Ong Kar Jin believes there’s more to what meets the eye in this round of police crackdowns.
Adam Adli. Tian Chua. Haris Ibrahim. Tamrin Ghafar. Safwan Anang. And now Hishammuddin Rais. One by one, these politicians and activists have been hauled up by the authorities in a crackdown reminiscent of 1988’s Operation Lalang.
The real question of course, is why.
Now this may seem like an obvious answer to you; after all, they all probably have played a part in calling on people to go to street rallies, or have had a hand or two in organising them. The simple logic now is that the authorities are simply clamping down to ensure no more rallies will take place.
I must disagree. Let us take the rally reason at face value. Tamrin Ghafar, Hishammuddin Rais and Tian Chua have had very little to do with organising rallies. In terms of calling on people to rise and take to the streets to protest, they are only part of a growing chorus of NGO activists, politicians and ordinary citizens. In any case, rallies have gone on for a very long time now, from BERSIH in 2007 all the way to the recent Suara Rakyat 505 Padang Amcorp rally. Barisan Nasional (BN) has managed to largely ignore them with the administration going on as normal, and have learnt valuable lessons that any crackdowns can only result in a terrible political backlash.
And if indeed there was to be a crackdown to prevent rallies, why the selective persecution? Why not hit out at the big players? Blogger Chegubard has made his stance and involvement in the Amcorp Mall rally very clear by his presence on the stage, yet has not been arrested.
Yet a crackdown still happened. And is still happening. Why? Has the government simply not learned? Have they grown a sudden fear to rallies?
I believe the situation needs a closer examination. Not all arrested so far called upon the rakyat to rise and take the fight to the streets. Not all were involved in organizing rallies. Yet the Home Ministry went right ahead knowing full well there would be a huge political backlash in arresting the above names. Again, the crucial question is why?
All those arrested thus far do, however, have something in common: they all spoke out against racism at a May 13 forum at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall. Adam Adli called the May 13 riots a result of sedition by UMNO members and said they were used as an excuse to hold on to power in the aftermath of the devastating 1969 election results. Tian Chua boldly stated that unity has never been a real problem in Malaysia, but disunity is actively caused by UMNO itself. Again, he labeled May 13 as a means to hold onto power, calling it a “toyol” to scare people. Most revealing is Tamrin Ghafar’s speech, where he revealed in his capacity as an ex-UMNO insider that the May 13 riots were part of a coup d’état to overthrow Tunku Abdul Rahman. He even implicated Mahathir Mohammad as one of the key players. Similar exhortations to relook at history were made by Haris Ibrahim and Safwan Anang.
I believe it is not rallies UMNO fears but a growing trend of historical revisionism. Should the spectre of May 13 be torn apart as an UMNO-orchestrated plot, Barisan Nasional would lose its status as a bringer of “stability” and a preserver of “delicate race relations”. Previously such thoughts were restricted to the minds of academics such as Kua Kia Soong, but recently such reflections upon history have gained traction in popular imagination.
As George Orwell once said: “He who controls the present, controls the past. And he who controls the past, controls the future.”
The real fear of UMNO is not rallies. They have dealt with them aplenty before, from 1988’s protests, 1998’s Reformasi to 2007’s BERSIH. The real fear of UMNO is the revision of the “gospel truth” they have taught people as the history of the nation. Once the May 13 spectre loses ground, what would happen to the older voters who previously may have feared a change in government based on concerns over racial clashes? What would it say about BN’s smear campaign on Lim Kit Siang, who was not even in the Peninsula at the time of the riots?
And what other hidden histories will be revealed? Perhaps the next issue to catch people’s attention will be the struggle of the left-wing parties under PUTERA-AMCJA against the British (see Fahmi Redza’s documentary Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka), which would then portray UMNO not as independence fighters but as British sycophants and collaborators. With such a huge blow to BN’s prestige as the Fathers of Independence, what sort of impact might that have on Malaysians?
No doubt such thoughts are haunting the minds of the authorities. As another quote from George Orwell goes: “In times of universal deceit, the telling of the truth is a revolutionary act.”
To put it simply, UMNO fears the truth.