So, what is so extremist about this Suqiu? Who were they?
According to an Asiaweek article by Penny Crisp and Santha Oorjitham dated 15th of September, 2000, this is what they say about Suqiu:
Malaysian Chinese Election Appeals Committee, or Suqiu (appeal or request in Mandarin) is formed before last year's general elections. The lobby group was started by 11 Chinese associations and is said to have the support of nearly 2,100 other Chinese groups. One of its goals is to broaden affirmative-action schemes introduced in 1971 under the New Economic Policy (NEP).
You can read their '17 points' here. In point 17: "Provide for Our Indigenous Peoples", the funny thing is that if this group are so extremist as claimed, why did the group was being so bloody busybody wanting to protect the Orang Asli's rights? The could have instead snatched their land and give them to their particular race group instead! Talking about extremism, eh?
And here's the response, if you're too amnesiac to remember it:
The response: Some 500 members of 13 Malay associations went to Mahathir's office on Aug. 17 to demand that Malay rights be protected. The next day about 200 UMNO Youth members demonstrated outside the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (which houses Suqiu). Some threatened to burn down the hall. UMNO Youth deputy Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir turned down Suqiu's offer of talks, demanding an apology and withdrawal of the 17 appeals. Suqiu refused.
Guess who shouted the loudest there?
According to the same article, "Theories of Race: PM Mahathir has hit out at an affirmative-action proposal as the work of Chinese extremists. Why?", the controversy did not just start recently. It started during the Millennium Merdeka Speech when he likened the Suqiu group as Islamic deviationists or the communists:
Playing a race card, especially with political gain in mind, can be tantamount to sedition under Malaysian law. Depends who you are, of course. For Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, it was okay to blast a set of appeals — including affirmative action based on need, not on "race, social background and religious belief" — as the work of ethnic Chinese extremists. These people, Mahathir said during his Aug. 31 National Day speech, were like Islamic deviationists or "the communists who wanted to totally abolish the special status of the Malays in Malaysia." Such pro-Malay rhetoric is a familiar theme for the PM and his United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which leads the ruling coalition. But why the uproar over something that had been discussed calmly in August 1999?
Many Chinese reacted with alarm to the outburst, mindful of two major incidents in which they were embroiled in the past. In 1969, when UMNO suffered severe setbacks in general elections (as it did last year), political rallies degenerated into race riots that left at least 200 dead and triggered a huge Chinese exodus. In 1987, during a dispute over moves seen as a threat to abolish Chinese-language education, the government arrested more than 100 dissidents (including some from the ruling coalition). Lim Kit Siang, chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), said last week that Mahathir's statement was "downright unfair, completely baseless." He blamed the speech for a fall of nearly 7% on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. The furor is a reminder that despite overall harmony, race has the potential to be an inflammable issue in Malaysia.
The writers also proposed three theories to his sudden outburst in likening the Suqiu group as extremist:
Theory one: It's not the message but the messenger. In March deputy PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called for affirmative action to be focused on "bumiputras who genuinely need a head start by way of income and opportunities." The implication was not every bumiputra needed to be "mollycoddled by the state" (Abdullah's words). But when David Chua discussed the same proposals, UMNO protested. "The difference was that it was David Chua," says UMNO supreme councillor Shahrir Abdul Samad, adding that the subject should be raised only by UMNO leaders. Lim Keng Yaik, president of UMNO coalition partner Gerakan and primary industries minister, agrees. "For Malays to say that is all right," he says. "For Chinese to say that is not."
Theory two: The election results. A revitalized Malay opposition, coupled with disquiet over Anwar Ibrahim's ouster and trials, seized much of the Malay support away from UMNO and Barisan, which had to rely on the Chinese community to bail them out. Now many Chinese may feel that it's payback time. The problem is that UMNO can least afford to make concessions now. "The moment non-Malays feel that because of UMNO's weakened position they can make more demands, that makes the situation even worse," says UMNO's Shahrir. "If UMNO gives in, it will become even weaker."
Theory three: UMNO's internal politics. "It's a good issue for UMNO, to revitalize itself," says a Malaysian academic. "It may have been created to show UMNO is the only one that can protect Malay rights." Kerk Kim Hock, secretary-general of the opposition DAP, agrees that the issue could be a reflection of UMNO's internal troubles, but "I do not subscribe to the conspiracy theory. And I don't believe Mahathir was behind it. He's been around long enough to know it is foolish to use such an issue." Kerk points out that the PM met Chua on Aug. 18 and accepted that he had never asked for the abolition of Malays' constitutional privileges. Later, Mahathir said that the issue should not be blown out of proportion.
Oooh, so our current PM was mentioned also. But what is his stand now?
In another article by Asiaweek also, later early the following year, by Peter Cordingly, titled "Mahathir's Dilemma", it seems that he was already being humiliated as early as 2000 and not just recently:
...As senior officials looked on in astonishment, longtime member Shahrir Abdul Samad told the premier he was the reason the government had suffered a humiliating by-election defeat just days before. According to a party member present at the meeting, a stunned Mahathir had little to say in his own defense.
Asia's longest-serving elected leader humiliated in front of his lieutenants? And his tormentor walks away with his head still attached to his shoulders? Things have clearly changed in Malaysia. The problem for 75-year-old Mahathir, say his critics, is that he has failed to keep pace. There was a time when he could capitalize on the traditional mistrust that divided the opposition into Islamic and Chinese camps. Those days are gone. Nor can he automatically rely on the support of the Malay majority. Many have turned against him, bitter that the New Economic Policy (NEP), devised to give them a fairer share of the national wealth, now seems to be a tool for rewarding crony businessmen. International investors are walking away, complaining that vital reforms have been abandoned in favor of buddy-based economics.
The unsuccessful marriage between PAS and DAP was also mentioned:
Perhaps the biggest sign of changing times is the way Parti Islam SeMalaysia (Pas), which espouses an Islamic state, is reaching out to the Chinese community. In Trengganu, where Pas runs the state government, it has offered more than $260,000 to 10 Chinese schools to use as they see fit. In Kelantan, the other state it controls, the Islamist grouping has approved the use of Malay reserve land for the expansion of Chinese temples and schools and is talking about building a multicultural mosque that would incorporate Chinese, Indian and other influences.
At the same time, Pas and the predominantly Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP) are increasing cooperation. Pas now prints the English- and Malay-language editions of the DAP's Rocket newspaper. That publication and Pas's Harakah appear on alternate weeks, ensuring there is always an opposition voice on the streets. "Politics used to be defined along racial lines, but now the issues are justice, denial of rights and demanding those rights," says Pas secretary-general Nasharudin Mat Isa. "Therefore our supporters are reading each other's newspapers." Privately younger Pas and DAP members of Parliament say they find each other "easier to work with." One young Pas MP remarks: "We are young and we realize we are in the same trench fighting the same war."
Wow, talking about inter-faith tolerance, eh? By building a multicultural mosque and such. But fast forward 6-7 years now, what happened? According to Lucia Lai of Mental Jog, we now have slogans like this by them:
“Down with the infidels! Don’t meddle with islam.”
“Crush IFC (inter-faith commission).”
“We are ready to sacrifice for islam.”
“Don’t touch on the sensitivity of islam”
“Stop anti-islam act”.
I'm speechless of their chameleonic tactics. Amazing indeed.
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