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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fact or fiction: Malays who do not vote for Umno are disloyal

Sulaiman Kamal | 3:44 AM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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Politics in essence is divisive. Politicking primordially leads to divisiveness among people of the same race and religion. However, to say that ‘if a Malay does not vote for UMNO he hates the Malays’ is too implausible a statement. A Malay who votes for PAS, PKR or DAP - in all probability - still loves his ethnic race. Politics is fundamentally based on thoughts and sets of guidelines espoused by individuals. It could be affiliated to or transcends race and religion but to sponsor the theory that people of a single race or religion should be affiliated to a single political party is utopianism or impractical. In reality, this phenomenon could never come about in almost all societies.
Just recently a senior UMNO leader opinionated that the Malays must subscribe to one party and that is UMNO. Lately the MIC echoed the same sentiment – Indians must be cohesively knitted under a single party that is MIC. A MCA leader ricocheted and huffily beamed that he wants all Chinese to pledge support for MCA, whilst accusing DAP to be a political spoiler. A naive conception of this nature is rather a skewed impression of humankind. Theoretically, this inane prescription by some self-seeking politicians gives a fair-enough impression in the Malaysian context that those in power would want to back a monopolistic fixture in politics.

Still alive
Race-based politics is much alive in the country, though. Even in Pakatan rakyat that soberly claims to be “colour blind” we hear some peeved voices championing the rights of individual race or religion within their political framework. Notionally, of course, Pakatan Rakyat could claim that the coalition is more ideology-based as opposed to Barisan Nasional, which is evidently race-based.
Hypothesising that ‘if a Malay does not vote for UMNO he hates the Malays’ then the same could be construed of the Chinese and the Indians if they do not vote for MCA or MIC, respectively. This is too simplistic a conjecture and does not hold water in our society. To all appearances, a Malay could vote for PAS or PKR and still love people of his ethnic group. A Chinese could vote for DAP and still loves the Chinese people. And an Indian could vote for any other Indian-based party and still have filial loyalty to the Indian race.
The same goes with an immigrant from Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar or Kampuchea who is affiliated to any local political party in the country that is new to him. Indubitably, he would conscientiously - though not noticeably - love his people more despite having to vote for the incumbent government. This finagling would become more conspicuous the moment there is less wealth to be shared in this country. Many of them would either group together by race to survive or desert the country in flocks.
There could never be a united race in any nation and neither could people be pristinely united under a single religion without variance in thoughts and interpretations. The conventional political norm in most societies is always ‘unity in diversity ‘ and those who are not bigoted are poised to concede this. Even in religion there are many denominations or sects within a single theological realm. We do observe people of the same religion divided into many factions and subscribe to different religious thoughts and political ideologies. We thus see no unqualified religious unity among people in almost all countries though deep in their thoughts and conscience they do have the intrinsic affection for their religion.
The main Malay parties - UMNO, PAS and PKR
Some political aficionados fail to conceive that idealism cannot be realised in a human society. It’s human disposition that differentials in political thoughts and affiliations transcend race or religion. Unlike in the animal kingdom where we see birds of a feather flock together, human beings also do flock together but they are endowed with thoughts and feelings that would tempt them to be inwardly different and accordingly seek out variety in life.
A voting response surface might show some insignificant indicators towards racial and religious affiliations or polarisation but this cannot be assumed to be the norm in Malaysian politics. It’s just human nature that people want to associate themselves with diverse ideologies and school of thoughts in life. The more educated and enlightened the people are the more is the propensity for them not to be oriented to laissez-faire attitude in politics. They demand not for personal attributes like race or religion of a political representative but competence and accountability.
Right from the days before independence there were a few political platforms representing the Malays. The Malays had PAS (1955), IMP (1951) UMNO (1946) and Parti Negara (1953) among others. In the 60s’ the Chinese and Indians too were split into a few political clusters – divesting from MCA (1949) and MIC (1946) respectively - with the attendance of DAP (1965) and Gerakan (1968) in the post-independence era.The political cleave continued even more belligerently after the formation of PKR (1999) and today there are 3 major parties representing the Malays – PAS, UMNO and PKR. There are also Malays in DAP and PPP (1953).
The Chinese presently have an assemblage of 3 major political consortia – DAP, MCA and Gerakan. There are also Chinese in PPP, PKR and in the non-Muslim wing of PAS.
The Indians – who are politically savoir-faire - are ripped to no less than 9 political parties to represent them – MIC, AMIPF (1990), MCC (1958), KIMMA (1977), PPM (1978), MIUP (2007), MMSP (2009), HRP (2009), PPP, among others There are also Indians generously speckled in Gerakan, DAP, PKR and in PAS. Apparently, the least united in politics are the ethnic Indians when one views the number of political parties they are aligned to – all in quest of a common cause for its multifarious ethnic group. Yet, among this people the love for their ethnic race remains immaculate in their minds. Political skirmishes could flicker and stutter in the name of race and religion but political affiliations to parties still remain divergent in the Malaysian context.
One party, one race
A single party for a single race is not the solution to the political bog in the country. It’s still ‘unity in diversity’ that serves to be the political antidote and the people in general seem to gradually and genially accommodate this paradigm. In a way, this observable fact could be perceived as an idealistic precursor to ideology-based parties making headways in the country instead of the conservative puffed up clamour for race or religious-based political parties as favoured by some political ideologues. If ideology-based approach to politics should become a reality in our society this would play down racial and religious enmities among the people. When people of the same race and religion cannot see eye to eye in politics it would be apposite for the country to move towards ideology-based politics. But could this opportunely happen? The urban educated population is now ready for this deportment but for the rural population this may not be realised too soon.
Leaders could go on indoctrinating the masses with race politics or anyway they want politics to be – even to the extent of exploiting religious issues. The people out there – especially the urbanites – would in all prospect not subscribe to this discourteous doctrine. The urban voters permute their thoughts on many dissimilar axes. They would in the main vote for those politicians that could deliver. They would thrust aside politicians of any race who are shrewd, dishonest or corrupted. Perception matters most to them in politics. With wide exposure to information, politicians today cannot mask their misdemeanours from the urban electorate. To an educated urban voter race or religion matters least when it comes to voting but this does not mean that he hates his ethnic race. Their prime concerns in life are quality education, job opportunities, affordable living and a crime-free urban environment.
Most likely, an urban Malay won't vote UMNO
Even a candidate’s religious affiliation could become secondary in matters of politics to the urbanites. They seek politicians who they perceive as more responsible irrespective of his religious or personel predilection. With the inherent anti-establishment tendency etched in their minds they would more often than not seek aptness in political figures. They would shun media propaganda as they are more aware of the political and social set-up around them. They see some politicians do not meet their criteria of pious lawmakers.
And for the same reason, an urban voter who is a Malay would most likely not vote for a Malay candidate from UMNO in an urban constituency though in spirit he likes the Malays. The trend could be the same with the other races versus their race-based politicians. It’s going to be an uphill task for UMNO or Barisan National (BN)to make an impact in the urban areas in the next general election if elections are conducted in a fair manner. It’s not that the electorate have seen less weaknesses among other party leaders but the fact is that they have seen more weaknesses among UMNO and BN leaders.
To the rural population – among all ethnic groups - bread and butter is the most important issue when voting for a candidate or political party. Race or religion for that matter becomes secondary if poverty is pinning them in life. It’s only after the bread and butter issue is taken care of comes religion and race. To the Indians and Chinese, in the main, it is still bread and butter that is more of their concern irrespective of who the politician is going to be in their constituency.
The present escalating cost of living affecting the rural poor could significantly affect the trend of voting in the next general election. The full political brunt, unfortunately, is now on the incumbent UMNO-led government. With prices of essential commodities skyrocketing and with less means to make ends meet there would be protest votes among the rural electorate.
It's the economy, not race or religion
In this context, race or religious manifesto in politics would not help much in shoring up votes for UMNO or BN. Protest votes among the rural electorate would see candidates from PAS, PKR or DAP score more points. If UMNO has the opinion that they could win the hearts of these voters through religion or race cards they are making a grave mistake - unless of course, if they could offset the gripes through devious means – “buying” their votes through all kinds of deceitful strategies and short-term rewards.
The rural electorate are exposed less to the alternative media and know less about what is actually happening in the country. Issues on corruption, wastage and abuse of power have less impact on them. Most poor and less educated rural populace would likely swallow hook, line, and sinker of what is being propagated by the government controlled media. Race and religion no doubt could provide a big impact on this group of electorate, especially among the ethnic Malays and the natives. Hence, for this reason race and religion could influence the voting trend in most rural settings.
Seemingly, UMNO and its BN component parties with the machinery at hand could still make some short term impact in many of these rural constituencies as compared with the cash-strapped PAS, PKR or DAP. The voting response impact for UMNO or BN may not be as persuasive as what happened two general elections ago.
Nevertheless, in a socially and economically murky environment of today Pakatan Rakyat would gamely make its presence felt not only in the urban but also in some rural constituencies where, among others the rising cost of living, escalating crime rate and lack of physical conduciveness and basic opportunities in life such as jobs and quality but cheap education have inexorably burdened the people. Added to this unsavoury view would be the people’s perception that the incumbent government is riddled with corruption, wastage and the mismanagement of taxpayers’ money.
The next general election would be the mother of all general elections in the country and it would be interesting to watch how political parties manoeuvre their way through the many political and social intricacies affecting the nation. 

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