Home TA Online 2013 TA Online GE13: Migrants were BN scapegoats

GE13: Migrants were BN scapegoats

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Xenophobia against foreign workers is reminiscent of a typical BN tactic of using racial issues to distract attention from more vital issues at hand, says Angeline Loh.

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Viewing various Youtube clips on how the general public played a role in ferreting out phantom voters and exposing them, I found regrettable that in trying to counter election fraud, some citizens went overboard in expressing their indignation.

There was footage of migrant workers being pulled off a bus and roughly man-handled by more than one person. There were noisy scenes of Malaysian voters shouting, ‘baiting’ and hurling racial and personal insults against these alleged “BN phantom voters”.

Mob interrogation took place at some polling stations and at least one apparently legitimate Malaysian voter was attacked and barred by other voters simply for ‘looking’ like a foreign national.

One foreigner was surrounded and interrogated by a crowd, some of whom made insulting and threatening gestures whilst hurling verbal threats and insults at him.

A rather disturbing video showed a group of foreign workers made to sit in a line against a wall at a polling centre. One man had no shirt and there was a lot of noise – people shouting and sounds of a fight or someone being hit repeatedly with a crash helmet. The clip also panned in on apparent blood stains on the wall against which the line of migrant workers were squatting.

The apprehension and anxiety in which these foreign workers were put may have felt justified to the growling electoral mob, but was this necessary?

The anger at the alleged use of foreigners as “phantom voters” by the BN to ensure their victory in this crucial general election, on which high hopes for change were pinned, served to heighten excitement in an already highly feverish election atmosphere.

READ MORE:  Unity in Malaysia will remain elusive as long as xenophobia festers

These foreigners had been dropped into this boiling cauldron without any guarantees of safety or protection from physical attack. They were possibly allegedly merely instructed to go and vote with the identification cards given to them. Some may have been instructed to vote in more than one polling station. They were exposed to the consequences. Although, it is only speculated, many may have consented to participate in this scheme for financial gain or better immigration status. The immigration status of foreign workers in Malaysia is still very precarious.

However, in such a situation, the politicians who leased these ‘voters for hire’ must have been aware of the potential backlash from Malaysian voters. The BN also didn’t seem to trouble themselves about the confusion caused to local, genuine Malaysian voters.

Still, it isn’t surprising that Umno-BN shows no concern for any of this racial trouble or the raising of xenophobia against foreign workers or even Malaysian citizens. It has always been an Umno-BN tactic to use racial issues to distract attention from their true objectives.

Foreign workers have for several years been the underdogs of Malaysian society, kept from exercising basic human rights, denied their fundamental labour rights, and used as the BN administrations political ‘football’. It is regrettable that citizens have at times fallen into the xenophobia trap set by UmnoO-BN, but in the election environment, this was understandable but avoidable.

However, there were a number of Malaysian voters, who in the circumstances admirably rejected the xenophobia bait and took steps to prevent violence at the polling centres. In the last video I mentioned, there were voices in the background telling the foreigners squatting along the wall, not to be afraid, “Jangan takut, jangan takut” (Don’t be afraid). Some even formed a human barrier to shield these foreigners from being attacked by some of those outraged and uncontrolled elements. Still, some people sustained injury, even if no one was reported seriously hurt.

READ MORE:  Foreign workers are human too!

The alleged use of foreign workers as “phantom voters” was a trap, which Umno-BN possibly hoped would disrupt the elections, as the likes of Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin prove. Such persons voicing racists and seditious sentiments remain freely at large. However, the majority of the Rakyat did not take the bait, and their sympathy for these ‘victimised’ foreigners was truly touching and praiseworthy.

The passive resistance by the Rakyat, supported by the Pakatan Rakyat, against apparent racism, is heartening, to say the least. Hopefully, in continuing solidarity against Umno-BN’s communal politics and racial antagonism, we will discover our unity one day.

All in all, despite the irregularities and alleged fraud riddling GE13, the election was carried out peacefully, with minimal disturbance. Thanks to the Rakyat’s persistence and great effort in monitoring the process, officially and unofficially, coupled with massive public cooperation and solidarity devoid of communal or religious considerations.

The pro-active attitude and common sense shown by members of the public to maintain calm and order in all circumstances is something Malaysians should hold dear in memory and continue to forge for generations to come. There is hope that this country can create and maintain a culture of non-discrimination, and count itself amongst the most cleanly democratic nations in the world.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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grkumarGopal Raj Kumar
2 Jun 2013 10.44am

Angeline, Respectfully I say this of you. You are thinking DAP and PKR and applying your anger to the BN. Show us one case in one constituency where what you claim occurred with migrants being given ID’s to do what you say occurred with admissible evidence in order to prove your assertions in court and we will fund the litigation against the government in an open court in Malaysia first. Failing this we are prepared take the matter (and we are willing to) further to an international forum that is independent and has the jurisdiction to deal with the matter and have the matter dealt with there. We have thus far challenged Ambiga Sreenivasan, supposedly a great Malaysian lawyer and head of Bersih and neither she nor Bersih have taken up on our challenge let alone provide us with a response. We have likewise challenged the DAP (who instead censor us from Lim Kit Siang’s blog- so much for their espoused democratic principles of free speech) and likewise we have come across a wall of silence there like you would with Chinese secret societies. Anwar Ibrahim’s… Read more »

Douglas Teoh
Douglas Teoh
3 Jun 2013 12.51pm

Dear GRK, I would like to commend you for your passion towards truth-seeking; indeed, asking for actual evidence is the only way we might actually get at the real story. However, I don’t think your claim about this being a “foreign funded initiative” is in any way legitimate. I challenge you the same way you yourself did: show evidence that this is so. I’m sure your character and passion would not lead you to making baseless accusations, am I right? Secondly, what type of evidence is “admissible”? All over social media, proof was being circulated at the time of the voting itself, not only by civil socieities (which you claim are foreign funded) and even the general public. Videos and pictures of scores of foreign workers/migrants who carry ICs, but can hardly speak a word of Malay, sing the Negaraku nor recite the Rukun Negara were being shared rapidly. Of course, you would not consider this “admissible” evidence; after all, these people weren’t caught in the act of obtaining an IC, and thus our claim is not beyond reasonable doubt. Unfortunately, this point has to be… Read more »

grkumarGopal Raj Kumar
2 Jun 2013 10.33am

What sort of a fool with equally foolish ideas would write like this woman.
Unite together? have you ever heard of people uniting apart?
Uniting means coming together.
This is another civil societies foreign funded initiative to divide the people.

Does she mean coming together like a Chinese Tsunami? Perish the thought.

2 Jun 2013 6.19pm

What foreign funded initiative? Wild, baseless and defamatory lie.

30 May 2013 1.09pm

Angeline have you read MT loaded up piece of the UMNO Blogger thanking AA Fernandez and Biman `for making s… happened #505′ and Bangla PM thanking Najib for the `taking care of the Banglas’ as per her last visit Here? Stop being Irene Fernandez! In fact many will selcome the sight of these Migrants back to where they deserve to be! In the case of Hasina Begum, it is an open invitation to be Malaysians by UMNOs because by and by the Malays will reject it and these Pliant and Poor Banglas will (allegedly) be the ones to shore up their relevance of existence! Singapore and Hong Kong kept them in check- work only, NO ICs or citizenships! Would you like to have a Bangla, Indon and Nepalese (as well as those already Malaysians like the Kemboja and Suluks of Pekan and Sabah) compete with us locals for all the rights and opportunities of your own progeny? I say, they must be put in an designated localities and Communities so that they will not be free to masquerade as locals! Already in Sabah, they are the… Read more »

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