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10 APRIL 2024

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Can we trust Najib on sedition this time?

Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak has pledged that the Sedition Act will be enforced fairly. – The Malaysian Insider pic, November 30, 2014.Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak has pledged that the Sedition Act will be enforced fairly. – The Malaysian Insider pic, November 30, 2014.
For a party that believes the Sedition Act is so necessary to protect all of Malaysia’s communities, Umno has curiously let off two of its members who blatantly attacked the Chinese during its general assembly.
In fact, in his closing speech, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak had pledged that the Act would be enforced fairly and that no one would be allowed to hurt the feelings of other communities.
As if to emphasise how important this last part was, Najib even said that Umno was dependent on the support of non-Malay communities if it were to win elections and keep Putrajaya.
To date, neither Penang Umno grassroots leader Datuk Mohd Zaidi Mohd Said nor Kedah Umno delegate Datuk Mashitah Ibrahim had apologised for their comments about the Chinese community.
On the second day of the assembly, Mohd Zaidi had said that the Penang Chinese community had become rich off money from gambling, prostitution and entertainment outlets.
The day before, during the Wanita Umno assembly, Mashitah had claimed that the Chinese community in Kedah had burned a Quran page-by-page during a prayer ritual.
Both members made these statements as part of their debate speeches.
Mohd Zaidi did not offer any real proof to back his accusations.
Mashitah’s allegations have been disproved by Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir who said police discovered that the Quran was not burned but torn up by a man who is supposedly mentally unsound.
It goes without saying that their comments have attracted widespread ire.
It is typical practice at the end of the assembly for Unmo’s supreme council to respond to points raised during the debates.
During their closing remarks at the end of the assembly, they responded to many of the topics raised such as on the national language, helping the urban and rural poor and the party’s efforts at rejuvenation.
But not one of them responded directly to Mohd Zaidi’s or Mashitah’s statements, or to the anger these remarks have caused.
Unless of course you count Najib’s remarks about Umno needing the Chinese vote to stay in power as an adequate response.
But Najib did pledge that he would be fair in enforcing the Sedition Act.
He in fact said that he would protect all communities, Muslim or non-Muslim, Malay or non-Malay, from inflammatory remarks.
Najib made this promise three days after he broke an earlier promise to repeal the Act.
Umno permanent chairman Tan Sri Badruddin Amiruldin believes no Umno member should be exempted from prosecution under the Act.
Badruddin, however, refused to directly say whether Mohd Zaidi or Mashitah should be hauled to court.
“The Sedition Act does not belong to Umno. Action will be taken against whoever violates the law,” he said.
So going by how Najib acted throughout the assembly, is there really any chance that this time, he’ll keep his promise?
Political analyst Dr Wong Chin Huat said that all these contradictions between what Najib said and what Umno members really think of the Chinese, revealed the doublespeak in the party.
“Najib is a spin doctor who tries to conceal Umno’s and his own real strategy of survival,” said Wong, who is a fellow at the Penang Institute.
“Because the soft approach does not work, Umno’s ultra right goes full force to demonise Chinese and Christians.
“The hope is that heightened ethnic tension will push up enough Malay votes to compensate for unwinnable Chinese votes.”
This was the only “rational” strategy for an Umno that does not want to embrace real change and transform itself into an inclusive, non-violent, democratic party, Wong said.
Leaving aside arguments against or for the Sedition Act, Najib’s decision to retain it is still a chance to judge his credibility.
To prove to all Malaysians that he really does mean what he said this time, Najib has little choice other than to act against Mohd Zaidi and Mashitah.

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