(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The statement by the Defence Minister and UMNO Vice President, Datuk Najib Tun Razak in Pekan yesterday has thrown some light as to why the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad made the outrageous and divisive 43rd Merdeka Day message which hurt the feelings of the Malaysian Chinese after returning the Barisan Nasional to power with two-thirds parliamentary majority in the last general election.
Berita Harian today reported Najib as explaining that Suqiu "menyebabkan orang China yang sederhana, terutama dalam MCA dan Gerakan berada dalam keadaan serba salah".
Najib said: "Jika mereka tidak menyokong sedikit sebanyak keputusan itu, mereka mungkin hilang pengaruh dan jika berbuat demikian, ia bertentangan dengan pendirian orang Melayu, terutama UMNO serta ikatan mereka dalam kerajaan Barisan Nasional (BN)."
MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik and Gerakan President Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik should clarify Najibís statement which is as clear a statement as any UMNO leader could make, finger-pointing MCA and Gerakan leaders as responsible for complaining to Mahathir about Suqiu, that it had "put them in a fix" whether to support it or not and which was ultimately responsible for Mahathirís 43rd Merdeka Day message which outraged and defamed the Malaysian Chinese by referring to them as terrorists and communists.
If what Najib said was true, then Liong Sik and Keng Yaik, as well as SUPP Deputy President, Datuk Law Hieng Ding, had committed a blatant act of political dishonesty in publicly expressing support for Suqiu on August 17, 1999, as representing "universal principles accepted by all" with Liong Sik even claiming that the Cabinet meeting of Sept. 22 had "accepted the Suqiu in principle", deceiving the Chinese voters in the last general election that the Barisan Nasional government is fully sympathetic and supportive of Suqiu, while behind-the-scenes, they were agreeing with UMNO leaders that Suqiu challenged Malay special rights and complaining that they had been placed "in a fix" as "Chinese moderates" by the Suqiu Committee.
Liong Sik and Keng Yaik have done the Malaysian Chinese and multi-racial Malaysian politics a great disservice, fortifying mistaken UMNO views that Suqiu challenged Malay special rights and undermined the position of the "Chinese moderates" like MCA and Gerakan, when they should have convinced the UMNO leadership that Suqiu never challenged Malay special rights as MCA, Gerakan and SUPP had campaigned and won Chinese voters in the last election on their endorsement of Suqiu.
In fact, many UMNO leaders, including Najib, received the support of the Chinese voters in the last general election because they believed MCA and Gerakan endorsement of Suqiu was genuine and not a fraud and pure election gimmick to get Chinese votes. In the last election, Najib scraped through with a majority of 241 votes in his traditional seat of Pekan, securing 13,148 votes as compared to 12,907 votes by PAS candidate, Ramli Mohamed. Although Chinese voters in the Pekan parliamentary constituency only constituted a minuscule 1.7 per cent of the electorate of 35,832, or some 609 Chinese voters, Najib would probably be out of Parliament if he had openly defamed Suqiu by likening it with terrorists and communists at the time.
One favourite theme of Mahathir is to ask the people to be grateful to the government - but the Barisan Nasional government is not setting a good example of being grateful to the voters for their support!
In his 43rd Merdeka Day Message, when falsely alleging that Suqui's 17-point demands included the abolition of some of the Malay special rights, Mahathir said as the Malay-led government was perceived to have weakened, "the Chinese extremist group which is uncomfortable with the multi-racial cooperation in Malaysia, embarked on infuriating the Malays with absurd demands".
He said the demands by Suqui were not much different from that made by the communists of yesteryears, and likened it to the Al-Ma'unah, which brutally tortured and murdered two security personnel after the Grik arms heists last month.
He said the "onslaught by the Al-Ma'unah group and Suqui was bound to damage the good inter-racial relations which the government has been nurturing over the past 43 years since independence".
Mahathir also said that "while the Chinese-language newspapers were fond of creating a sense of guilt among the moderate Chinese, the Malay-run websites mongering lies and hate through the Internet, have successfully influenced both the communities, replacing inter-racial cooperation with confrontation and threatening peace and stability".
Mahathirís 43rd Merdeka Day message had bewildered and shocked the Malaysian Chinese for they never expected the Barisan Nasional to openly backtrack on its endorsement of Suqiu in less than eight months after the last general election when it was loudly proclaimed by MCA, Gerakan and SUPP as a major Chinese-vote getter.
The message had also deeply hurt the Malaysian Chinese, especially the
reference to them as terrorists and communists, because of three
Liong Sik, Keng Yaik and the rest of the MCA and Gerakan should stop their highly irresponsible attempt to mislead UMNO leaders into believing firstly, that the political battle among the Malaysian Chinese is between the "moderates" as represented by them and the "extremists" as represented by Suqiu and those who endorsed Suqiu and secondly, that the Chinese-language newspapers must be seriously curbed as they "like to invoke feelings of guilt among the moderate Chinese".
The MCA, Gerakan and SUPP leaderships should search their conscience as to whether such an attempt to categorise the Malaysian Chinese into "moderates" and "extremists" over the Suqiu and labelling the Chinese-language newspapers as "extremist" like the "libellous Malay-operated websites on the Internet" is fair, honest and responsible.
It would appear that the Barisan Nasional attempt to categorise Malaysian Chinese into "moderates" and "extremists" is meeting with some success, as reflected by the Utusan Malaysia report today quoting a Malaysian Chinese social activist admitting that some of the demands in the 17-point Suqiu were not proper to be presented to the government and asking all quarters to accept whatever decision which would be made by Mahathir on the matter!
Malaysians were expecting Liong Sik, Keng Yaik and Hieng Ding to convince Mahathir to withdraw and apologise for his 43rd Merdeka Day Message, but with Najibís statement, it is clear that Liong Sik and Keng Yaik must bear the fullest responsiblity for Mahathirís 43rd Merdeka Day Message.
This is probably why a MCA Selangor Woman Member of Parliament was reported in the press today as calling on the Malaysian Chinese to ignore Mahathirís 43rd Merdeka Day message.
She said: "Many people ask, we had given support in the general election, why should there be such a problem? Actually, we do not know the motive of making such statements, whether it is political propaganda or gimmicry. But we have more important tasks that we want to do."
Apart from a gross breach of Barisan Nasional party discipline to ask the Malaysian Chinese to ignore Mahathirís Merdeka Day message warnings, it is also the height of irresponsibility to the people to ask the people to take such a stand.
What is clear is that there should be no more false illusions that Liong Sik, Keng Yaik and Hieng Ding could convince Mahathir that his 43rd Merdeka Day message was a great disaster for nation-building, inter-racial relations, economic recovery and Malaysiaís international repute, and that the Prime Minister should apologise and withdraw it.
This is an issue which concerns not only the Malaysian Chinese but all Malaysians, regardless of race, as we are all in the same boat - for good or for ill.
Malaysians, whether through political parties or civic organisations, and individually, must stand up and convey to Mahathir and the Barisan Nasional at their disgust and rejection of Mahathirís 43rd Merdeka Day message - not by demonstrations which would fall into the trap of those who are waiting for opportunities to create tensions to justify a second Operation Lalang mass arrests - but by generating a mammoth wave of public opinion that Mahathirís 43rd Merdeka Day message is out of line with hopes and aspirations of Malaysians in the new era. Let the political leaders, the MPs, the Assemblymen, the Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Mentris Bear, Chief Ministers and State Excos know how the people really feel on the matter.