By Kuik Cheng Kang
We will be celebrating the Chinese New Year in a week’s time. Many say the poor economic outlook will not make for a joyful celebration, but I tell them CNY is all about family reunion, whether you have a lot of money or very little of it.
Most importantly we must never give up hope and believe things can change for the better.
Some lament that Chinese Malaysians appear to be unperturbed by the crisis that will emerge after CNY. This I have to agree.
When former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that Malaysia was already an Islamic state, the local Chinese community couldn’t have cared less.
However, the thing is, Islamisation has picked up speed in our country today.
During the last general election (GE13), DAP colluded with PAS, but even that did not alarm the Chinese community here. They were thinking life would be easier after Barisan Nasional (BN) was toppled.
If Pakatan Rakyat had successfully captured the federal administration during that election, there would have been no way DAP could have stopped PAS from pushing its Islamic state agenda.
In order to win the votes of Chinese Malaysians, PAS’ religious agenda was cleverly concealed behind its welfare state veil, and it only began to show its true colors after the elections.
Unfortunately, the rights of Chinese Malaysians have dwindled following the humiliating defeat of MCA and its brief non-participation in the federal cabinet.
Chinese voters abandoned MCA in the 1969 general elections, and as a result, we lost key cabinet posts in finance and trade. History was repeated in the last general election and we lost the housing and local government, health, as well as human resources portfolios.
Allocations for the Chinese community channeled through these ministries, including those for Chinese schools, Chinese associations and new villages, have been drastically cut back or have vanished altogether.
The Malaysian Chinese community will face its biggest ever crisis since independence after the CNY holidays. The RUU355 private bill will be put up for debate in the Dewan Rakyat in March, and there are signs Umno will contravene the BN spirit to get the private bill approved in order to fulfill the party’s pledge to PAS and to fish the votes of conservative Muslims to ensure its own survival.
Meanwhile, the majority of Chinese want MCA out of BN. Some say MCA is doomed if it remains in the BN as the party will not get the support of Chinese voters.
But to MCA, quitting BN will not promise a better electoral outcome and could be even more disastrous because the extreme rightists within Umno have warned that the Malays would not vote for parties that oppose the bill. In the end, MCA will not get anything from the two largest ethnic communities.
Some senior MCA leaders have told me in private that they cannot just quit BN like that, as they have to answer to the community because Umno would be even more fearless in the absence of MCA, and the rights of Chinese Malaysians would be further eroded. To stay in BN doesn’t mean they are not going to do anything.
MCA president Liow Tiong Lai has approached Prime Minister Najib Razak twice but to no avail. In its stead, Umno has tried its best to assure MCA, Gerakan and other component parties that the private bill will not have any effect on non-Muslims or Chinese.
But, those familiar with the laws beg to differ. They are worried this would open the door to the implementation of hudud, and if nothing is done now, it may be too late to do anything in the future.
We still don’t have much idea about the exact content of the private bill. Parliament will resume on March 6, and the bill is expected to go into cabinet discussion from Feb 28 to March 5.
PAS has announced that it will hold a 300,000-strong rally on Feb 18, and Umno has promised to send representatives. MCA is expected to aggressively oppose Umno assisting in the tabling of the private bill.
Umno unilaterally announced in last year’s general assembly that the party would help PAS table the bill, without informing other component parties beforehand.
Such a move has already destroyed the BN spirit. With Adenan Satem’s powerful voice now dead, it will be harder for other BN components to block the bill.
If RUU355 were to be adopted in the Dewan Rakyat, it wouldn’t take PAS too long to push ahead its hudud agenda. They are just one last mile from the ultimate destination.
The Malay society is indeed split, but Umno is confident it can create that sense of crisis in the Malay society, making them see the grave consequences of BN losing the federal administration.
People close to Umno say after weighing the pros and cons, majority of Malays are believed to still vote for Umno or PAS, and the marriage between the two parties will meet the needs of traditional Malays who believe PKR is nothing more than a party supported by the Chinese, with hardly any influence in the Malay society.
As for Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), its worth is yet to be put to test. Umno believes the splinter group can at best deflect only 5% of Malay votes, and has banked on its alliance with PAS to make up for the shortfall.
That being said, I personally don’t think the Malay society has made clear its intent yet, and we need to wait until Parliament is dissolved to really see the inclination of the Malays.
Consequently, it is unwise for Umno to decide to give up Chinese votes so soon. Lest we forget, it was the Chinese voters who saved Umno in the 1999 election.
All that Chinese Malaysians want is very straightforward: a fairer treatment from the government and peaceful life in a united and harmonious environment.
Umno should not keep asking what Chinese Malaysians want. If they still have no idea at all, they should just seek some advice from the Johor royalty or learn from the late Adenan Satem.
It is just one last mile. Umno can rumble all the way to it or can apply the brakes and slow things down a little. Hopefully things will change for the better after CNY.
Kuik Cheng Kang writes for Sin Chew Daily.
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