That freeze frame moment two days ago – of Mahathir and Anwar lifting hands together in triumph – could have easily come from a scene in the 1990s.
It’s like Malaysia had taken one step forward (to 2004 with Badawi installed as PM and Najib as DPM) but then moved two steps backwards (to 1998 when Mahathir was PM and Anwar his No.2 impatiently waiting in the wings).
It feels like there is more political instability today (reminiscent of Anwar’s late 1990s Reformasi unrest) compared to the period of the Badawi and Najib administrations.
BELOW: Time warp – 2018 frozen in 1998
Last Saturday night’s redux in Port Dickson provided an almost identical photo op to the Malaysian top leadership struggle pre-1998. Malaysians have voted to turn back the clock, paradoxically, back to the future.
What Harapan voters can now look forward to is relooping our past, that is, Anwar’s belief that the premiership is rightfully his. After all, he’s the president elect of the biggest party in parliament. Anwar’s PKR has 50 members in Dewan Rakyat in contrast to the mere 13 MPs belonging to the minority PM’s party.
Pribumi, the minority or junior party in government, has grabbed the majority share of the federal cabinet vis-a-vis its meagre MP ratio. This is how democracy works in New Malaysia.
BELOW: Minus Year Four (2014) in Malaysia Lama before start of the Baru era
As Mahathir says, Race & Religion are perennial issues everywhere
The Malaysiakini video clip above titled ‘Liberals threaten Malaysia with Syria-style chaos – Dr Mahathir‘ shows him speaking to reporters on 9 Jan 2014.
Mahathir says at minute 1:42 — “The races are very sensitive here; religions are very sensitive issues here. If you want to quarrel, you want to fight, then you can follow the way of some of these other countries where they are killing each other.”
In minute 2:53 of the video, Dr M says:
“This country is a very basically unstable country. Everybody said when we become independent, the Malays will seize the properties of the non Malays and, well, expel the non Malays. And this happens, happens in many countries. It happens in Myanmar, it happens in African countries when they became independent, they kicked out what they called ‘immigrants’. But in this country we gave to the people who had no citizenship, one million citizenship was given.”
Sensitive issues arising from race and religion often conflate with friction arising from minority/majority status. Add to this the ‘two-party system‘ (a political club to which Malaysia is a new inductee) and we might be brewing a perfect storm.
BELOW: Bosnia and Herzegovina charges Muslim former general with war crimes
Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia; this multi-religious city is dubbed the ‘Jerusalem of Europe’
The past catching up from more than 20 years ago
Again and again, the lid blows off the pressure cooker, or in Mahahtir’s words “it comes out” due to the race-and-religion conflict. Old grievances cast long shadows.
Last Friday (Oct 12), retired Bosniak general Atif Dudakovic was accused in court of killing more than 300 Serbs as well as destroying dozens of orthodox churches back during Yugoslavia’s 1990s civil war.
Note: There may be a lengthy time lag in the prosecution of war crimes because gathering the forensic evidence is a painstaking task.
Dudakovic had commanded the Bosnian army fifth corps who were mainly Muslim. The war in Bosnia was fought between 1992 and 1995, involving its three main races – Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. The Bosniaks are Muslim while the Serbs are Christian.
Similarly charged with war crimes previously had been Serb military leaders and politicians. Their actions were the racial/religious reverse of Dudakovic’s and committed against the opposite side, i.e. Bosnian Muslims.
BELOW: In “unstable places like Syria”, Christians cling to their religious identity
In November 2017, ex-army general Ratko Mladic was found guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY (located in The Hague) of perpetrating the 1995 Srebrenica massacre – killing of Muslim men and boys. Mladic was chief of staff of Bosnian Serb forces from 1992 until 1996.
A year before Mladic’s trial, the ICTY in 2016 also convicted Radovan Karadzic of the crime of ethnic cleansing. Karadzic was former president of Republika Srpska.
Srpska is the Serb republic that forms the orthodox Christian half of the Bosnia federation. The other half of Bosnia is Muslim and Catholic.
The current president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, who was elected to office after the general election the previous Sunday (Oct 7), has vowed to take his state out of Bosnia. Is it possible for the Christian Serbs to secede from Bosnia peaceably?
BELOW: Christians in Muslim Middle East claim they’re “under siege”
Mahathir: “They kicked out what they called immigrants”
Malaysia is “a very basically unstable country”, Mahathir had reminded us in 2014.
In his press conference uploaded above, Mahathir (the Dapster’s now most beloved prime minister) referenced how immigrants were expelled during times of instability, and mentioning specifically the situation in Syria, Myanmar and African countries.
In Syria, the minority Christians have been expelled whereas in Myanmar, the minority Muslims have been expelled. Myanmar’s majority Bamar ethnic consider Rohingya to be Bengali immigrants from Bangladesh.
Lesson One from the Mahathir history teaching kit: Religious minorities are at risk in “unstable” countries. Yet Mahathir’s Pribumi-DAP combo is surely less stable religion-wise than the Umno-MCA alliance of the past.
MCA people have always voted for stability. DAP people vote for Bersih-like revolution.
BELOW: President Trump brought “South Africa land and farm seizures” into the international news cycle
History Lesson Two from Mahathir: Ethnic minorities have been expelled not only from Syria and Myanmar in this decade but immigrants were “kicked out” from several unstable African countries not too long ago.
For example, in the years around Rwanda’s 1962 independence, a number of the country’s minority Tutsis were chased away by its majority Hutus. “Over subsequent decades, the Tutsis were portrayed as the scapegoats for every crisis,” the BBC reported. Old grievances cast long shadows.
Uganda also got its independence the same year in 1962. Uganda president Idi Amin stated that God – in his dream – ordered him to drive the Asian immigrant community (mostly Indians) out from the country. And Idi Amin did just that in 1972.
White settlers fled Mozambique in 1975, the year of the country’s independence from Portugal. Mahathir is right about the mass expulsion of minority groups.
Malaysia Baru: History began on 10 May 2018?
Has Mahathir’s negative thinking, his bleak Weltanschauung, ubah or otherwise not changed at all since 2014?
Mahathir had also said – refer his video of four years ago – it was believed by some people that when Malaya became independent, “the Malays will seize the properties of the non Malays”. That dire 1957 prognosis did not materialize for the non Malays here who were instead rewarded with one million Merdeka citizenships.
Such seizure of properties was however rampant in Uganda, in Zimbabwe (by President Mugabe), and more recently, the black governments of Namibia and South Africa have proposed expropriating land owned by minority whites.
While the South Africa government is debating the subject of expropriation in parliament, blacks have taken matters into their own hands – see Plaasmorde video above. Old grievances cast long shadows.
South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa (refer tweet above) on the other hand warns that South Africa will become unstable if the government does not expropriate land without compensation.
‘Stability’ is somewhere stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. MCA elected to sail the deep blue sea and has drowned in stormy waters. DAP struck a deal with Old Nick. Let’s see where that leads.