Lessons taught and lessons learnt

pic by BERNAMA

WHEN Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng (picture) was announced the winner in the Tanjung Piai by-election a couple of weeks ago, among those who prominently raised their hands were Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak and Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

As news started rolling out of the massive victory for Barisan Nasional, the narrative accompanying it was that the voters there, the Chinese in particular, voted solidly for the Opposition because they wanted to teach Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his partners in Pakatan Harapan (PH) a lesson.

With Najib and Zahid gleeful over the outcome, what lessons were being taught became a subject of interest.

Based on the commentaries, especially on an anti-Dr Mahathir pro-Pakatan portal, the reasons for the disaffection towards Dr Mahathir, among others were for his stand on Dr Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, the Unified Examination Certificate, his support for khat as a subject in schools and for his presence at a Malay dignity congress.

The non-Malays had made it quite clear that they were not happy with Dr Mahathir’s stand over these aspects and they taught him a lesson.

For good measures, unfulfilled election manifesto, flip flops on certain policies and unsavoury economic conditions were used to justify the disaffection.

Looking at the major causes for the non-Malay disaffection, there is almost a parallel set of causes for the disaffection among the Malays towards Dr Mahathir and they included the appointments of Tan Sri Tommy Thomas as the Attorney-General (and Tan Sri Richard Malanjum as the Chief Justice until his retirement), his continued retention of P Waythamoorthy in the Cabinet and his refusal to rescind Lim Guan Eng’s appointment as the Finance Minister and appoint a Malay instead.

What had irked some of the Malays was Dr Mahathir resolutely refuses to pander to their demands and the narratives against the non-Malay appointments to some of the key positions keep piling up. Some got nastier by the day.

In this context, while the nonMalays choose to paint Dr Mahathir as a racist, the Malays are depicting him as an anathema to Malay interest and sensitivities.

While it has been pointed out that one cannot be both at the same time, none seems to care. What matters is if their race did not get what they want, then Dr Mahathir is a racist or a traitor, depending on which side of the fence the opinion is mooted.

As if these subjects were insufficient to cause intra-racial distress, new issues were brought in and one of the latest is the issue over the bringing back of ashes of Chin Peng, the former Malayan Communist Party (MCP) stalwart.

The ashes were clandestinely brought back to Malaysia before they were scattered in the sea of Lumut in Perak and the Titiwangsa range, where the former being his birthplace and the latter where he spent much of his guerrilla warfare during the MCP’s reign of terror.

It would not have been an issue if the intention of the “smugglers” of the ashes had been merely fulfilling the wishes of Chin Peng. In fact, the scattering of the ashes was done in September and no one raised the issue as it was a case that what one doesn’t know wouldn’t hurt.

But not satisfied with the success in smuggling the ashes on Sept 16, successfully fulfilling Chin Peng’s wishes, as well as holding a simple customary rights ceremony, the group who brought back the ashes decided to announce it publicly, sparking a protest from veteran members of the security forces.

While quite a number have dismissed the return of the ashes as an insignificant matter as they are merely ashes and it is a dead’s man wish, others felt that it is an attempt to cause mischief on race relations.

Chin Peng may still have his last laugh. Back to Tanjung Piai, the obvious lesson they wanted to teach Dr Mahathir is for all to witness. It is the less obvious message they have inadvertently created that is actually equally disturbing.

In the voters’ determination to teach that lesson, the kleptocrats are starting to believe that they may just be able to pull it off — end the PH rule prematurely and change the course of the 1MDB-related trial.

Far-fetched or otherwise, they have taken the Tanjung Piai’s result as a testimony that they are able to create enough negative sentiments against the ruling coalition; and their “sins” are likely to be ignored.

Lurking in the background is PAS and some Umno representatives who are offering a new political construct. Reliable or otherwise, it can lead to an unprecedented political realignment that will change the course of the nation’s history.

Somehow, the lyric “there’s a bad moon on the rise” eerily kept playing in a loop.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.