Saturday, September 6, 2008

'Squatters': Penny wise and pound foolish

The recent hullaballoo and quibbling about Ahmad Ismail’s refusal to apologise for his apparent racist and ‘insensitive’ reference to Chinese as ‘squatters’ has to date culminated in Teng Hock Nan of Gerakan coming out to supposedly issue a ‘strongly-worded statement' on the matter. According to Malaysiakini:

The party has today issued an ultimatum - that the Gerakan Bukit Bendera division will ‘disassociate itself’ from the Umno division chief if he continues to refuse to apologise for his allegedly racist remarks.

‘(We) will have nothing to do with Ahmad Ismail any more. We call upon all like-minded Malaysians to do the same,’ said Gerakan Penang secretary Dr Teng Hock Nan in a strongly-worded statement.

Let me tell you, it’s always refreshing to see people speak out against bigotry and racism, and lord knows we witness more than our fair share of racism through our politicians and many of the policies they implement. It’s also reassuring that some within Gerakan are expressing their outrage about the use of slurs and racially condescending – not to mention divisive – remarks, especially by our public figures. This sure is far more commendable than the kind of babbling regarding this issue we get, for example, from Samy Vellu who has to offer this bit of ‘wisdom’ on the matter: ‘We don't want to give life to matters of this kind… we want to have a united Malaysian nation.

I suppose it never occurred to Samy that, in order to achieve ‘a united Malaysian nation,’ perhaps one very good place to start would be to make sure the party he is in bed with refrain from exploiting racism!

But the transparency of some notwithstanding, I am especially dumbfounded that we see a few members of Gerakan making such a fuss about Ahmad Ismail not apologising when, by contrast, these same people – along with MCA, MIC and the like - have been mute on the matter of the racist policies and culture espoused by the BN regime, such as the indoctrination that apparently goes on through the National Civic Bureau’s (BTN) training program.

Ironic isn’t it? We have some within the BN regime getting bent out of shape about Ahmad Ismail’s refusal to apologise for supposed offensive remarks. Yet, these very same people who apparently take umbrage and resent his remarks do not seem disturbed by the kind of offensive, racist, divisive and disturbing indoctrination practices that our children are subjected through the BTN.

Where is the political uproar about this latter matter which was brought to light on Lim Kit Siang’s blog?

As the DAP leader has rightly asked, where are these servants of the public within these BN component parties on this matter of the BTN’s institutionalised practices which clearly are ‘insensitive’ if not outright vile and despicable? Well, I suppose given Samy’s response on the Ismail episode, it would be foolish on our part to expect much on this BNT matter – as in other instances of racist policies and practices - from the MIC. But how about Gerakan and especially the seemingly impotent MCA?

The fact of the matter is – despite the outspoken stance from some in Gerakan on the Ismail-apology episode, they appear penny wise and pound foolish. I’m certainly not suggesting that there should be no outrage about the Ismail-apology matter. At the end of the day, I could care less about an apology. I’m more offended by the institutionalised racism practised and perpetuated by this regime. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that these calls for an apology – in my view - ring hallow when Gerakan and others within the BN component parties seem to undermine their own credibility as they sit silently by while the very regime they’re a part of indulges in promoting grossly insensitive and racist indoctrination.

It’s fine to be penny wise, but doesn’t being so become futile if we remain pound foolish?

G. Krishnan