Thursday, March 13, 2008

You be the judge

We’re beginning to witness the first fruits of the political tsunami that hit Malaysia on the March 8 – the ruling Barisan Nasional, reeling from a major setback dealt by voters during the general elections, no longer has the monopoly on truth, particularly the non-blog variant.

Yeah, sure, the ruling party still controls the mainstream media, the English and Malay-language press being more subservient than others. But it will be hard to ignore the opposition now that they control five out of the eleven states in the peninsula. And not just any five either – the biggest and most important of the lot. I mean, you just cannot black out completely what five Chief Ministers are saying, can you? We are already seeing evidence of a less restrictive flow of information.

Take for example today’s headline news, in which Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi warned the freshly minted Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, not to make statements that could stoke racial tensions. So I thought to myself, what incendiary and irresponsible rhetoric has this Guan Eng chap been up to, that has so moved our Prime Minister to give him a firm ticking off? Has Guan Eng been waving a dagger in the air and declaring his fervent intent to protect his ‘people’? Well, judge for yourself. Here are a selection of quotes made by the secretary-general of the DAP since March 8.
[March 9] Guan Eng to be Penang CM
“We are humbled by our win and pledge not to disappoint the people of Penang.

“We also want to stress that the new government will be for Malaysians of all races. We will be fair, just and not discriminate against anyone – offering assistance to all in need. Talented Penangites can expect equal opportunity from a coalition that is united by a common love for democracy that respects basic human rights, political equality and socio-economic justice.”

[March 10] Thanking out-going Chief Minister Koh Tsu Koon for showing him around the office (what a stand-up guy, this Dr, Koh), Lim thanked his predecessor for “welcoming” the party into his office. “I appreciate and thank him for his willingness to accept the people’s decision and we welcome his views. The new administration is one for all Penangites, not just one particular party.”

[March 11] Guan Eng pledges to pursue investor-friendly policies
“The people demand transparency and accountability in the issuance of government contracts, and this new state government shall insist on an open public tender system.”

[March 12] Guan Eng sworn in as CM
After the swearing in, Guan Eng was driven to his new office, and when he sat on the chief minister’s chair for the first time, he quipped: “I already feel the heavy responsibility.”
Rabble-rousing stuff, isn’t it? And all these from reports carried by the government-controlled press. Reading this, do you feel an uncontrollable urge to rush out and incite some racial hatred? I think not.

What Pak Lah was really taking aim at was Guan Eng’s declaration that the state government was going to do away with the New Economic Policy, an ethnic-based affirmative action programme. If before, we would only hear one side of the story, now you can compare the quotes side-by-side and decide for yourself.
Pak Lah
The PM said that the NEP had in fact benefited everyone. “I would like to ask the DAP which community has been made poorer because of the NEP.”

Guan Eng
"The NEP is good but its benefits are only enjoyed by some as many Malays in the country, including those in Penang, are still poor. The implementation of NEP has only made the rich richer and the poor poorer due to malpractices.”

Pak Lah
“Do not marginalise the Malays. I want to ask Lim Guan Eng what his plans are for the Malays in Penang What are his plans for the Indians in Penang? What are his plans for other minority groups in Penang?”

Guan Eng
“When I said that I would run the government administration free of the New Economic Policy (NEP), I emphasised on asking the tender process to be made publicly. I do not think Malay contractors object to the open tender system as it is more transparent compared to the present process which is subject to corruption, cronyism and nepotism.”
See? It’s all hanging out there. We, everyone, especially the bulk of Malaysians who have no access to the Internet, can judge for ourselves. It is no longer possible to silence the other view. By swinging massively to the opposition, the voters not only ushered in a slew of fresh faces and new state governments, they may have ignited a new information era.

By the way, I hope the trend in a few opposition-controlled states to have two Deputy Chief Ministers representing the other ethnic groups catches on at the Federal level. Who’s for a Chinese Malaysian and Indian Malaysian Deputy Prime Ministers?

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