Home Civil Society Voices 2011 Civil Society Voices New urban thinking led to BN losses in Sarawak towns

New urban thinking led to BN losses in Sarawak towns

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The BN old guard must come to terms with prevailing urban notions of equality, justice and pluralism instead of blaming “racism” by a political party as the reason for electoral losses in Sarawak’s towns, says Ronald Benjamin.

The large DAP ceramah in Kuching on the eve of polling - Photo credit: maemahi.blogspot.com

Mahathir’s comments that the racist politics of DAP has been exported to Sarawak clearly reveal his ethnic prejudice and insecurity.

His simplistic comments fail to consider the current political and cultural trends among the the urban population whose political sense and approach to issues is increasingly rooted in universal justice, equality and pragmatism. Ethnic issues are minimal in this paradigm of thinking.

The Barisan National coalition of ethnic-based parties is still finding it difficult to come to terms with this new political paradigm that goes beyond mere ethnic accommodation. The urban middle-class is basically connected to a global world, where a sense of equality, meritocracy and democratic expression is the norm in any enlightened civil society. For example, some of these educated middle class tell me that the Malaysian political scenario has similarities with the ancient imperial kingdoms, where the king would always keep his close trusted associates or cronies loyal by presenting them them with goodies. The wealth of the nation was basically controlled by powerful elites link to the king while the commoners went hungry. If there was a possibility for the king to visit the countryside, there would be disbursements of money to make the subjects temporally happy while conditions that create poverty or widen the gap between the rich and poor were ignored. In other words, the king would continue to create a sense of dependency among his subjects so that they would not question his opulence and authority. Is this ancient story not similar to our Malaysian situation when it comes to dealing with the rural population?

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It is in this context that the Barisan’s poor showing in the urban constituencies in Sarawak should be analysed. The Chief Minister had been accused of enriching his family and cronies but the political leadership in KL and investigative institutions such as the MACC has not yet taken action. The selective attitude towards corruption especially if involves the highest levels has alienated the educated middle class. While a slew of issues contributed to the Barisan’s defeat in the urban areas, the failure to investigate Taib Mahmud following allegations of abuse of power is the major cause of the Barisan’s defeat in urban constituencies in Sarawak.

The political old guard like Mahathir and Umno have to come to terms with the present situation, where universal values such as equality, justice and pluralism hold sway, instead of pinning the blame for the defeat in urban areas on ‘racism’ by a political party.

Ronald Benjamin is an Aliran member based in Ipoh.

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