(Ipoh, Sunday): We are still in the midst of the 43rd Merdeka Month celebrations, and this PAS ceramah organised by Lajnah Hubungan Antara Kaum (HAK) to promote greater inter-racial understanding and relations stands out in contrast to the recent spate of divisive and anti-national activities by UMNO Youth and certain extremist, desperate and bankrupt UMNO leaders who were prepared to polarise the races for their own petty political ends.
The unruly, abusive and gangsterish UMNO Youth demonstration at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on August 19, the "bloodshed" statement by the new Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamad Khir Toyo and the sabre-rattlings by bankrupt and desperate UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders, were among the attempts recently to engineer political and ethnic tensions as happened in 1987 which created the conditions for a mass crackdown against democracy and human rights and the mass arrest of Opposition leaders and dissenters in the civil society under the Internal Security Act, known as the infamous Operation Lalang.
However, the year 2,000 is not the same as 1987, and it is now more difficult to recreate the political and ethnic tensions 13 years ago so as to mount a second Operation Lalang involving another mass arrests of Opposition leaders and civil society activists.
The first reason is that everyone is aware of the script, the creation of a synthetic political and communal crisis out of a vacuum, generation of political and ethnic tensions and the crackdown and mass arrests against the Opposition and the civil society making them as scapegoats - all to allow the consolidation of political position of the powers-that-be.
The second reason is that the Malaysian political situation today is very different from that of 1987 - primarily because of the formation of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural Opposition front, the Barisan Alternative.
In 1987, the DAP and PAS had never co-operated, and with the long-standing demonisation of both parties by Barisan Nasional propaganda creating the stereotype images of DAP as anti-Malay and anti-Islam while PAS was painted as anti-Chinese and a threat to non-Islamic religions, it was easy for the Barisan Nasional to carry out its "divide-and-rule" campaign generating ethnic tensions and scapegoating DAP and PAS for the excesses by UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders.
But today, DAP and PAS are together in the Barisan Alternative brought together by the common objective to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance and actively promoting inter-racial and inter-religious understanding, harmony and goodwill as illustrated by tonightís "National Unity" ceramah organised by the Perak PAS Inter-communal Relations Committee.
It is therefore not as easy today as in 1987 for irresponsible and extremist UMNO and UMNO youth leaders to engineer a political and ethnic crisis and blame DAP and PAS for the ethnic tensions to justify a crackdown against Opposition leaders and civil society activists - although this does not mean that it is totally impossible.
Although the Barisan Alternative failed to break the political hegemony of the Barisan Alternative by depriving it of its two-thirds parliamentary majority, the emergence and existence of the Barisan Alternative is making a major contribution to stabilise the communal situation and strengthen inter-racial, inter-religious and inter-cultural bonds and one important factor why the attempts of bankrupt, extremist and desperate UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders to plunge the country into a political and communal crisis to justify a second Operation Lalang had not succeeded so far.
The Barisan Alterantive has a great challenge in Malaysian politics - to end the communalisation of politics of the past and introduce a Malaysianisation of politics for tomorrow - as what we are doing at this "National Unity" ceramah tonight.
Barisan Alternative leaders are conscious that they have to reach greater political understanding and resolve their political differences if the Barisan Alternative is to be a sustainable political option for Malaysians, but Malaysians must admit that its existence has already proven a boon and a stabilising factor for promoting inter-racial relations.
Two days ago, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in Miri that the Barisan Nasional Government will not allow communal-based demands for the sake of national unity.
The Deputy Prime Minister does not know what he is talking about. Isnít he himself a leader of a communal-based political party - UMNO?
MIC President Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said last Monday that MIC was asking for three percent of the country's businesses and shares to be allocated to Indians, and that the party would make its intentions known to the government through the Second National Economic Consultative Council (MAPEN II), in which it has five representatives.
Samy Vellu said that MIC wanted an increase in the Indian equity as the Indians in the country deserve a fair share of the country's economic cake.
Is Abdullah going to reject MICís demand for three per cent of the corporate equity on the ground that the Barisan Nasional government will not allow communal-based demands?
Every day, the component parties of Barisan Nasional, and in particular, UMNO and MCA, are making communal-based demands!
If Abdullah is serious and sincere that the Barisan Nasional government
would not allow communal-based demands in the interests of national unity,
then the first thing he should propose in Cabinet next week is to
disband and disallow communal-based political parties like UMNO, MCA and
MIC as the very raison díetre of their existence is to make communal-based