Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Buah Umno: Buah Pala

The tragedy of the tale of Kampung Buah Pala is – as it should be – a reminder to us all of the utter failure of the Umno/BN regime to live up to its commitments to the people. Fighting poverty has presumably been one of the pillars of the Umno rhetoric for decades. But instead they have indulged in toxic communalism and almost irreparably damaged the social harmony of the country.

As much as the current state government in Penang is understandably having to resolve a messy dilemma manufactured under the watch of the previous BN regime, and as much as I sympathise with the predicament that the DAP-led state government has been put into by the previous BN regime, surely every reasonable Malaysian ought to appreciate the tragedy that has unfolded for these residents of Kg. Buah Pala.

And as my Auntie Maalini has rightly reminded me, perhaps it is worth remembering that there are far too many poor Malaysians – and to be quite candid about it, especially non-Malays - who know that they are not the ones who are typically prone to getting the attention of the government and receiving aid when they are in dire straits.

I’m sure there must have been some deep apprehension among the residents that once displaced, they might well become part of the pool of discarded poor, non-privileged Malaysians who have never been the beneficiaries of special BN programmes that would afford them special housing loans, allowances, or low-cost housing. These residents must surely fear that unless they put up a fight, like countless other underprivileged Malaysians whose rights under the BN regime apparently don’t seem consequential, they too will fall through the cracks and become part of the statistic of poor Malaysians deemed unworthy of help.

And the proof is in the pudding. How often have we seen pathetic MIC people falling over themselves trying to grab publicity about helping some destitute family or another once their plight is exposed? How often do we hear some high-and-mighty BN minister blabbering about the welfare of the poor? But alas, within days, as soon as the television cameras move on, all is forgotten. These afflicted poor – living in desperation - are left stranded and without options. Without real options, because the BN regime finds them unworthy to be provided with low-cost housing or some such programme, these residents - like other squatters who have been neglected for much too long - find themselves in a state of desperation.

When developers and fat-cat politicians make deals to boot-out these poor, why would they not get upset? And where are the multi-billion ringgit housing schemes for these non-privileged people who, because of their race, are blatantly deemed suitable to be treated with contempt?

But fate has also conspired against the DAP, such that it has found its hands tied by the legal bind and mess that the previous BN regime put in place regarding Buah Pala. Hence, the demolition of Buah Pala, which the DAP has been forced to oversee, might cost it some popularity points, but we’ll only be fooling ourselves even more if we once again complacently fail to see through the flawed and failed BN rhetoric about dealing with poverty across the board in this country.

Yes, maybe the MIC has a point – if only in trying to deflect blame from itself – that the BN has failed in its promises. But one has to wonder at the ineptness of these MIC politicians who – despite repeated failures and neglect by the Umno/BN regime – insist, nevertheless, on getting into bed with them.

I can clearly see Auntie Maalini’s point: the poor – like the residents of Buah Pala - know that once they’re browbeaten to give up what little they have, they can kiss goodbye to any chance of getting it back. But their response reflects what most poor people know about the way the BN regime does things.

Just maybe, Guan Eng’s government in Penang will show all Malaysians exactly how a just and morally responsible government should act in addressing the plight of the residents of Buah Pala - and the poor.

G. Krishnan