September 11, 2008

Don’t fall for Ahmad’s race-baiting

Don’t fall for Ahmad’s race-baiting
10 Sep 2008 - The Edge

How do you deal with a speaker who has been offensive? You state your objections to him, of course. And if he insists that he was right to offend you, then what? Do you continue to argue your case with him? Or do you take the matter to an appropriate forum for resolution. At what point do you cut off the talk and return to where you were before the rude interruption?

In the matter involving Datuk Ahmad Ismail, the Bukit Bendera Umno division chief who has been making headlines over inflammatory remarks purportedly made during the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign, the fitting response is — just ignore him, and those of his ilk.

The allegation against Ahmad is indeed serious, as he had reportedly called the Chinese immigrants to the country, and therefore, it was impossible for them to achieve equal rights as citizens. Several police reports have been lodged on the matter, so it is appropriate to await the result of their investigations into whether these comments amount to sedition.

Although some may think that staying silent in the face of such apparent provocation is unacceptable and a sign of weakness, there are good reasons for keeping one’s cool under the current circumstances.

Ahmad’s racial posturing, as evidenced by his subsequent comments, shows that he is baiting others for a heated response. One reaction will only lead to a counter reaction. Soon, other extremists will join the fray and before we know it, racial tension will rear its ugly head. This would lead to a crackdown on legitimate dissent and freedom of expression, just like in the events that led to Operation Lallang in 1987. The only effective preventive action is to exercise restraint.

Ahmad and his likes have lost power in Penang and are perhaps feeling at a loose end. That’s probably why they are itching for a fight. So the best strategy is to ignore them.

If there was any doubt about where we’re heading, another sign that the situation is taking an undesirable turn appeared yesterday. Armed Forces chief General Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Zainal has proposed that the government take stern action against those who stoke racial sentiments. Expressing concern that discussion of racial issues could create chaos and disorder, he described the situation as a security threat.

The use of such language is extremely serious. Why is the army commenting on civilian affairs? Its job is to defend the nation against external threats and that is what it must stick to. It is of paramount importance that the issue be addressed through civilian channels. The preservation of our democratic way of life depends on the adherence to this principle.


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8 March 2008

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