time BN treats the opposition as an essential part of the democratic system instead of pests and enemies to be oppressed. How many times has the Speaker in parliament shot down opposition motions for debate on important national issues? The answer is “all the time”.
How would Americans feel if President Obama told them to defend Washington D.C. at all cost against the Republican enemies even with crushed bodies and lost lives? They would certainly think him mad but this is what Najib expect Malaysians to swallow with his “defend Putrajaya at all cost” line.
A government out of sync with the public
Hence we see that instead of engaging the public in a matured and intelligent manner BN is still clinging to disreputable old practises which no longer work while society has moved ahead. They are a party stuck in a time warp, unable to deal with enlightened and educated Malaysians in a modern world.
The reason for BN’s stagnant mindset is twofold. One is the arrogance of power after ruling more than 50 years in a one party system with fear of losing power. The second is that Umno’s political culture is as stagnant as the old guard who hold the reins of power.
Recently we have more to insult our intelligence with the police inordinate fear of yellow T-shirts, the illogical demonization of a coalition for free and fair elections, the unbelievable suicide verdict of the Teoh Beng Hock RCI, the unjust detention of the PSM-6 and the unfortunate death of Ahmad Sarbaini whom the MACC claimed mistook a 3rd floor window as an exit door.
Civil society is frustrated and infuriated with being treated like idiots. The antics and shenanigans of BN leaders, the unending corruption, the police oppression and the constant use of race and religion to divide and rule have caused the public to lose faith in public institutions and confidence in our leaders.
A matured Malaysian civil society is agitating for reforms but the reality disconnect between the BN government and the society will only grow wider. Bersih is the awakening of a new Malaysian consciousness that we do not have to take all this lying down.
Faced with diminishing popularity BN will have to depend more and more on a tilted playing field and cheating to win elections.  But if democratic methods fail, society will correct itself with harsher methods. If BN is impossible to remove at the polls, it risks being removed by a Malaysian Spring in the manner of the Arab Spring sweeping the Middle East.

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