All racist comments need to be addressed and not simply ignored – because they won’t go away as this country and its so-called leaders reveal more of our dark side, writes Zaharom Nain.
On Monday, 2 February, the relatively unknown – and previously inconsequential – Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, published a nasty, racially-charged comment on Facebook against Chinese Malaysian traders.
The comment, although now removed, continued to reverberate almost a week later, subjecting him to much anger, ridicule and, according to him and his supporters, death threats.
Immediately after the criticisms started and the brickbats were hurled, he came out with a statement stating he was only referring to one segment of the community and not the whole community. Of course, he conveniently didn’t provide any evidence to back his allegation.
For many fence sitters, what was disappointing was that Prime Minister Najib Razak supported him, stating that Ismail Sabri had merely hit out at one section of the Chinese Malaysian trading community and had not condemned all Chinese Malaysian traders.
The problem with that is that the available screen capture of his comment indicates otherwise.
Which has now led even the fence sitters to ask whether the ‘PM for all Malaysians’ had actually read the odious comment and, if so, was defending the indefensible.
Be that as it may, for some, certainly cynical, Malaysians, this is just another example of the rot that’s set in in Malaysia and that we just need to ignore it.
As one academic put it on her Facebook page, “Let’s move beyond this. There are more important issues to deal with. Go away racists and bigots.”
Unfortunately, no, they won’t go away. Bury our heads, as we may, in the sand, they are still going to be there. And there is a need to address these bigots, challenge them and, yes, even ridicule them.
Anything less would mean that we are either afraid to address and criticise them or we just don’t care enough about where this country is heading.
Granted, Ismail Sabri’s comments, as with many others before, could have well been a ploy on the regime’s part to shift the rakyat’s attention away from real issues.
Issues like the 1MDB fiasco, the impending implementation of the GST, the ‘Allah’ judgment, and, of course, the ongoing hardship faced by many Malaysians are certainly issues that weigh heavily over the heads of many of us.
But as long as Malaysians are aware – and, listening to Malaysians talking in places like the mamak stalls, anybody would know that we ARE aware – that all these are related.
Related, indeed, to a government that is increasingly – and quite rapidly – losing its legitimacy; a regime that is without a true leader; an administration very much like a ship drifting at sea without a rudder.
Ismail Sabri, it would seem, is merely another one of those desperate opportunists who, after GE13 in 2013, believe that the only way his party can survive in a fast-changing Malaysia is to fully exploit race and religion.
And he – and others like him – while having supporters, have also increasingly become the butt of jokes.
Indeed, the cynicism and anger aside, Ismail Sabri’s outburst has resulted in at least one entrepreneur asking: What the hell are you smoking? Please pass me some of the good s*** you’ve been inhaling.
It was, to all intents and purposes, a stupid, hurtful statement to make, more so by a minister. That it was excused and supported by at least one other minister and, of course, the PM himself, illustrates the sad state this country’s political leaders have got themselves into.
True, this might likely just peter out as yet another hateful, racist comment made by yet another callous buffoon.
But they all need to be addressed and not simply ignored. Because they won’t go away as this country and its so-called leaders reveal more and more of our dark side.
It will most likely take many of us out of our middle-class comfort zone. But, clearly, there is increasingly a need for us to demand accountability from those in power.
Indeed, in this case of Ismail Sabri, the civil society group, Negara-Ku People’s Movement, has urged the PM to terminate his services as a member of the cabinet.
For them, “this would give a clear signal to the people that the government will not condone any action by any person, to incite hatred in our multi-ethnic, multi-faith, multicultural society and to undermine the unity of our beloved nation”.
Other groups and, of course, principled politicians have also now spoken up.
Clearly, we must demand that people like Ismail Sabri provide concrete evidence for their actions and allegations.
And if they fail to do so, we must demand that these cretins who call themselves our leaders step down.
And let truly honourable and concerned Malaysians take their place.