(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has now said what I had been saying recently - that the next general election will be the dirtiest in Malaysian history.
I do not feel in any way happy that the Prime Minister has agreed with
me. In fact, I am very concerned for I see Mahathir’s statement a veiled
threat that the next election will indeed become the dirtiest
in Malaysian history from the many unfounded charges which he made yesterday,
Any independent observer of Malaysian elections will know that in every election, it is the ruling parties and not the Opposition which had been responsible for "dirty" and unscrupulous tactics, whether it be the politics of fear or money.
Who, for instance, were responsible for "dirty" election tactics in previous elections like raising the spectre of violence and May 13 in every general election since 1969?
Even yesterday, the Prime Minister had subtly raised the spectre of violence and May 13. It is sad that after 18 years as Prime Minister, Mahathir had still to resort to such politics of fear to assure himself of victory in the next election.
During my first speech in Parliament after the 1990 general election,
I had spoken of how the threat of May 13 violence was resurrected in the
just-concluded election campaign, and this was what I said during the parliamentary
debate on the royal address on 5th December 1990:
"Five days before polling, in his Johore Bahru ceramah of Oct. 16, Dr. Mahathir raised the ghost of May 13 by suggesting that if the Barisan Nasional failed to retain its two-thirds majority, then there would be a repetition of May 13.
"On 19th Oct. the Barisan Nasional and UMNO took out a full-page advertisement in the Utusan Malaysia and on 20th Oct. a full-page colour advertisement in the Chinese daily, Nanyang Siang Pao, to create fear and panic among the voters.
"In the Utusan Malaysia, the advertisement was under the heading ‘Sokong Membawa Rebah’, while in Nanyang Siang Pao it was under the heading ‘Recollection of History’, but both carried the same picture depicting bloodshed, violence, arson and carnage.
"The visual impact of the picture is manyfold greater than the wording under the picture, which immediately conveyed the message that if the Barisan Nasional and UMNO lose in the general election of Oct. 21, there would be another May 13 of bloodshed, violence, arson and carnage.
"Although the picture of violence depicts the battle of Malacca between the Portuguese fleet and Malays, its intent was very clear, for it wanted to cast Semangat 46 as traitors to the Malay race like those responsible for the fall of the Malacca Malay Empire, while the Malaysian Chinese were cast in the role of the Portuguese of that period.
"The wordings used in Utusan Malaysia was modified and altered so that this same picture of bloodshed, violence, arson and carnage served the purpose of sending different messages to different communities who read the two newspapers, but with one common conclusion - that of impending communal violence and conflagration.
"I cannot think of an advertisement which is more racist or inflammatory in its imagery and visual impact in the history of Malaysian media. This advertisement must be awarded the most racist and inflammatory in Malaysian history.
"I believe that no Opposition leaders who had been detained under the Internal Security Act in the past for fanning communal hatred and ill-will, had ever said or suggested anything which was ten per cent as provocative, inflammatory and inciting as this full-page advertisement."
Will the next general election be the dirtiest election in history because the Barisan Nasional would be even more unscrupulous and reckless than the 1990 general election in resorting to the politics of fear and blackmail in raising the spectre of May 13 and violence?
The 1990 general election also saw the Barisan Nasional politics of lies and falsehoods at its worst.
Through its monopoly of the electronic and printed media, in particular the television channels and the Bahasa Malaysia media, the then Semangat 46 President Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was depicted as having sold out the Malay honour and race and betrayed Islam for purportedly wearing a Kadazan tengkolok with a Christian cross! Did Tengku Razaleigh sell out the Malay honour and race or betrayed Islam? Of course not, or Razaleigh would not be back in UMNO and still a Prime Minister-aspirant.
But these are only some of the instances as to the "dirty" tricks which the Barisan Nasional is capable of, just to win in elections and there are more and more signs that the Barisan Nasional could outdo all its "dirty" tricks of past elections, whether it be the politics of money and corruption, the politics of fear and blackmail, or the politics of lies and falsehoods.
The DAP, like all other political parties whether in government or opposition, wants to win as many seats as we are capable of in any election, but we are not prepared to resort to the politics of corruption and money, the politics fear and blackmail, or the politics of lies and falsehoods just to secure victory.
All political parties, whether ruling or opposition, should make a commitment to ensure that the next election will not be the dirtiest in history by drawing up an Election Code to ensure a free, fair and clean election.
This Election Code should be supervised by a Commission for Free, Fair and Clean Election, comprising eminent Malaysians like former Federal Court judge Harun Hashim who should have the power and responsibility to publicly admonish political parties which violate the Free, Fair and Clean Election Code.
A commitment by all political parties to accept the verdict of the voters and not to resort to the politics of fear and blackmail, as threatening violence and May 13, as well as eschewing the politics of corruption and money and the politics of lies and falsehoods should be among the important highlights of the Free, Fair and Clean Election Code.
Is Mahathir prepared to support this idea of a Free, Fair and Clean Election Code and a Commission to monitor and ensure its observance by all political parties, so that the next election will not become the dirtiest in history - but can become a model for a free, fair and clean election for other countries as well?