Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More 'Middle Malaysia'

'Middle Malaysia' isn't a new slogan. It's not a new cool term to replace "Malaysian Malaysia" or "Malaysian First". It's a political description of the centre-majority of the Malaysian public. It is a statement and approach that the DAP seeks to fulfil the wishes of "Middle Malaysia".

Sdr Lim Guan Eng has said that "Middle Malaysia prefers co-operation not conflict, consultation instead of confrontation and an inclusive, shared society rather than an exclusive, separate society... We want no part of the extremist fringes with pronouncements and positions that frighten off any decent Malaysian."

And Middle Malaysia comes in the context of the fierce 'Allah' debate, where the hardline conservative positions taken by UMNO leaders have dragged the country to nearly the brink with more than 10 religious institutions defiled. As UMNO and Barisan Nasional move to the fringe with extremist tendencies, DAP and our Pakatan Rakyat colleagues want to occupy the centre where most Malaysians are, and that's "Middle Malaysia".

There used to be a time when "Middle Malaysia" believed that a power-sharing agreement between the major races represented by 3 race-based parties was the perfect approach to multi-cultural Malaysia. And that was when BN occupied the political centre of the public perception spectrum.

But "Middle Malaysia" has shifted for the "power-sharing" pact between UMNO, MCA and MIC has been increasingly exposed as a failure for each party continues to pander to the parochial needs of each community defined by race, and often in direct conflict to create a fair and just society, and to foster national unity.

The inability of Barisan Nasional to stay in touch with "Middle Malaysia" is best epitomised by BN apologist, Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, who was sceptical on “Middle Malaysians” being the majority of voters in the country and harshly criticised DAP for misconceiving the definition of 'middle'.
"In Malaysia, there is no such thing as middle voters. They (DAP) have messed up their calculations. The idea of middle voters is in their imagination... if they do not conceptualise their ideas properly, it can backfire,” said Shamsul, director of the Institute of Ethnic Studies (Kita) in UKM.

The academic firmly believes that in the case of constituencies, voters are still split on an ethnic level, and not all voters necessarily reside in the area that they vote in. He claims that 30 per cent of voters in a constituency are urban folk who come from rural areas, hence they have different interests in mind and do not care about “local issues.”

“The situation is like this. You have three types of constituencies in Malaysia; the Chinese, Malay/Bumiputeras and the mixed group. These groups, which make up 70 per cent of voters, are generally politically-inclined towards a certain party, be it opposition or government.
Like BN, he is still trapped in the mindset where "constituencies" in Malaysia is still strictly defined by race and their attachment to "certain" political parties. It is to Pakatan Rakyat's advantage that they have failed to (or is unwilling to) perceive and adapt to the changing electorate who are more sensitive to policies and less to party.

If Professor Shamsul is correct, then the Chinese would never have voted in such large numbers in support of PAS in the last general elections, as well as the subsequent by-elections. Similarly, DAP would not have received such significant support from the Malays, who had in the past avoided the party at all cost.

While DAP members and leaders may be majority Chinese, we are not a "Chinese" party like the BN counterpart in MCA. Similarly, while PKR and PAS are overwhelmingly Malay, they are not a "Malay" party like how UMNO is defined. Our policies are not race-based, but one based on needs. DAP for example, has no problems with Malays benefiting because they are poor or disadvantaged. However, there is real injustice if the rich Malays receive aid while the poor Indians continue to be marginalised. Race in the above examples are purely incidental, and the determination of assistance should be based strictly on merit and needs.

That is our view is what 'Middle Malaysia' has come to believe, and they no longer see race-based parties, those with specific mission to promote a particular race-agenda as being viable or acceptable. Capturing the 'Middle Malaysia' will take us to Putrajaya in the next General Elections.
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