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A history of violence

by October 13, 2016 General

OCTOBER 13 — Have you been punched in the face?

Horrific thought, but there are worse predicaments.

Like being told that you will be, and then having to wait anxiously for a fist at the worst imaginable moment to wreak havoc. For the respite after the threat is the executioner’s song serving as cold comfort — and perhaps as subtle torture — till silence prevails when the tune ends, and fate plays its cruel hand.

The wait is unbearable. The seemingly inevitable devastation competes with the fear lived every waking day.

That is what the present upheaval over the Red Shirts really represents. Not isolated hate acts but their membership of a larger ark of insanity.

Not about characterless madmen stalking a misguided convoy, but why the culture of violence dominates our daily existence here in Malaysia.

Jamal Yunos — the Red Shirts’ leader — is not the father of a new thinking, he is merely an extension of the climate of hate perpetuated by his party.

Therefore, I was not surprised when his right-wing nuts beat up a convoy motorcyclist. It pained to see the young lad beaten by all and sundry, though the realisation passes in your veins that this is not out of place in a Malaysia constructed by a right-wing leadership, no less proudly affiliated with Jamal.

The Red Shirts are pawns, mere tentacles — and they extend from Umno leaders, who are not pawn.

My late mom would hush me down when I used to speak out about Umno’s leaders, she’d have one finger on her lips and an open palm to me urging my words away, almost hoping I wished I could disassociate myself from them.

She’d speak softly so no one hears, even me. She is frightened that I am going to get into trouble, so she wants me to never ever speak against these men. My mother could not read or write in Malay, but she knew how incredibly important it is not to upset the juggernauts.

Which is why when Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin came out to condemn the violence, I had Orwell ringing in my ear: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.”

Umno Youth chiefs have been primary antagonists of each of their era to inject paralysis into broad multiculturalism initiatives. They oppose diversity for it is based on secularism and universal values, which intend to reduce misconceptions, confront historical baggage and raise a common love for one another based on nationality.

For them, there is Malaysia and then there is Malay hegemony as the nucleus — and Malaysia shouldn’t survive without the other.

To sustain the duality of nationality and racial supremacy, they seed the discontent between the people and raise the spectre of intra-colonialism which only, according to them, force backed by tradition can resolve and retain. Reason is seen as the antithesis to social well-being.

Whether it is the precursor of 1964 race riots in Singapore where Syed Jaafar Albar in the youth leadership post baited Lee Kuan Yew’s government; or the surge of sentiments in the dark days of 1987 before Umno was dissolved; or charging at activists at the 1996 East Timor conference in Kuala Lumpur; or threatening to burn down the Chinese Assembly Hall in the city centre in 2000 to embellish Malay credentials after PAS and Keadilan smashed and grabbed most of the Malay votes in the 1999 general election; or this year’s spectacle of Umno Youth laying siege on DAP headquarters in the old market section, it is the Youth wing promising a reckoning when they fail to get their way.

Let’s phrase it this way, if Khairy is upset by the violence did he ask his secretariat to investigate how many Umno members were part of the Red Shirts? Did he warn Umno Youth members not to be involved in the mob-powered movement thereafter? All he managed to say was that political disagreements should not lead to violence but did he remember to tell himself when he had DAP leaders pegged in their own headquarters inside their own impregnable parliamentary seat of Bukit Bintang?

The truth is, Red Shirts are in fact a certain segment of Umno Youth members in a different uniform.  Khairy, and all his predecessors, will never discipline the bigots and miscreants from the party because that would increase attacks from inside the party, and it is in the interest of Umno Youth chiefs to have feisty henchmen willing to up and down the clamour for violence.

The apparent olive branch from the chief for media consumption only, is no more and no less, just public relations to lower examination of his progressive credentials. If all one had to do to prove a commitment to democracy is to pledge and restate as many times as possible without actually acting to allow democracy the space needed to breathe, then yes of course, the Umno Youth chief is an amazing visionary democrat.   

Umno leaders may concede on a rare occasion, Umno Youth leaders believe their acts are infallible. They certainly never apologise for acts of aggression. I was in my party’s headquarters years ago when Umno Youth lads came banging and shouted demands while riot police just kept watch.

In fact by being convinced they are above it they internally justify their positions with convoluted rationale.

Umno cadres often claim that there is never any violence when all non-Umno people agree to their terms. They refute accusations of bullying by alleging their violence is the result of their opponents unwilling to just accept their rule. Acquiescence is the only path for their political enemies, and why should it not be, they did bring it upon themselves in the eyes of Umno Youth.

Older members always jest lightly that Umno Youth members are just expressing their youthful vigour. I would point out that if that was the case, they needed to process their excess energy, go wrestle a bear in the wilderness.

While them older members and Umno apologists can water down these violent acts, and the threats  which are more common, as just excess energy it is not so for those confronted by these threats. It is easy to not be bothered when the threats are not targeted at you. It is not fun and games when you are the one intimidated openly.

Jamal is Umno culture’s product. Umno Youth are the guardians of its illogical constructs. So when its leader emerges with vague assertions of being appalled by hate acts carried out by its alumnus without blaming the system that produced Jamal, which is Umno Youth, I am gobsmacked.

There would be no Jamal — no Red Shirts — if there was no Umno Youth.

Orwell must have had Umno in mind when he wrote in 1984, this: “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.”

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.