(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Malaysian politics and the mass media have taken on a very surreal quality with strange and bizarre developments unprecedented in the nation's history, which is a reflection of the deep malaise in Malaysian governance and the "cynicism and skepticism on the ground" which shocked the Singapore Senior Minister, Lee Kuan Yew in his recent visit.
In two days' time, Malaysia is celebrating its 43rd National Day and the Chairman of the 43rd Merdeka Month celebrations and Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism, Datuk Kadir Sheikh Fadzir called for politics to be kept out of National Day celebrations, whose theme of "togetherness" is to emphasise the spirit of unity among 22 million Malaysians despite the diversity of their ethnic, religious, cultural and political differences.
On the other hand however, certain Barisan Nasional elements, in particular UMNO Youth and the Minister's own brother, UMNO Youth deputy leader, Datuk Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir are doing their utmost to destroy the meaning of the 43rd National Day celebrations, especially with Abdul Aziz's "final ultimatum" issued in Alor Star yesterday to the Suqiu Committee to apologize for the Suqui by today, or face unspecified "actions" by UMNO Youth.
It is a most shocking reflection on the growing lawlessness in the country and police impotence that Abdul Aziz is allowed to continue to undermine inter-racial harmony and destroy the "togetherness" spirit of the 43rd Merdeka Month celebrations when he should have been arrested and prosecuted for leading the unruly, abusive and gangsterish UMNO Youth demonstration at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on August 19, 2000, where inflammatory and racist placards were displayed, reporters abused and assaulteld and threats uttered to "burn down" the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.
The recent reporting of the mainstream mass media is most surreal and extraordinary, for readers of different language newspapers who do not read other language newspapers are completely compartmentalised as if living in different nations, especially after the Cabinet decision last Wednesday calling for a halt to the Malay special rights controversy sparked off by UMNO Youth.
Solely English-language newspaper readers will never realise that the racial cauldron in Malaysia has continued to be on the boil in the past week as the Cabinet decision lasted only 48 hours before it was violated by UMNO Youth and the Minister for Youth and Sports, Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein who demanded for an apology from Suqiu Committee after accepting earlier its explanation that it had never challenged Malay special rights or that UMNO Youth had upped the ante with a final 24-hour ultimatum yesterday to Suqiu Committee to apologize by today or face dire consequences.
Solely Malay-language newspaper readers are incited not only by UMNO Youth but also by UMNO leaders like UMNO National Vice President and former Selangor Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Muhammad Mohd. Taib and the Johore Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman demanding an apology from the Suqiu Committee and accusing the Suqiu Committee as an "extremist communalist group" ("kumpulan pelampau perkauman") out to exploit the disunity of the Malays.
Solely Chinese-language newspaper readers follow with concern the escalating ethnic tensions created by UMNO Youth's defiance of the Cabinet and yesterday's sudden 24-hour "final ultimatum" by UMNO Youth to Suqiu to apologise or face dire consequences.
The completely different reporting in the different language mass media in the past week about the synthetic political and communal crisis which UMNO Youth is trying to create out of a vacuum, as no one had challenged Malay special rights and which would have automatically become a criminal offence of sedition, highlights the fragmentation rather than the unity of the Malaysian nation after 43 years and makes a complete mockery of the theme of this year's National Day celebrations.
Although not yet reported in the local mainstream media, it is public knowledge that UMNO Youth is organising a gathering in Putrajaya on National Day eve tomorrow to "show off its strength" on Malay special rights.
Is the 24-hour "final ultimatum" to Suqiu expiring today suddenly issued by Abdul Aziz in Alor Star yesterday timed purposely as a climax for the UMNO Youth gathering in Putrajaya tomorrow?
The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai must be reminded that a major cause of ethnic tensions in 1987, which ended up with Operation Lalang mass arrests, was the UMNO Youth rally at the TPCA Padang, Kuala Lumpur on 17.10.1987 which carried banners like "May 13 HAS BEGUN" and "SOAK IT (KRIS) WITH CHINESE BLOOD", as narrated by the Government White Paper "Towards Preserving National Security" which was tabled in Parliament on 23rd March 1988.
Has the Police learnt nothing from the events of 1987 and is it going to allow a repetition of the 1987 UMNO Youth rally at TPCA Padang at Putrajaya tomorrow, escalating ethnic tensions to sabotage the 43rd National Day celebrations?
UMNO Youth has announced that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has been invited to address the crowd at the UMNO Youth gathering.
Has the police given a permit for the UMNO Youth gathering at Putrajaya tomorrow, which could only inflame and escalate ethnic tensions in the country? Has the Prime Minister given his personal approval for the UMNO Youth rally tomorrow, regardless of whether it has been given police permit or not?
In fact, a larger question should be asked as to whether UMNO Youth
has been given the "greenlight" by certain authorities to escalate
ethnic tensions to justify a second Operation Lalang mass arrests of Opposition
leaders and government critics as openly hinted by Gerakan President and
Minister for Primary Industries, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik in
Seremban on Sunday?
Mahathir should be advised to resist the temptation to launch another Operation Lalang crackdown and rein in the UMNO Youth from escalating ethnic tensions on a synthetic political and communal crisis over Malay special rights.
The police should advise UMNO Youth not to sabotage the 43rd National Day celebrations theme of "togetherness" and unity among the 22 million Malaysians while Mahathir should advise UMNO Youth to be law-abiding and conscious of its responsibility to promote inter-racial harmony in the country by calling off the UMNO Youth gathering at Putrajaya tomorrow.