What is the Perkasa Lite election campaign?
According to Clive Kessler, it is an “artfully cultivated” message:
“Malays on top, now and forever. That is Malaysia, love it or leave it!”
It is a communiqué that appeals to the Malay “collective cultural and political anxiety”, and this fearfulness itself something that is deliberately cultivated by Umno, said Kessler.
Clive Kessler is emeritus professor of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney who described Umno’s GE13 campaign as “Perkasa Mild”.
He wrote that the essence of the campaign was to put across, in slightly more polite and modulated terms, the same “hard, uncompromising position” of Malays-on-top adopted by Perkasa.
This “Malay anxiety campaign” was projected daily by Utusan and its media consociates, he added.
Utusan, said Kessler, had carried out the campaign “with ever increasing determination and with increasingly disquieting effect” upon Malay voters in the rural heartlands.
Utusan = Umno = Perkasa
According to Kessler’s recent two-part article published in various Malaysian and foreign websites, Umno had won handsomely upon a campaign that was conducted in Malay terms and directed to a Malay audience.
“Meaning, the campaign was projected above all in the daily Malay-language press, notably the Umno’s own Utusan Malaysia, and via the Malay-language programming of the television channels with the greatest Malay reach, principally TV3 and RTM,” he wrote.
Kessler’s analysis has it that Umno and Utusan worked hand in glove, and Utusan in tandem with Perkasa functioned as ‘Ginger Groups’.
‘Ginger Groups’ are “radical pressure groups operating from outside a party upon like-minded ‘true believers’ and sympathisers within it,” explained Kessler. In other words, Perkasa and Utusan operated to radicalize the moderates in Umno and they succeeded.
The Star = DAP = evangelista
The Star “artfully cultivated” the Bangsa message that appealed to the Chinese collective dreams and hopes. In slightly more modulated terms and Doublespeak, the “Meritocracy” code word substituted for Get Rid of Article 153, “English school” for Malay language is useless, and “Anti-Corruption” for let’s put Chinese in charge.
This sublimal tsunami campaign was projected daily by The Star and its various tentacles with ever increasing determination and with increasingly disquieting effect upon Chinese and Christian voters in the suburbs.
It was conducted in Chinese terms with Christian sophistry, and operating from outside the BN upon like-minded ‘true believers’ and sympathisers within it in the MCA, Gerakan and SUPP.
The Star succeeded. MCA, Gerakan and SUPP members did not vote the BN.
The Star is to DAP what Utusan is to Umno
Kessler: “It was a campaign conducted for the votes of Malays, mainly for those of the great bulk of the more ‘traditionally-minded’ Malays, in the Malay rural heartland areas.”
Me: It was a campaign conducted for the votes of Firsters, mainly for those of the great bulk of the more ‘egalitarian-minded’ Bangsa Malaysians in the urban areas where the Star Media Group has its reach.
Kessler: “The Umno campaign was simple: ‘all is at risk!’ There is no protection, it kept hammering away, for you and your family, for all Malays, for the Malay stake in the country, for Islam or for the Malay rulers who are the ultimate bastion of our Malay-Islamic identity and national primacy ― other than us here in Umno.”
Me: The Firster campaign was simple: ‘all can be gotten!’ Ubah, ini kali lah, it kept hammering away. For you and your family, for all second class citizens, for the minority stakeholders in the country, for persecuted Christians, for the preservation of Human Rights, Democracy, Freedom, Justice ― there is none other than us here in DAP to protect you.
Kessler: “It was a campaign that appealed to their sense of themselves ― to their sense of Malay identity and of Malay centrality to national life. It was a campaign that sought to suggest how tenuous the basis of Malay identity had now become in national life, how insecure the Malay grip upon the Malay stake in the nation had become. Everything that was distinctively Malay about Malaysia, it was suggested, was now under threat.”
Me: It was a starry-eyed campaign that appealed to their sense of themselves ― to their sense of ‘colour blind’ identity and of how ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ supremism must not be permitted centrality to national life.
It was a charismatic church-driven campaign that sought to suggest how much of an encroachment the basis of Muslim identity had now become in national life, and how the Malay grip upon the nation had become a chokehold threatening to strangle. Everything that was distinctively Malay about Malaysia, it was suggested, must now be pushed back so that we can once and for all be rid of Corruption, Discrimination and Incompetence.
Kessler: “It was a campaign that both cultivated and then also appealed to a Malay sense of political and cultural peril, even crisis. It was a campaign that consisted of a managed panic: that the Malays were now beleaguered in their own land, the Tanah Melayu. Their historic stake in the nation was being whittled away and was now in jeopardy.”
Me: It was a campaign that both cultivated and then also appealed to a Bangsa Malaysia sense of political and cultural empowerment, even of destiny arrived. It was a campaign that consisted of a managed resentment: that the Chinese were now beleaguered in the land of their birth, and unfairly labelled “pendatang”. Their historic stake in the nation was being whittled away and was now in jeopardy.
Kessler: “It was a campaign that sought to suggest that, as political currents were now running, it was not fanciful but realistic to imagine that Malays might one day soon “hilang di dunia” (in the words of the classical formulation), that they might disappear from the face of the earth.”
Me: It was a campaign that sought to suggest that, as political currents were now running, it was not fanciful but realistic to imagine that the Chinese might one day soon find their “place in the sun” (in the words of the classical formulation), that they might enjoy equal rights in the “tanah tumpahnya darah (mereka)”.
Kessler: “It was a campaign of controlled communal panic. Malays and their way of life are beleaguered, and, central to their way of life, Islam was in jeopardy. Malay historical primacy and political leadership, the religious ascendancy of Islam, and the constitutional position of the Malay state rulers as their “untrumpable” guarantors had become the sacred trinity of the Umno campaign.”
Me: It was a campaign of controlled communal accretion. Chinese and their way of life are beleaguered, and, central to their way of life, Democracy (konon, DAP = “Democratic” Action Party) was in jeopardy. Competence (the non-Malays are better qualified), Accountability (Malays are corrupt) and Transparency (the system is unfair and dirty) had become the sacred trinity of the DAP campaign and the Holy Grail of the Firsters.
Kessler: “Everything that mattered to the Malay majority and its conventional loyalties was now at risk, it was suggested.”
Me: Everything that mattered to the Chinese minority and its conventional aspirations could now be had with sekali Ubah, it was suggested.
Kessler: “’What more can the Chinese possibly want [beyond what they already enjoy under Umno/BN]’ was Utusan’s furious banner headline. To react by shouting in exasperation, “how dare they, how dare the Chinese presume to behave disloyally, to indulge in treason!” ignores the fact that those who voted in ways that Umno and Utusan may not have liked were, as Malaysian citizens, fully entitled to cast their votes as they pleased, and to use their votes to say that they did not like what they were seeing — that they did not like the direction in which Umno now seemed determined to drag the country.”
Me: ‘GE13: Don’t blame Chinese for voting against BN’ was The Star’s furious banner headline. To react to Utusan’s ‘Apa lagi Cina mahu’ by shouting in exasperation, “what is wrong, what is wrong for the Chinese to exercise our democratic right of casting our votes as we please?! It is only what we’re fully entitled to as Malaysian citizens”.
Another headline in The Star: ‘GE13: Don’t ignore the Chinese voice’
To ignore the Malay consternation is to deny the fact that the way the Chinese voted en bloc has caused a worry as to the direction in which the DAP 3.0 evangelista party now seemed determined to drag the country.
Kessler: “The attitude and response displayed by Umno and Utusan are those of a different situation. They are those of the Ottoman Empire. There, every millet (meaning every “encapsulated” national or cultural or religious minority) had the right to manage its own internal affairs autonomously, free from outside interference — so long as they remained monolithically loyal under their own leaders to the sultan and his government.”
Me: The attitude and response displayed by DAP and The Star are those of an alternate reality. They are those of inhabitants who have no inkling that at one time in its history this land was called Tanah Melayu and which is still geographically located in the Nusantara. Previously when MCA and Gerakan (and SUPP) were in the BN – pada waktu ini jasad mereka masih tinggal tetapi hati dan jiwa sudah melayang – they won the minorities a right to manage our own internal affairs autonomously, free from outside interference — so long as these parties remained loyal to the BN formula.
This is no longer the case now.
The Star ran a successful half-decade long campaign that helped the DAP to win handsomely.
They wanted change. The change has been done. They were not careful what they wished for.
My thanks to the Professor Emeritus for my unauthorized borrowing of his phrases and turns of expression to illustrate the parallel scenario.