Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

BN Tries To Please Everyone; Ends Up Pleasing Nobody

Written by johnleemk on 1:41:11 pm Apr 23, 2007.
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The Barisan Nasional regime has been in power in Malaysia for 52 years. Over that time, it has cultivated a reputation for supposed ethnic harmony, and for fostering goodwill between the different racial communities by resolving differences through private, rather than public, discussions.

These obviously blatantly racial-minded premises were the founding tenets of the Alliance, which first came to power in 1955. In the 1970s, the Alliance became the Barisan Nasional.

The expanded BN coalition became an even more diverse mix of parties. It featured a radical Islamist party (PAS), a liberal democratic party (Gerakan), and parties from all over the political spectrum. (PAS left the coalition in the late 1970s after disagreements with the BN leaders.)

The problem with BN now is that it has become such a "big tent" coalition, it's difficult to tell who or what it is fighting for. Its parties are theoretically united in favour of some vague premise of developing the country and preserving its multiracial character, but this is all, in one word, bullshit.

The ludicrosity of the racial premises BN is founded on can be revealed whenever the two major BN parties hold their annual general assemblies. (The Malaysian Indian Congress is normally considered a major party, but let's face it...as the joke goes, a Malay problem is a national problem, a Chinese problem is a racial problem, and an Indian problem...is not a problem!)

The United Malays National Organisation "Malay nationalists" get all worked up about their "rights", and threaten to (unconstitutionally) question the rights of other Malaysians. Meanwhile, the Malaysian Chinese Association makes dimly worded complaints, and its own AGM passes a variety of resolutions harping on "Chinese rights" (like the right to segregate themselves).

And let's not even talk about ideological differences. The three main BN parties don't have any ideologies beyond fighting for the interests of their own race (and yet somehow they see no divergence between this and forming a united government for the whole country), while the other parties have so little influence on government policy that they are not worth talking about.

The more you think about it, the more it becomes clear that the BN government is trying to appeal to every conceivable demographic — and yet, as in the fable, fails to appease anyone.

The government promises "Malay rights", whereby they mean some silly notion of "Malay rule". Of course, they can't actually put this in practice, lest they frighten the non-Malays, so they only take meaningless half-steps that enrage the "Malay nationalists" who demand more.

Meanwhile, they promise to protect the rights of the non-Malays, and make noises about preserving Chinese and Tamil schools (while actually neglecting them). Then when they start talking about "Malay rights" and (actually correctly) complain about these vernacular schools harming unity, they annoy and anger the non-Malay interest groups.

Then we go to religion. BN promises to protect and uphold Islam, and indeed, the BN government has even proclaimed Malaysia to be an Islamic state (although this is more fiction than fact, since the Constitution and not the Quran is supreme).

This naturally frightens the non-Muslims, so BN again makes noises about protecting the non-Muslims from the onslaught of the PAS fundamentalists. This in turn irritates the Muslim fundamentalists in BN, who again want more. As usual, nobody is satisfied.

Indeed, if you look at just about anything when it comes to BN, you'll find a litany of complaints and demands that BN do more. The only thing that BN seems to revolve around is promising things to people, and not completely delivering on any of them.

Well, that and raping, pillaging and plundering the country. That's something everyone in BN can agree upon, and that's something where they appear to have successfully pleased at least one interest group. So, BN may not be a total write-off after all. That is, if you like a government which exists only to treat the country as its personal loot pile.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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