Friday, March 07, 2008

Malaysia goes to the polls

Tomorrow, Malaysia goes to the polls in the 12th General Election.Though the ruling UMNO Malay dominated National Front of Prime Minister is sure to retain power, a tide of discontent from the minority Chinese and Indians indicate that the Opposition will whittle away the National Front's huge 90% majority in the previous parliament.

The Malaysian General elections are free (except for the members of the Armed Forces), but not fair. It's free because the general populace are not coerced into voting for specific candidates. But it's not fair because the supposedly impartial Elections Commission plays with the electoral boundaries and moves government supporters into opposition strongholds to tilt the balance. The media is also highly and insultingly biased against the opposition with almost no coverage on opposition events except to highlight negative reports. As penetration of the internet is limited to the educated urban classes, most of the country which relies on TV (2 channels which the government operates the remainder owned by the ruling coalition) and and the newspapers (which are owned by the political parties of the ruling coalition). These report ridiculous and ludicrous things about the opposition and make leaders the ruling coalition out to be Obama-like Messiahs.

Scare tactics also abound with the ruling party threatening the Chinese with then loss of political representation and raising the spectre of an Islamist win.

And thus, the election is not fair as the people can't make an informed choice.

There are many hot issues which have agitated the Chinese and Indians as well as the non-Muslims. Bodies have been snatched by Islamic authorities who claimed that deceased people have secretly converted to Islam. Mobs have gathered around Catholic Churches because of rumours that Malays were converting (it was actually First Holy Communion for 100 ethnic Indian kids), 100 year old Hindu temples were torn down because they did not have permits, which makes no sense since at their foundation 100 years ago, Malaysia did not yet exist and who were they supposed to get the permits from? The statue of a Chinese deity scheduled to be built was ordered to stop work after complaints from local Muslims and a religious edict by the local Muslim religious leader saying all statues were haram or forbidden in Islam. This has implications for Catholics as well. We have also had ministers from the ruling coalition raising a Malay daggers in an act of asserting Malay supremacy. At that same congress of the ruling party, many racist, inflammatory and downright seditious speeches were made.

If you're not aware, ethnic Chinese and Indians are second class citizens of this country, despite having been born here. If you're Chinese are have an ancestry dating back to the first Chinese settlements in Malacca in the 1500's and an Indonesian, Arab, Pakistani or Filipino Muslim gets his PR, then his kids will be first class citizens while your kids remain second class citizens in this system of institutionalized racism.

Hindu protesters being gassed.

Protest rallies by NGO's asking for free and fair elections have been met by force from the government with water cannons and tear gas and similar rallies by Indians protesting their marginalization have had a similar but more severe response with their leader detained without trial under Malaysia's draconian Internal Security Act.

NGO's in a rally for free and fair elections.

So, as you can see, the non-Malay ground is very agitated and election rallies by Opposition parties have seen huge amazing turnouts. But will this translate into votes?

At the first rally I was at, despite it being a work day the next day and poor publicity, there was easily 2-3 thousand people. The ruling coalition, with star speakers such as component party leaders, the imcumbent Penang Chief Minister and even the Prime Minister himself could only garner a crown of 5 thousand. And the word is that most were party members bussed in from outside and the locals who attended thought they were attending a concert by a popular artiste.

The open field where the rally was held was awash with red, the DAP colour. The rain which soaked us did dot dampen our spirits as the crowds swelled even larger.

Courtesy of TVSmith

On the wrap-up publicised rally I attended yesterday, the crowds swelled to 60,000 people and the atmosphere was electric. More than 120,000 Malaysian dollar was collected. Almost everyone I knew was there. The speakers were entertaining an energetic whipping up the crowds into frenzy by highlighting the many ills and problems of the government.

The DAP secretary general being born aloft by supporters.

It was billed as the largest and most successful election rally of the Democratic Action Party, an offshoot of the ruling Singapore People's Action Party.

Hopefully the voice of the people will be heard. God help us all.

Photos courtesy of theMalaysianInsider.

More coverage here.


anthony said...

Well, looks like you're going to get a new state government? Is that a good or bad thing?

Andrew said...

Well, it's a good thing because when you've hit rock bottom, as in the previous government, there's no where to go but up.

And as for UMNO and the other BN parties, now that they've hit rock bottom, my advise to them would be, "Stop digging!".