December 14, 2012
Biro Tata Negara–The Ethnic Hate Machine
by J Bellamy (12-13-12)@http://www.malaysiakini.com
COMMENT: I was once a member of a group of government servants forced to attend a Biro Tatanegara (BTN, or National Civics Bureau) “nationhood” course.
This Orwellian department began life as a ‘Youth Research Unit’ in 1974, under the Youth Ministry. It was re-invented as the BTN in the Prime Minister’s Department, under Dr Mahathir Mohamad,Prime Minister at the time.
Prime Minister Najib Adul Razak’s overfed, flabby department bestowed the BTN with RM74 million of public money in 2009.
BTN has repaid taxpayers with racial slurs. Hamim Husin (left), a deputy director of the Federal Territory office of the BTN, called the Chinese ‘si sepet’ (slanted-eye) and the Indians ‘si botol’ (alcoholics) at an UMNO meeting in September 2010. Hamim managed to alienate more than 30 percent of the nation’s population in one breath.
Half a year earlier, in February 2010, Nasir Safar, a “special assistant” to Najib, was forced to resign after expressing his contempt for the non-Malay ‘pendatang’ or immigrants.
At a 1Malaysia event, Nasir called Malaysian Indians “beggars” and Malaysian Chinese “prostitutes”. His half-crazed speech was blamed on brainwashing by the BTN. BTN officers must have been drinking too much of their own distillate of ethnic hatred.
The BTN took a hammering in the press for its crude attempts at indoctrination. There were calls from the MCA , MIC and NGOs for the BTN to be dismantled, and to be packed away in the same musty drawers as the ‘psy-ops’ experts of China’s Cultural Revolution or Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago.
Since 2010, the BTN has improved somewhat: the widely reported insults against non-Malays as immigrants or ‘pendatang’ have been toned down. Non-Malays are no longer instructed to publicly announce they are ‘pendatang’. Instead, they are invited to state, during group discussions, their dialect group and their ancestral homes in China or India, as a kind of confession of their ‘pendatang’ status.
‘BERSIH’ is dirty
The previously routine racist attacks in BTN have largely been replaced by the tepid platitudes of 1Malaysia. But the BTN has not given up its staple diet of championing Malay supremacy, of lauding UMNO, and of attacking PAS, PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim and the DAP.
The BTN continues to emphasise the so-called “unchangeable” articles in the Federal Constitution that protect the “special position” of the Malays (Article 153), the Malay Rulers, Islam as the religion of the nation and Malay as the national language.
Copies of the constitution are handed out, and BTN participants are warned repeatedly never to question these supposedly sacrosanct articles.
We were reminded several times about the constitutional latitude afforded to the government of the day to impose constraints on individual liberties, such as freedom of speech and expression, in the name of “sedition” and “public order and morality”.
‘BERSIH’ is a dirty word. We were educated that the meaning of democracy was regular elections, not street rallies. Public demonstrations are clearly seen as a threat to Umno’s monopoly on national power.
Psy ops, BTN style
One evening, we were softened up initially by a lighthearted contest, performing patriotic songs. After the camaraderie and laughter of the competition, we were brought back to earth by a role-playing game, designed to remind us of the evils of colonialism.
We were given strict instructions to remain silent, while being set a seemingly impossible task, trying to match up stones of different sizes.
During the task, BTN facilitators pulled out several participants, apparently at random. These “detainees” had masking tape placed over their lips and strings tied loosely around their wrists, to mimic the senseless injustice of colonial rule. After 20 minutes, a few selected participants were allowed to speak, and then to release the “detainees” on the sidelines.
After this pantomime liberation, we were told to gather in a crowd around one young man and shoulder him aloft, carrying a giant Malaysian flag while singing a happy patriotic song.
Finally, we were treated to a video – essentially a snuff film – aimed at traumatising participants, so that we would feel that Muslims and Malays are victims and therefore Malays must unite against the larger world.
There was a slide show of stomach-turning violence, depicting Iraqi and Palestinian children and women buried alive, bleeding from facial wounds, and butchered by American or Israeli soldiers. One photograph focussed on an American soldier’s T-shirt, bearing the slogan ‘Born to Kill’.
A repulsive video was then played, showing religious violence among Muslim and Christian Malays in Ambon, including a scene of an attacker hacking a defenceless man with a machete, until a piece of his skull was partly detached, while Policemen looked on.
These horrific scenes were interspersed with images of unidentified Malay protesters throwing stones and BERSIH demonstrators picking up and hurling tear gas canisters. The final message of Malay unity was driven home using a tearful speech by former Prime Minister Mahathir, reminding us tremulously that the Malay “struggle” is not over. Several of us were in tears by this stage.