Enticing Hindu Malaysian voters with Thaipusam holiday

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Predictably, the PM has extended the Thaipusam public holiday to KL and Putrajaya. (Check out this revealing eye-witness account of the MIC-gathering tonight.) All I can say is that they must be desperate to win back support from Indian Malaysian voters, many of whom are sympathetic with Hindraf or have vowed to vote for the opposition this time. I believe many thinking Indian Malaysians will dismiss the Thaipusam holiday announcement as an election ploy – and see it as a sign that polls are around the corner.

Another clear indication of impending polls is that the BN’s election campaign over the electronic and print mass media – which it mostly controls – has already begun. (The Malaysian Election Media Monitoring team will soon begin posting its observations on a blog; so watch out for that.) The Star’s Wong Chun Wai, for instance, writes that surveys have identified three issues that voters will find most important:

While many recent scandals, trials and demonstrations have made the headlines, it is the three main issues of inflation, crime and foreigners that affect ordinary voters the most.

FORGET street protests, forget detention without trials, forget VK Lingam and certainly, forget any sex DVD that involves a politician. These may make good reading and good sound bites at ceramahs but the three main issues that affect ordinary voters the most are inflation, crime and foreigners.

So we can expect the mainstream media to bang on these three issues ahead of the elections – and that is precisely what The Sunday Star has done with its headline announcing official moves to cut the number of migrant workers in the country.

Wong thinks that voters are not interested in political and economic marginalisation, democratic rights and integrity in democratic institutions. He fails to see that all these issues are inter-connected. For instance, the marginalisation of public views and the lack of democratic space for discussion and debate and protest has led to an inability to tackle the root causes of inflation, crime and exploitation of migrant labour. No wonder we are unable to come up with real solutions and alternative policies to resolve these issues. For all we know, the damage to the institution of the police, as highlighted in the Royal Commission’s report may be hindering its work in fighting crime. Or the economic marginalisation and sense of alienation among significant segments of the population could very well be contributing to the higher crime rate.

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Wong instead conveniently pins part of the blame for rising crime on migrant workers:

Another contributing factor to crime, where Malaysians are concerned, is the large number of foreigners. Malaysians are upset, if not angry, at the poor enforcement of the police coastguards in stopping the influx of foreigners.

Such irresponsible journalism merely feeds the xenophobic prejudice of many narrow-minded Malaysians, who believe that more foreigners = more crime. Come on, are foreigners any more likely to commit crime than Malaysians? Where’s the evidence to support that?

Meanwhile, here’s a piece I wrote for Asia Times, discussing the reasons Abdullah may have for calling a general election well before it is due:

Abdullah’s finger on Malaysia’s election trigger

By Anil Netto

PENANG – Malaysia’s political parties, including the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), are gearing up for snap polls, widely expected to be held in March though the government is not legally required to dissolve parliament and hold general elections until May 2009.

So then why would Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s government opt to hold elections well before they are due? Full article

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