(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The Cabinet decision this Wednesday (23rd August 2000) calling for "an end to all open debate on Malay Special Rights" to maintain "the good relations among the various races particularly the Malay and Chinese communities" will go down in Malaysian history as the most ignominous short-lived decision, which could last only 48 hours.
The first to violate the Cabinet decision was the Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein who, 48 hours later in his capacity as UMNO Youth leader, completely backtracked from his announcement a day earlier after the Barisan Nasional Youth meeting accepting the explanation of the Suqiu Committee that it had never intended to question Malay special rights to end the Malay special rights controversy.
After the Barisan Nasional Youth meeting on Thursday, Hishammuddin announced that he would ask the Umno Youth executive committee to accept Suqiu's explanation at its meeting the next day - but as events turned out, it was the UMNO Youth executive committee which succeeded in getting Hishammuddin to backtrack and defy the Cabinet decision to end the Malay special rights controversy by re-igniting the issue and demanded for an apology by the Suqiu Committee.
Now the breach on Wednesday’s Cabinet decision has widened with two UMNO leaders entering the fray in open defiance of the Cabinet decision as reported by Mingguan Malaysia today, namely UMNO National Vice President, Tan Sri Muhammad Mohd. Taib - whose role in escalating the ethnic tensions in 1987 leading to Operation Lalang mass arrests under the Internal Security Act is still fresh in national memory - and Johore Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, who has still to recover from his ignominous defeat in the UMNO Vice President elections in May although he received the second-highest number of UMNO Vice Presidency nominations.
Both Muhammad and Abdul Ghani endorsed Hishammuddin’s defiance of the Cabinet decision on Wednesday in demanding for an apology from the Suqiu Committee. Abdul Ghani alleged that the Suqiu Committee is an "extremist communalist group" ("kumpulan pelampau perkauman") and accused it of exploiting the situation when "the unity of the Malays is under threat".
The moral and political authority of the Cabinet and the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi, who chaired last Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, are at an all-time low when its decision could only last 48 hours and could be flagrantly and publicly challenged in this fashion.
The Cabinet should hold an urgent emergency meeting not only to restore its all-time-low political and moral authority, but even more important, to make a second attempt to end the synthetic political crisis which UMNO Youth and certain UMNO leaders are trying to create out of a vacuum in order to restore Malay political support.
The other reason why there should be an urgent emergency meeting is to salvage the 43rd National Day, which is only four days away on Thursday, as Malaysians are in no real mood to partake in the 43rd Merdeka Month celebrations when the country is gripped in the midst of a synthetic political and communal crisis which may be escalated to danger levels before or after August 31 as happened previously in 1987.
The Cabinet should meet urgently tomorrow, to end with finality the synthetic political crisis so that by August 31, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the so-called Malay special rights controversy had been fully laid to rest and would not rear its ugly head evenafter National Day.
Those who are demanding the Suqiu Committee to apologise for Suqiu should realise that the the Cabinet "accepted" the Suqiu at its meeting of September 22, 1999 , as reported by Berita Harian (23/9/1999) in a report under the heading "Kabinet terima petisyen kaum Cina".
If the Suqiu Committee is to apologise for the Suqiu, then the Cabinet and the Ministers who had accepted the Suqiu at the Cabinet meeting of Sept. 22 last year should make their public apologies first.
Furthermore, at a joing press conference on August 17, 1999, MCA President, Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik, Gerakan President, Datuk Dr. Lim Keng Yaik and the SUPP President, Datuk Law Hieng Ding declared their support for Suqiu, with Liong Sik declaring: "We accepted the appeal and the 17 principles it contained. We feel that the principles are universal and can be accepted by all. They (the Chinese associations) said the principles are meant to benefit all races and not the Chinese alone."
Is UMNO Youth, Mohammad Taib and Abdul Ghani also demanding apologies from Liong Sik, Keng Yaik and Hieng Ding?