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Fwd: MGG What Happened In Malacca Town On 1 September?
By web aNtu

3/9/2000 8:35 pm Sun

[MGG] What Happened In Malacca Town On 1 September?

The Prime Minister, in his Merdeka Day speech, castigated those Chinese groups who he insists made unreasonable demands as communists, provided UMNO Youth and extreme Malay groups to rise in anti-Chinese mayhem. But his address climaxed a runup the previous month in which Malay-Chinese divisions became more pronounced, with the UMNO youth Hishamuddin Hussein not only encouraging UMNO Youth protests at the Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur. Gone was the Prime Minister's irrelevant but confident belief that a Chinese could be Prime Minister; he could be, but not hold senior positions in the administration, police force, armed forces or elsewhere except as a token presence. The current crisis, for that is what it is, rose from 17 demands of the Chinese organisations elections group called Suqui, which the National Front and notably the Malaysian Chinese Association accepted before the November 1999 general elections. Now that is decried as communist-inspired. UMNO Youth warns any to view the Prime Minister in any but nationalist terms.

So, what happened in Malacca town on 1 September had had to happen. But it could have been anywhere in Malaysia. Officialdom might distance itself from political pressures, but political pressures do force normal men and women to go berserk. And that is what happened in Malacca town.

The DAP Assemblywoman for Durian Daun in Malacca, Ms Betty Chew Gek Cheng, married to Mr Lim Guan Eng and daughter-in-law of Mr Lim Kit Siang, reported in a post to the DAP mailing list, Bungaraya: "Yesterday morning (31 August 00 or on Merdeka Day), huge groups of young people had attacked shophouses, smashed car windows, desecrated temple lanters and even religious alters on houses along Jalan Hang Jebat, Jalan Tukang Besi, Cheng Hoon Teng Temple in Jalan Tokong, Kampung Pantai, Kampung Hulu, Jalan Munshi Abdullah and Lorong Java. The residents said they were frightened by the large group of youths who rampaged through their areas after 12.30 am on 31.8.2000 (sic). What is even more frightening is that the youths were armed with bamboo sticks, obviously willing to attack those who tried to defend their homes. It is fortunate no one was hurt in the attacks except for one Nanyang Siang Pau photographer who was hurt when caught in a fight between two gangs of youths in the Mahkota Parade shopping complex."

There was no report about the incident anywhere. This morning's New Straits Times reports that the Malacca mentri besar, Dato' Wira Mohd Ali Rustam wants a detailed report on another incident -- when 300 youths, mostly teenagers, fought one another the same evening after midnight. The teenagers were armed with sticks, bicycle chains and brake cables. Some of them went through the town vandalising property and frightening residents. Dato' Wira Ali Rustam suggests juvenile delinquency, not racial pressures, which set this off. The state cabinet would, of course, discuss this week, and it would ensure Malacca would retain its solus tourist destination. These rascals who took part, these miscreants, would be dealt with. "I want to curb such unruly behaviour among youths and to find out whether there were instigators involved in provoking the fight." This casual, offhanded response to a crisis, for that is what it is, that frightened one community -- and all the chief minister could say is he wants a report on it!

But the incident clearly had racial overtones. All the attackers were from one race and all the victims from another. To not put a fine point to this, the attackers were Malay youths and the victims all Chinese. Could that have been a coincidence? When political leaders raise the ante, as UMNO and National Front leader have the past month, something must give. The aggressive threats from UMNO Youth at what it perceives to be Chinse intrasigience would normally have had the desired effect of the Chinese withdrawing. That had been so in the past. This time however, it backfired. The Chinese role in returning the National Front to power gave the MCA ideas that it could extract concessions from a weakened UMNO, like its Chinese as chief minister of Penang. UMNO hit back, and what we see now is a continuation of that inbuilt anger.

Curiously, the MCA is quiet about what happened in Malacca. It cannot raise a whimper. It is already neutered with its president, Dato' Seri Ling Liong Sik, who wanted to resign as transport minister after intrusive party questioning, forced to remain at the UMNO president's insistence. It is in this larger political powerplay in the National Front that the Malacca incident must be viewed.

These political developments must have its own reactions as it filters to the ground. The National Front is caught in its own propaganda. While proclaiming its righteousness in all that Malaysia is, and castigating the Chinese community as narrow minded and communist, for that is the import of the Prime Minister's statement, other Malay groups decided to put that to the test. That the police did not respond to calls for help suggests a lackadaisicalness that can only come from knowing the identifies of the attackers. It is now important that the UMNO Youth leader, Dato' Hishamuddin Hussein, come clean and deny his statements and movement had nothing to do with what happened in Malacca. Further, he should condemn, unequivocally, what happened, visit Malacca and the victims to reassure them. There is no need, as Ms Chew demands, for the deputy prime minister to visit. That would elicit some publicity but little else. Nor is it one which requires, as one wrote in the Bungaraya list, to bring in UN forces. When race relations is micromanaged, without an understanding of why, such abberations must occur. What frightens in this episode is the political divide in which the attack is viewed. The MCA and the Gerakan, which should have voiced its anger immediately, have decided to allow disretion be the better part of valour, viewing the tragedy that befell the Chinese in Malacca in partisan political terms.

M.G.G. Pillai