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THE CRITICAL 30 MINUTES – ABDULLAH AHMAD

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on May 15, 2009

MYSINCHEW.COM

WHILE WE remember the 40th anniversary of the May 13 tragedy, we should move on. It’s time for closure of the sad, very sad incident. The tragic and vicious incident need not have happened had Tun Razak’s message to Datuk Harun Idris, the Mentri Besar of Selangor, reached him 30 minutes earlier or had Tan Sri David Tan Chee Khoon and Tun Lim Chong Eu spoken to Razak 30 minutes earlier relaying their decision not to cooperate with DAP to form the state government of Selangor nor to work together in Perak and elsewhere.

I was beside Razak when he took the calls from them late past tea time on the fateful evening of May 13. I recall clearly what Razak told Harun,”…the good news is you will continue to run Selangor. Chee Khoon and Chong Eu had just spoken to me that they want status quo preserved. So tell the people gathering at your house to disperse.”

Harun thanked Razak and asked him to convey his gratitude to the two statesmen. Between five and ten minutes after that Harun rang Razak to say that it was too late. As he was persuading them to disperse news reached the crowd that clashes had begun in Chow Kit Road and surroundings and beyond.

Razak asked Harun to calm the gathering and urged him, in strong terms, to attempt his best to stop the clashes from escalating. The rest, as they say, is history. Though Harun and I were not on good political terms, I must be fair. I think he did try, but by then, to no avail.

I left for home about maghrib. I informed Musa Hitam what had happened and he asked his family to rush to my house in Jalan Bukit Bintang, a very Chinese area, and there was no trouble. I assured my Chinese neighbours and they, in turn, assured me we would work together maintain peace and confront whoever the outside trouble makers would be. Thank God, the troubles were localised.

This is just speculation. Had communications then been as good and advanced as today, I think the two things could have occurred: race riots would not have started or they could have been more brutal and widespread.

When the Pakatak Ralyat coalition unseated the BN govenrments in Selangor, Perak, Penang and Kedah last 8 March, there was no tensions, perhaps because every one was in a state of shock but plausibly, too, the incoming governments of PKR, DAP and PAS like the defeated ones, were also interracial.

The PKR, DAP and PAS alliance should be preserved. The PKR is about the nearest thing to being a genuine multi-racial party. There shall never be another May 13 like incident if the ruling coalition and the Pakatan share power or are perceived to be sharing power fairly and the government, whether Federal or State, observes the Constitution scrupulously, implements government policies justly without fear or favour where talent is not only recognised but rewarded irrespective of race or religion.

The public as well as the private sector must display and reflect that of the society we live in, not what we want it to be. The Bumiputra must accept unequivocally the others are co-owners of this country as much as the others must also accept, recognise, and acknowledge unequivocally the Bumipiutra as the biggest demographic group and growing, therefore deserves more entitlements, though not at the expense of fair play.

I am not a soothsayer nor a prophet of doom. I strive to tell what I perceive to be the truth. It does not seem the future of democracy in our nation is bright. A genuine two-party system is at last evolving after five decades of Merdeka.

If the Pakatan Rakyat state governments deliver what they promised and the Barisan stays cohesive and the rakyat see the bond or linkage is sustained, the alliance can be potentially potent.

However, having said that, please make no mistake of misjudging Najib. He is no Badawi; they are from different educational and social background. Najib is Tun Razak’s son. He is more familiar with the viles of Malaysian voters; he is postively more Machiavellian, positively more able and aware than his predecessor who was badly advised by his family, cronies and toadies in government and the media.

If Najib performs well and the economy recovers, he is a tough nut to crack. His 1 Malaysia is good and if he is not distracted, and properly advised, you all will face a tough time. You must at least be well prepared and ready.

Najib may falter, which I think is not impossible, for he is not infallible. I am also very conscious how fallible I can be.

In politics, a week is a long time and logic doesn’t always work. Always work hard and one must also do what one feels is right. The correct and sensible thing to do is to ensure that all Malaysians are treated justly in the public as well as the private sector. Our deomocracy can only flourish if we have a strong, free and independent media. Our future is very bright if Najib can deliver what he promises and the Pakatan fulfil its pledges. We aren’t going to achieve what we desire. Worse if a nation is perceived to be not transparent, unjust and draconian. Let me repeat; a strong, free and independent media is critical for the future of Malaysian democracy.

The future of 1 Malaysia looks well if the PM can deliver what he promises and if the economy thrives. This can be done if we reconcile the past which none should forget with the present we must face, and the future we cannot avoid.

Whatever, the electoral test is in the next general elections. Najib has done well so far-challenging the rakyat’s mindsets, that we are getting more colour blind, that the society wants equality for all. The question is can he deliver or do Malaysians believe he is a reformer?

Najibis a pragmatist, a realist, devoid of any ideology. He faces many crucial challenges, realities and new pains especially in Perak. It seems change is imminent, but some people seem unaware of this.

If any country is perceived to be unstable that would not be good for foreign investment or trade. In 2008, the ruling party polled just 51 per cent of the popular votes. In the Peninsula, it was below 50 per cent, I think it was 49 per cent. I stand corrected.

The story next time, unless Najib could reverse the trend, isn’t likely to be very different from that of 2008, actually, it could be worse. The Pakatan will remain a force to be reckoned with, at least in 2012 or 2013 and in the future too.

All what Najib is trying to accomplish will be for naught if the country goes back to the days when political and social dissenters couldn’t speak freely and peaceful protests are squelched and media managed and muzzled.

I do hope Najib means what he says-more political and media openess. I think a real political battle which vaguely approximates the best tradition has just begun; a personal battle between Najib and Anwar, BN and Pakatan; DAP and MCA and Gerakan; the MIC, PPP and Hindraf; Umno and PAS and the PKR bumiputra. The BN can no longer boast it can now be itensely relaxed as previously.

The outcome of which will decide the nature and feature of Malaysian nationhood. In the last analysis, who wins or loses, will be decided by the voters’ perception of Najib and Anwar, their ideals and visions. (By ABDULLAH AHMAD/MySinchew)

(A former Parliamentarian and ambassador, ABDULLAH AHMAD was an aide to Tun Razak. He was previously NST group editor-in-chief and now a political anaylst and writer. This is the text of his speech at a forum on Wednesday 13 May in Petaling Jaya.)

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