July 25, 2012
Scare Tactics Won’t Work with Malaysian Voters
I find it amazing that some politicians still think such issues resonate with today’s voters. Let’s deal with the first issue: Communism. Seriously, is there still a single person in Malaysia today who’s afraid of communism?
Let’s look at the communist countries. I can only think of two that are still sticking to that discredited political system: Cuba and North Korea. Is there any chance of Malaysia becoming like Cuba and North Korea? It’s ridiculous even to ask such a question.
OK, what about China? It’s a communist country right? From a political standpoint, yes. But from an economic perspective they’ve opened up so much, Mao Zedong wouldn’t recognise it. Hey, that iPad you’re using was made in China.
But some political elements obviously think that the Red Scare is still relevant. First, you have the allegation that communists have infiltrated BERSIH. Next, you have accusations that those same communists (from Cuba or North Korea, I’m not sure) have infiltrated Pakatan Rakyat. Can somebody tell these guys it’s 2012?
I’m not scared of communistic elements in our midst any more than I’m scared of ghosts. Why? Because I’m not convinced they exist.
Second issue: May 13. Yes, those racial riots were real and bloody. But they happened in 1969. Its ghost was exorcised a long time ago. Any remnants of it were dispelled after March 8, 2008.
Yes, there are voters old enough to remember May 13. But they have seen how Malaysia has changed, grown and matured over more than four decades since.These people know full well that the situation today is nothing like that of 1969.
As for the youth of today, even the Reformasi movement of the late 90s is too far back for them to relate to it. Operasi Lallang in the late 80s? They probably think it was a gotong-royong exercise. May 13, 1969 – that’s so far back that Lim Kit Siang was then an up-and-coming politician who had just been elected to Parliament.
What relevance does May 13 have to today’s political scene? Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad put it best when he said that back in 1969, if you were to damage a fancy car, you could be sure you’re destroying a non-Malay’s vehicle. But today, if you throw rocks at a Mercedes-Benz, a BMW or a Ferrari, for that matter, you could very well be destroying a Malay person’s car.
The same applies to a house. If you torch a fancy bungalow today, you can’t be sure whether it’s a Malay, Chinese or Indian home. Economic inequality might still exist, but the disparity in wealth among communities has been greatly reduced compared to four decades ago.
But it’s not just that everyone’s better off financially today. People are also more rational and less likely to react to provocative acts.
Remember the cow head incident? And what about those pig heads thrown in front of a mosque? And then there was arson at a church. None of these potentially incendiary acts led to riots.
Middle Malaysia realises that these are the desperate acts of a few extreme elements in our society. People today are more educated, more aware and more enlightened. They will not fall for such machinations.
The legendary Sir Gerald Templer, who fought real communists in the early 1950s, famouslyremarked that the answer lies in “winning the hearts and minds” of the people. And Templer, who was the British High Commissioner in Malaya at the time, achieved that by instituting political reforms that captured the imagination of the people.
There’s something to be gleaned from Templer’s strategy although the war today is no longer fought in the jungle but through the ballot box. You don’t win the hearts and minds of people by scaring them with threats of a potentially bleak future. You do so by giving them hope for a better tomorrow. The coalition that does that best will be the one that wins over today’s electorate.
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant. Comments: email@example.com