Monday, August 17, 2009

Roti Canai, Teh Tarik and Permatang Pasir

As I sat in a kedia kopi some days ago indulging in my roti canai and teh tarik, my mind wandered beyond the news story I saw on one of the government published rags that lay on my table. (Needless to say, it wasn’t my copy as I cannot justify spending my money in order to be subjected to Umno-BN propaganda. Even the free propaganda is hard and bad enough to swallow.) At any rate, for some reason – perhaps because of something I gleaned from the rag – my mind wondered on the now common trend we have seen where experts often opine about how, each of the by-elections since 3/08 seems to be a barometer of the voters’ approval or disapproval of Najib, a particular state government, a specific scandal, or some such issue.

Consider Permatang Pauh, Kuala Terengganu, Manik Urai, or whatever. Each, according to the experts, was propped up to be an indication of something.

Interestingly, the same pattern seems to be recurring in this impending Permatang Pasir by-election. Some have already lined this by-election up to be a referendum on the Kedah state government and PAS’ apparent mucking-up of the situation there. Others seem to suggest that voters (especially the Indians?) will punish PR for the state government’s handling of the Kampung Buah Pala controversy.

Indeed, I do expect the BN machine to exploit each of the above to wrestle away this seat from PAS-PR. Of course that will be a central part of their plan. But I find it ironic how some political pundits seem to think that perhaps a PAS-PR defeat might be a worthy wake-up call to the latter to clean up its act (whether in Kedah or just in general across the board).

Let me put it this way: I’ve heard few things more absurd than this kind of so-called insight.

In this Permatang Pasir case, it now appears that giving the seat to Umno would be a good thing not because they deserve it, but that voters should register their protest of PAS’ and PR’s bickering. This, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised, might be just another example of the kind of Umno propaganda being disseminated to give itself some traction and momentum in Permatang Pasir.

But let me explain especially why this argument is bogus. The choice – once again – in this by-election should be abundantly straight-forward: should the voter support a racist party or one (despite its imperfections) that seeks to take us beyond the corrupt, gutter and racist politics of Umno?

Well, in my book anyway, the above should be the only issue that matters. The choice could not be more self-evident. I’d rather take a less than perfect PR (after all, who’s perfect) than a corrupt-racist BN-Umno.

So let’s not get any more distracted from the real issue at hand and let’s not get caught – like a bug - in Umno’s web of distortions and obfuscation. Whatever they’ll promise cannot replace the fact that they’re a party entrenched in corruption, abuse of power and, ultimately, a racist ideology.

So long as this indisputable inherent character of Umno is intact, a vote for Umno-BN is essentially a vote to affirm the practice of apartheid in Malaysia.

Postscript: I like to think roti canai and teh tarik, always helps me clear my thinking, but I can’t prove it.

G. Krishnan