Why, despite the BN leadership drowning in an abyss of scandal and widespread condemnation from almost everybody that I know, did it still manage to carve out convincing victories in the just concluded by-elections in Kuala Kangsar and Sg Besar?
This morning I remember what Tocqueville said: “…in party politics as in other matters, it is the crowd who dictates the language, and the crowd relinquishes the ideas it has been given more readily than the words it has learned.”
Yes. It is the crowd, the voters that matter. It is they who put ink to paper to choose whoever they want to represent them.
Yes, the crowd dictates the language: that language is the language of the party that has ruled the crowd for a long, long time.
As we know, words have many meanings and connotations, bringing about many interpretations and understandings. The idea of “Perjuangan Melayu” has always been the language of Umno. In 1957 that language was a war cry to unite the Malays against colonialism.
In the 70s, that idea was of course irrelevant. We had already gained independence. The language then fed the idea that there must be equality of opportunities for the Malay. “Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” evolved into an economic struggle and social restructuring that was deemed necessary to prevent social and economic imbalances that may have brought the country into chaos.
In the 80s, “Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” became premised not upon inequality or social justice any more but upon “hak keistimewaan” and “ketuanan Melayu.” This was the era when the late Tan Sri Abdullah Kok Lanas, out of the blue, in a speech in Singapore, started the “ketuanan Melayu” polemic.
In 2016, under the current leadership, “Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” has again morphed into something new.
The language does not change. The language has not been relinquished. But the idea instilled behind the language has changed, yet again.
Tocqueville was right. The people dictate the language. And the crowd does not easily abandon the language. It is the ideas behind the language that change.
“Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” is now a rather myopic view of any party or individual that goes against the mainstream. That mainstream is dictated by the majority.
Thus the liberals, the moderates (despite the PM saying he is a moderate), the constitutionalists, the new-age Muslims who dare to think and reinterpret beliefs and faiths, the non-Muslims who complain about transgression of their rights and just about anybody who is just different are now scooped into one hot boiling cauldron of prejudices and hatred.
And that is not even to mention the Christians, the Cina DAP, the Yahudis, the Illuminatis, the West, the Communists, the Shiites and a million others deemed oddities and peculiar.
“Perjuangan Bangsa Melayu” now brings the idea that the Melayu are now besieged by enemies: they must unite to protect themselves.
The binding agent for the Melayu now is no longer economic equality. It takes the form of Kedaulatan Raja-raja Melayu, but that is inevitably superficial and sporadic and they will “Mertabatkan Kedaulatan Raja-raja Melayu” as and when they deem it fit to do so.
The more effective binding agent is of course, Islam, the religion of the Malay.
Enter Haji Hadi Awang and his band of Islamists in PAS.
Coincidentally, Tocqueville also said: “…the priests, the old aristocracy and the people met in a common sentiment — a feeling of revenge, it is true, and not of affection; but even that is a great thing in politics, where a community of hatred is almost always the foundation of friendships.”
PAS’s hatred of DAP and PKR has been showing for quite some time. Now, in these two by-elections, it is without doubt that PAS is in cohort with Umno. So, here we have two sworn enemies – sworn due to an “amanat” or an edict by no other than Haji Hadi himself in the 80s – forming a community of hatred and laying the foundation of friendships.
Tocqueville would be happy to see that he was right. A confluence of hatred can indeed communitise themselves together and found a friendship!
So, finally, I view the results of the two by-elections as a manifestation of the current language among the rural Malay voters as well as the newly found binding agent that “unite” the Malays against the “enemies.” (There are of course many other binding agents, such as various “gifts”, government “bantuan” that suddenly sprang out from the government etc etc, but let’s not go into that).
What is heartening is to see is Amanah, a wholly new party, gaining quite substantial votes in their first showing. In fact, in Sg Besar they have more votes then PAS! What happened to Haji Hadi’s godly prediction that Amanah would not be able to match PAS?
Umno and the BN may now go to town about the increase in Chinese and Indian votes for them. I don’t see anything big in that: more Chinese and Indians voted for the BN not because they love the BN or Umno but they are just angry with PAS. They see Amanah as an off-shoot of PAS that cannot be trusted. Hence their vote for the BN.
In order to win the rural heartland, I think a new language must be introduced. The ideas behind the old language must be reinterpreted and new ideas introduced and instilled.
You just cannot continue fighting an opponent when it is the opponent who sets the tone and the rules, and defines the language.
How do you do that? That’s for the politicians to think about and decide.