Updated version which is also carried in MalaysianInsider (click here)
DEC 12 — In September 2008, the Umno supreme council decided to suspend Ahmad Ismail for three years for uttering racist remarks. Many people had in fact asked that the ISA be used against him, but as an ISA opponent myself, I was against practising double standards, and I thought he should not be held under the ISA but should instead face the other existing laws of the country.
Politically, his antics in fanning the emotions of his members resulting in the pulling down and stamping on the photo of a head of a component party (Gerakan) were inexcusable, and the least Umno could have done is to expel him. A three-year suspension of party membership, without any legal actions taken against him, was grossly inadequate in the minds of many.
Recently, his suspension was lifted, after not even half way through this three-year sentence.
A top leader of Gerakan was quoted, according to a report in Malaysiakini’s Chinese website, as asking reporters when pressed about the lifting of Ahmad’s suspension: “Is this issue important?”
At the same time, a top Penang Gerakan leader was quoted as asking reporters: “What position is Ahmad occupying in Umno?”, implying that since Ahmad is not among top leaders of Umno, he need not answer their questions.
Whether they are right or not, I leave it to you to ponder.
I would only say that in this issue, a few considerations are in order:
Firstly, anything or anyone who stirs racial emotion in a multiracial society is serious and important matter. Anyone doing so, just like anyone committing any crime big or small, must answer to the laws of the country no matter how high or low his position is in society. Under the law, every man is supposed to be equal.
Secondly, politics is about perception. If you are perceived to not even be able to stand up to a second-tier leader of the dominant party, then what would the people think of you and what would the voters think of you? Especially when this bully has uttered racially sensitive words that have hurt the feelings not only of a person but of an entire ethnic group?
Thirdly, to a political party, support from the people is everything. That is why it is important to fight for the interest of the people and with that, support shall come naturally. But what will happen when you are perceived to not even be able to stand up to a person who has uttered words that hurt the very people who form your support base?
Lastly, as a result of the third consideration, how are the candidates from this party who have been so belittled going to face the voters come the next general election?
Without the support of the people and the voters, any political party will become irrelevant, and if this party becomes irrelevant, logic and past experience will tell us that the dominant party, Umno, will just chuck the party aside, no matter how subservient and how obedient this party is to Umno.
In politics, it is not about how subservient you are, but rather how useful you are to the dominant party. If you are of no more use (meaning, you no longer enjoy the support of the people), then no matter how diligent or obedient you are, you will be irrelevant.
The experience of PPP is a glaring example. This is a party which used to dominate the whole Kinta Valley, and had four MPs when it joined Barisan Nasional in 1974. What has become of it now? It has lost its relevance and hence it can only take the crumbs or leftovers at the pleasure of the master.
In Ahmad’s case, it is not about how insignificant his party position is, but rather the principle of double standards being practised.
Why is he not being investigated and charged under the laws of the country and merely made to face disciplinary action of Umno? Why aren’t the feelings of the people taken into considerations as in the case of Chin Peng, who has not been allowed to come back because of the “feelings of a certain segment of the people who have suffered from his action”?
Isn’t racism as dangerous as communism?