NOTE : WE ARE POSTING ALL PREVIOUS ARTICLES BY DR. ADITYANJEE ON THIS BLOG ALONG WITH THEIR ORIGINAL SOURCES.
Monday, March 10, 2008
ELECTORAL VERDICT IN MALAYSIA: MORAL VICTORY FOR THE HINDRAF
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind! The winds of change are indeed blowing strongly in Malaysia. The election results in Malaysia despite the allegations of vote rigging, electoral malpractices, last minute changes in election rules, reflect an electoral loss of historical proportions for Abdullah Badawi and 13-party ruling alliance the Barisan Nasional (National Front). Though the new federal government would still be formed by the Barisan Nasional, it will not command the towering two-thirds majority in the federal parliament. The opposition had only 20 seats in the federal parliament in the 2004 elections compared to 198 of BN. In 1999, under the sagging leadership of Mahathir Mohammad the BN had won 148 seats compared to 42 of the combined opposition. Whereas the 2004 elections were a landslide in favor of reform promising, soft-spoken Abdullah Badawi; this is a humiliating defeat for him personally. Abdullah, who replaced longtime UMNO leader Mahathir Mohamad in 2003, had led the ruling Front to a landslide victory in 2004, taking 91 percent of the seats in Parliament. Calling the mid-term elections now instead of May 2009 when the parliamentary elections were scheduled backfired on Abdullah Badawi who was hell-bent upon preventing the 60 years old charismatic opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim from contesting the elections as a potential Prime Ministerial candidate of the loosely combined opposition.
Most analysts and election observers were initially forecasting a mild protest vote by the Hindu-Malaysians and Chinese-Malaysians alone, predicting that ethnic Malays will cast their votes in favor of United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and BN. This analyst, in article written on March 4th 2008, had projected 80-90 seats in federal parliament for the combined opposition. However, the results suggest a 15% swing away from the UMNO among the ethnic Malay voters in the latest elections. This may be interpreted as a vote against rising crimes, rising prices, politics of cronyism, politics of institutionalized corruption in the majority Muslim Malay community. The federal election commission in Malaysia had been slow to announce the results except for the constituencies where UMNO had won. By the time this report is filed the BN tally in the federal parliament is 137, with 82 seats going to the opposition giving only a simple majority to the BN in 222 seat federal parliament with three results still pending. Initially Barisan Nasional edged closer towards the coveted two-thirds parliamentary majority of 148 by securing 137 seats, but the two-third majority was ultimately denied only for the second time in the history of independent Malaysia. This “simple victory” for Abdullah Badawi and BN is still a defeat because the state machinery and the official media were blatantly misused for electoral purposes by the BN. Standard precautionary plans to prevent multiple voting by marking every voter’s finger with indelible ink was cancelled by the election commission at the last moment. According to ridiculous claims by the EC chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman there was a conspiracy to import such ink and mark each voter’s finger to prevent them from voting!
The Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan has gone on the record in Kuala Lumpur to ban public rallies by victorious candidates to avoid repetition of the May 1969 ethnic riots. When the dust settles and all the results are finally announced, what would Abdullah Badawi do? That is a 64 million dollars question. Yes, the government will still be formed by BN/UMNO which has obtained a simple majority in the parliament. Yes, Abdullah Badawi won his own parliamentary seat. But would Abdullah Badawi re-emerge as the Prime Minister and leader of very much weakened UMNO or the dominant ethnic Malay party will choose a new leader? Abdullah claims that he will go before the ceremonial king tomorrow to stake his claim for forming new government. Will he have the moral courage to govern for the next five years?
MCA that had 31 seats in the dissolved parliament has now only 15 seats. Both Chinese dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) or People’s Justice Party of Anwar Ibrahim of “Reformasi” fame have emerged as main opposition parties with PKR winning 31 seats and DAP getting 28. Islamic hardliner PAS has won 23 seats in the parliament. The state of Penang has gone to the (DAP) that is set to form the state level government in Penang. The state of Kelantan was already ruled by the Islamic hardliner PAS that retook the state in this election as well. In the northern state of Kedah, from where the former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad comes, PAS claimed a completely unanticipated victory. An opposition alliance of three parties won the state assembly in Perak. The state of Selangor witnessed the opposition victory as well. This means five out of 14 states have gone to the opposition instead of only one in 2004. In the capital Kuala Lumpur, opposition candidates have trounced BN candidates. Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil lost the Lembah Pantai parliamentary seat in the capital to Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim who is not allowed to hold a public office till April 2008. Human rights activist, parliamentarian and lawyer Karpal Singh of DAP has won the Bukit Gelugor parliamentary seat by a comfortable 21,015-vote majority.
Hindu Rights Action Front (HINDRAF) leader M Manoharan, a lawyer by profession, won his election on DAP ticket from behind the bars having been arrested under the dreaded Internal Security Act. He won the Kota Alam Shah state seat in the state of Selangor, beating Ching Su Chen (BN) by a 7,184-vote majority. His arrest under ISA was “justified” by the apartheid state because HINDRAF leaders had the audacity to hold a public rally of 20,000 Hindu-Malaysians protesting against the excesses of the Islamic state. Public works Minister S. Samy Vellu, the discredited leader of the Malaysian Indians’ Congress (MIC) has lost to PKR’s Dr. D. Jeyakumar Devaraj his Sungai Siput parliamentary seat that he held for more than 30 years. Samy Vellu was totally and hopelessly out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Hindu-Malaysians whose temples were being demolished on a weekly basis by the UMNO led government, whose dead bodies were snatched and stolen by the Shariat authorities under false pretext that there was conversion to Islam before death. The MIC so far has won only 3 seats compared to nine seats it held in the federal parliament that was elected in 2004. Hindu–Malaysians were discriminated at every level and Samy Vellu chose to denounce the HINDRAF leaders. Abdullah Badawi’s despicable actions in labeling HINDRAF leaders as terrorists aligned to LTTE have miserably failed and actually backfired not only against the BN but also against the MIC.
A weakened BN headed by Abdullah Badawi will form yet another Government in Malaysia. The ruling coalition's performance is the worst since 1969, when it last lost its two-thirds majority in parliament in a result that triggered serious racial clashes. That time victories of DAP triggered attacks on Chinese-Malaysian by dagger-wielding Malay youths belonging to UMNO Youth. Since this time the electoral defeat of the BN is triggered by protest voting against BN by the Hindu -Malaysians, it is hoped that the law and order machinery in the state of Malaysia will work hard to prevent any revenge attacks against the Hindu-Malaysians. If Abdullah Badawi sticks to his pre-election rhetoric warnings about chaos and instability in case BN is defeated by a protest vote, will he control the law and order situation in next few weeks to prevent such ethnic riots directed against Hindu-Malaysians?
Will Abdullah Badawi give any representation to the shrunken MIC in the federal cabinet since most of the Hindu-Malaysians voted against BN this time? During the election campaign, Abdullah Badawi wanted the support of Chinese -Malaysians and Hindu-Malaysians so that they are well-represented in the federal cabinet! If he follows that flawed reasoning, he may not provide any representation to the defeated MIC marginalizing the Hindu-Malaysians further. However, after this humiliating defeat, Abdullah Badawi may face challenge for the leadership of the UMNO during its next annual meeting. Mahathir Mohammad who has been very critical of Badawi may try to reassert his influence in the UMNO by supporting an alternative new leadership during the next annual UMNO meeting. Badawi may not be able to stop the ultimate rise of former Islamist turned democracy and civil rights activist Anwar Ibrahim. There may be calls within UMNO to bring the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim back into the UMNO fold for the sake of “Malay supremacy”. For Anwar Ibrahim, this is sweet victory with his party PKR getting 31 seats compared to only one in 2004. Both his wife and daughter have won their respective seats. After April 2008, he may enter the parliament with his wife opting to resign her seat so as to enable him to contest a bye-election.
Denied two-thirds majority in parliament, Abdullah Badawi and the BN will not be able to bring constitutional amendments at the drop of a hat. A rejuvenated opposition will have to be consulted on every major policy decision. However, in the ultimate analysis this is a moral victory for the HINDRAF leaders. Among everything else, the elections results force the international community to salute the brave leaders of HINDRAF who had the tremendous courage to bring into open the systematic persecution of Hindu-Malaysians by the Islamized and apartheid state of Malaysia. More than 20,000 Hindu-Malaysians of ethnic Indian origin attended the rally organized by the HINDRAF group on November 25, 2007. Most Hindu-Malaysians feel that it was only after this mass rally organized by NGO Hindu Rights Action Front that the Malaysian government had actually conceded that there were problems being faced by the Hindu-Malaysian community. When government of India had expressed concerns about the sorry plight of Hindu-Malaysians of Indian ethnic origin, Abdullah Badawi had the nerve to claim that HINDRAF leaders are terrorists having ties with the LTTE.
The new BN government is well-advised to release all the arrested HINDRAF leaders and workers, withdraw cases against them under the repressive ISA and seriously address their genuine grievances. The new Malaysian government needs to stop demolishing Hindu temples, provide land for building of already demolished temples, stop stealing the dead-bodies of prominent Hindu-Malaysians under the garb of Shariat laws, provide educational and job opportunities to marginalized Hindu-Malaysians and dismantle the apartheid rules of New Economic Policy-II. Malaysian civil courts and the Supreme Court will have to re-assert their supremacy in the filed of justice for the citizens over the rulings of Shariat courts that can not be challenged currently. Abdullah Badawi, having eaten a crow, owes a personal apology to HINDRAF leaders for characterizing them as terrorists. HINDRAF will have to convert itself into a formal political party if the ethnicity based apartheid state in Malaysia continues to exist. If the apartheid laws and the New Economic Policy –II are dismantled, HINDRAF, DAP and PKR of Anwar Ibrahim should merge into a single multi-racial party in trying to bring about the birth of a new, post-racial, multi-religious and democratic Malaysia!