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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Namewee - the Gen Y test for far Umno-BN will push racism to win

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Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

Namewee, the Malaysian rapper who shot to fame three years ago for satirizing the national anthem, personifies the inaptness of the stodgy ruling BN government that has failed to keep up with the times and now appears clueless on how to handle dissent from Generation Y, which sadly for it is poised to form a significant portion of the electorate.

“If I see racism, I'll say it out loud. I love my country. It doesn't mean I'm anti-Malaysia. I am against racism. And I support 1Malaysia. I'm a film director, artist and musician, but it doesn't mean that if there is something wrong, I keep quiet,” Namewee told reporters on Sunday night.

The 27-year old, who has a large cult following, was making his way into a police station where he had been summoned to lodge a statement. Namewee’s three-minute video clip which he has since withdrawn from Youtube was about a school headmistress in Kulai, Johor, in which he had lambasted her for hurling racial slurs at her non-Malay pupils.

The headmistress, Siti Inshah, had told her Chinese pupils to go back to China and likened the Indian ones to dogs. Her action sparked a public furore and drew calls for her sacking earlier this month. Several police reports were lodged but despite establishing a task force to probe the allegations, Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has stonewalled on taking further action.

Namewee's clip a godsend for the Umno hawks

The Siti Inshah attracted enormous negative publicity for Muhyiddin and his Umno party, in particular the hawks within who have been using ultra-Malay nationalism to rally support against Prime Minister Najib Razak’s multiracial 1Malaysia plan. Indeed the power tussle at Umno between Najib and his deputy, who draws support from former premier Mahathir Mohamad, has been intensifying.

Namewee’s clip on Siti Inshah was therefore a godsend for the Mahathir-Muhyiddin camp, pundits told Malaysia Chronicle. They expect the ultra-Malays in Umno to fully blow up the incident and “victimize” Namewee in their bid to show up Najib and also the Islamist PAS, their political rival.

The second biggest Malay-based political party, PAS has been gaining favor over Umno with a more principled and level-headed approach.

“The situation can go out of control. When racial sentiments are being purposely stirred up to achieve a political outcome, it is very dangerous and you can’t tell who the angels are and who the devils are,” PKR strategic director Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

“But 1Malaysia is at threat and it is also an obvious attempt to show the Malays that PAS has sold out on the community and only the hawks in Umno are left to defend the Malays. But what are they defending the Malays from, that is the mystery. If anything all Malaysians especially the Malays need to be defended from these ultra and racist groups - not the other way round.”

Will Gen Y buy the Umno spin

Nonetheless, despite growing public weariness for Umno’s incessant racial rowing and religious bigotry, the going can be expected to get even tougher as the next national polls near. The latest that Najib can call for general elections is 2013, but speculation is rife Parliament will be dissolved and snaps polls held next year.

Of Malay’s 28 million-population, Malays form the largest ethnic group at 55 percent and Chinese the next at 26 percent. But almost 32 percent of the entire population is under 14 years of age, while 63 percent are aged between 15 to 63.

The median age for Malaysians is 24.6 years and this means that youths like Namewee will become a greater influencing political force in the years to come. Social and political scientists have warned of the advent of Generation Y Malaysians, usually classified as those born between 1982 and 2000.

Like Namewee, most of the Gen Y were born in financially-improved circumstances and received the best education their parents could afford. They also grew up with the latest technology and have a special affinity with the Internet. As a result, they have a world view, attitude and savvy that goes beyond their age.

Indeed, chances are high that even though Namewee is Chinese, his persecution will spark a domino effect of resentment among his peers in the other ethnic groups, already fed up with the bullying ways of the aging Umno politicians.

“The Police should explain the purpose of sending three patrol cars to Wee’s house in Muar just before midnight last night – was it to arrest Wee, to get a statement from Wee or just to create an atmosphere of fear?” said DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang on his blog.

“Wee can be faulted for being crude, vulgar, abusive and even obscene. (But) just because Umno Puteri chief Rosnan Rashid Shirlin is offended does not automatically make the rap seditious and an offence under the Sedition Act. Are the youth wings of Barisan Nasional parties, particularly from Umno, MCA, Gerakan and MIC and all the BN ministers prepared to take a stand that Wee’s latest video clip may be guilty of being crude, vulgar and abusive but definitely not sedition?”

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