Monday, February 28, 2011

Will there be an 'Arab Facebook revolution' in Malaysia?

Just the other day someone asked me if there could be a people's power revolution in Malaysia a la the so-called Facebook revolutions sweeping the Middle-East now.

In fact, some opposition politicians have also urged Malaysians to do an Egypt. DAP's veteran leader Lim Kit Siang tweeted: "17 days changed Egypt Middle East n world. Egyptians stand tall. Let Sarawakians do an Egypt n send clear unmistakable message 2Swak Mubarak."

Later he told Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to heed the Egyptian crisis and withdraw the sedition charge against Sri Muda assemblyman Shuhaimi Shafie.

“If the Najib administration is to learn from the lesson of the Egyptian crisis, there are many things it would have to do — but let it start with the tiny step of withdrawing the sedition charge against Shuhaimi on Monday,” Lim said in a statement.

Yesterday, Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim told Southeast Asian leaders to learn from the Arab uprising by strengthening the institutions of democracy and freedom.

The former deputy prime minister said that with the exception of Indonesia, other regional countries have systematically removed democratic principles put in place during independence, The Malaysian Insider reported.

Soon after the turmoil began in Tunisia and then Egypt, Najib said the people should reject anyone who tries to instigate them by connecting the turbulent situations in other countries to the situation in Malaysia.

He said the instability in some countries currently should not be equated with the situation in Malaysia which had been stable due to the people's spirit as one big family.

"We don't need to do that (create chaos) as our family spirit has been implanted since a long time ago," Bernama reported.

He also warned against any attempt to usurp power in Malaysia, using demonstrations like those in Egypt.

“Don’t think that what is happening there must also happen in Malaysia. We will not allow it to happen here,” he said at the national-level Chinese New Year open house in Miri, The Star reported.

So will there be an 'Arab Facebook Revolution' in Malaysia?

Frankly I do not think so - unless the Barisan Nasional government plays into the hands of Pakatan Rakyat and falls foolishly into the traps set by the cunning opposition leaders.

The situation in the Middle-East is different - there the gap between the rich and poor is vast and the oil wealth (in the oil producing nations) has not been shared equitably.

The Arabian governments did not diversify their economies and depended too much on the oil industry, which actually hires lots of foreign workers.

Few jobs were created in sectors other than petroleum-related ones; thus young Arabs remained jobless and when food prices soared, their hunger fuelled their anger.

Most of the leaders were dictators who clung onto power for far too long and some like Egypt's Mubarak and Libya's Gadaffi were planning to start dynasties by grooming their sons to take over. Other leaders were absolute monarchs like those in Saudi Arabia (where there has been no protests so far) and Bahrain (where there are protests but they have a religious sectarian flavour because the poorer Shiites are rising up against the fewer but richer Sunnis, who hold the reins of power).

In Libya, tribal rivalry is also a factor. In almost all the Mid-Eastern nations facing popular revolts, factors like corruption, abuse of power and brutal suppression of freedoms also fanned the people's anger.

In Malaysia, unemployment is not much of an issue. There is a huge middle-class of all races that provides a cushioning effect between the relatively few poor folks and the increasing number of rich folks, especially Malays (though critics have pointed out that they are mostly linked to the people in power).

The Sultans abide by the system of constitutional monarchy. The economy is well diversified and there are plenty of jobs. There is no shortage of food though rising prices are a reality and critics say official inflation rate figures are not reliable.

Suppression of freedoms has been a thorny issue though there have been efforts (half-hearted, say the critics) to review the hated Internal Security Act. But by and large, Malaysians are not starving, suffering or jobless though racial issues are still thorny (critics say politicians are responsible for fanning them) and keep getting in the way of true unity. 

If the Pakatan politicians post a message on Facebook asking Malaysians to gather at a certain place at a certain time, would tens of thousands of Malaysians be there to vent their fury and frustrations?

Would middle-class Malaysians turn up? Would mid-managers turn up? Would they leave the jobs that pay them RM4,000-6,000 a month to shout slogans and throw stones at policemen?

Bear in mind that the middle-class in Malaysia is relatively large and that strata of society actually prevented the nation from collapsing into chaos when hit by unforseen storms in the past like the financial crisis of 1997.

The danger is that Pakatan leaders - when confronted by the realisation that they will lose the next general election badly - may just organise an Arab-style people's power protest as a last stand.

And it may win the support of the people if Barisan leaders do foolish things like rigging the election, sending bus-loads or boat-loads of phantom voters to the strongholds of Pakatan leaders, opening their wallets and start buying votes, ensuring that some names are missing from the voters' lists especially in opposition strongholds, ensuring that some 'voters' are registered in multiple constituencies, slipping in bundles of fake ballot papers into ballot boxes, etc. 

If these 'tricks of the trade' are utilised, then Barisan would be playing into the hands of Pakatan and handing to them - on a silver platter - the 'petroleum' to power the protests of the people. And people would quickly forget that Anwar himself was alleged to have resorted to such 'tricks' during his party's election recently.

If the next few elections - the by-election, Sarawak state election and general election - are held in a transparent and truthful way, then Pakatan would be deprived of issues to play up and things should be smooth sailing for Barisan and I can safely state that there would be no Arab-style revolution in Malaysia.

No comments:

Post a Comment