At that time the Bank Negara US$10 billion forex scandal appeared like a god-send. It was what Kit Siang had been praying for, a gift from heaven. This was the issue he was going to use to ‘prove’ to the Chinese that anything Malay is bad. And what could be worse than US$10 billion — or what would be worth almost RM100 billion today — disappearing into thin air, as Mahathir would say? Now that he has convinced the Chinese he needs to un-convince them because the same Bank Negara US$10 billion forex scandal that was supposed to damage Umno and BN is damaging DAP and Pakatan instead.
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Malaysian politics, just like politics in most parts of the world, is race- and religion-based. They say this may be true for the rural areas but in the urban seats the voters are more mature and intelligent. That is not quite true. Even in New York race and religion play an important part of elections and you do not field an Irish Catholic candidate in a Jewish constituency, even if both are white.
For Malays this is not too bad. Even Malays of Indian, Arab or Chinese blood can be accepted as Malay. But for Chinese and Indians this matter is not so straightforward. For example, you cannot field a Hokkien candidate in a Hakka area or a non-Tamil-Christian candidate in a Tamil-Hindu constituency.
Hence the Chinese are worse when it comes to race and religion politics. They are also parochial and clannish on top of that. It is not enough you are Chinese. What type of Chinese also counts. And if you are Malay then perish the thought of getting Chinese votes — unless voting for that Malay candidate indirectly helps DAP because that Malay happens to be a DAP proxy.
In the 1986 general election, Umno won 83 of the 177 seats while Barisan Nasional (BN) won 148. This comes to 47% and 84% respectively. In terms of votes, Umno won 31% while BN won 57%. In the 1990 general election, Umno’s seats dropped to 71 and BN’s dropped to 127. And the reason for this was because of the split in Umno and the birth of Semangat 46 that entered into an electoral pact with DAP.
DAP, however, which won 24 seats in 1986, saw its seats drop to 20 in 1990. Hence the opposition gain was no gain to DAP. And that was because the opposition gain was in Malay seats and not in non-Malay seats. So a change in strategy was required. It is no use shifting the Malay seats from one Malay group to another Malay group. That would be of no benefit to DAP. DAP has to figure out how to grab those seats for itself.
In 1993, the opportunity presented itself when the Bank Negara US$10 billion forex scandal surfaced. Lim Kit Siang saw that this scandal can be exploited to the benefit of DAP. And the way it can be exploited is to present this scandal as a symbol of Malay political power. This was a scandal committed by Malays, from a Malay institution, and covered up by fellow Malays who look after each other and help cover each other’s transgressions based on Malay-brotherhood.
So, the Bank Negara US$10 billion forex scandal should not seen as merely a crime of corruption or abuse of power. It is a crime reflective of Malay political power. To clean up the country and to reduce or eliminate crime, you need to first erode or eliminate Malay political power. Hence everything wrong with the country has to be seen in the context of race and therefore needs to be solved through race.
That was when Lim Kit Siang decided to make the Bank Negara US$10 billion forex scandal his personal Crusade. He was going to become just like Joan of Arc, the person appointed by God on a Crusade to save France. Kit Siang was the person appointed by PAP Singapore to launch a Crusade to save the Chinese and give them political power. The old agreement between the races that Malays will hold political power while the Chinese will hold economic power no longer prevails. The Chinese may already hold economic power, but what is wrong for the Chinese to also hold political power?
However, the Chinese ‘own’ only 24% of the Parliament seats while the East Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak, by law, own another 25%. So, even if they win 100% of those seats, it is still less than 50% of the total. And you can never win 100%. At best it can only be half that because the Chinese are not united while the East Malaysians are neither Chinese nor Malay but Bumiputera or natives. And that is the best-case scenario.
So therein lies the problem and the reason why DAP hovers at around just 20 seats or so instead of more than 50 seats. And even when the Malays are badly split like in 1990 and 1999, Umno and BN still remain in power. It is because DAP cannot get 100% of the Chinese behind them. And the only way Kit Siang and DAP can unite the Chinese 100% behind them is to make them hate the Malays, Umno and Barisan Nasional.
Hence the hate campaign is central to DAP’s political strategy. And Kit Siang saw this opportunity in 1993. He saw he could use the Bank Negara US$10 billion forex scandal to trigger hate by presenting it as a symbol of corrupt Malay political power, which the Chinese need to unite against if they want to eliminate Umno’s and BN’s ‘hegemony’.