Yes, The Chinese Are Short-sighted and Selfish: The Difficulty with the Chinese Vote

22 12 2007

This was originally posted as my comment in response to the post “Are the Chinese Short-sighted and Selfish? Pt. 1” on Sagaladoola‘s blog. Sagaladoola hits the nail on the head with his frustrated post, making reference to this article. I strongly recommend reading Sagaladoola’s post before this to better understand the difficulties facing the Malaysian opposition and civil society in overcoming the paranoia, inertia and apathy of Malaysian society in general.

The following is my reply to Sagaladoola (with a few new insertions):

I’m Chinese myself, and with much frustration, I’d have to agree with you: the Chinese community are by and large, fundamentally selfish and shortsighted. More than any other community, the majority of Chinese are driven more by personal fears and incentives than by the greater issues – the result of pragmatism tending towards the mercenary.

The Malaysian Chinese are basically divided into 3 camps: the dedicated opposition camp; the BN government sycophants and mercenaries; and the kiasi/kiasu/kiachenghu/bochap (afraid to die/afraid to lose/afraid of the govt/just don’t care about anything outside their ricebowl) paranoid-apathetic camp – which makes up the majority.

As the article mentions: while there is widespread discontent amongst the Chinese, it is still an open question whether this will translate into opposition votes at the next election, especially if there is a danger that some foolish auntie’s shopping trip might be jeopardised by ‘instability’. This chronic myopia (willingness to sacrifice their rights for false short-term promises of stability) is what allows UMNO to keep playing the race card to bully the docile Chinese back in line.

I run into enormous resistance in the form of paranoia, inertia and apathy when trying to raise political awareness even amongst my own family and friends (who mostly fall into the paranoid-apathetic camp).

In this coming election, I believe the Chinese vote will be decisive. From my observations: PAS and Keadilan together will be able to secure a significant block of the Malay vote – at least 33% = 20% of total votes by proportion. The Indian vote is gone to the opposition I’m sure, which gives another 8%. That’s a min. 28% in the bag, with potentially more from the Malay bloc.

That leaves the Chinese with a critical 25% vote block.
From this, at least 5% are hardcore opposition and can be relied on to deliver the votes. 5% are mercenaries and will vote BN.

The remaining 15% will decide the popular vote. Unfortunately, this is the paranoid-apathetic camp.

The Chinese vote will be decisive in the upcoming election. We must capture this block, or risk losing the reform momentum built up so far.

No more sitting on the fence, my Chinese compatriots. Wake up, it’s time to make a choice.

The activists and citizens out there on the streets are fighting for the rights of all Malaysian citizens. Last I checked, ‘Malaysian citizens’ means you and me too. The street protests are happening because there is simply no other way to get through to a regime so bloated on its own corruption and hubris that it cannot or will not hear any dissenting voices. And I will point out that every single recent street protest has been well-disciplined and peaceful right up to the point when the police initiated unprovoked attacks on the peaceful protestors. The real criminals and ‘terrorists’ are the ones in uniform, not the civil protestors.

Statements like ‘Indian grievances are none of my business’ and ‘the BERSIH protests are inconveniencing me’ are criminally stupid and selfish things to say. Nobody WANTS to protest on the streets; they protest because they have no choice. If you truly believe the BN propaganda then you deserve to live under the boot of UMNO-BN.

You can decide to vote for the BN menagerie and live on under the false pretence of stability, hoping every day that your UMNO masters will deign to throw you another table scrap, while your rights are slowly torn away from you and cancerous corruption consumes the country;

OR, you can decide to throw out the whole festering, irredeemable mess that is the UMNO-BN regime. Cut down the BN regime at the next election, and rebuild a country where all are equal, and the institutions of the country exist to protect, not oppress, the people. Bring in fresh, honest blood to rebuild and reinvent the country. Malaysia is a country rich with talent, it’s just not in UMNO-BN;

The choice is literally in your hands, and you need to decide, NOW.

What’ll it be?

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5 responses

23 12 2007
Dan-yel

Good observation, though I wonder where the 5%-5%-15% statistics for the Chinese come from. The Malays % not strange for me based on their divided votes in Mahathir’s last General Election.

[ GhL ] : The 5%-5%-15% estimate comes from me, based on my general observations on the ground that roughly 20% of the Chinese population are diehard opposition supporters, up to 20% are BN mercenaries/brainwashed, and the remaining majority of 60% being mainly fence-sitters/opportunists whose political commitments waver like candles in the breeze. Sorry I can’t back up my numbers with a Gallup poll 🙂

There is definitely a lot of discontent amongst the Chinese on the ground; everyone gripes about the way things are in Malaysia, but when I press harder for a commitment, the number of people who will actually say, “Yeah, I’m pissed off, I’m definitely going to vote the BN out” is much fewer than I’d like.

Most of the time, the response I get is a shrug and a resigned, “Aiyah, what to do? the government is like that wan. If we vote BN out, who will run the government? Like that lor. Pay bribe lor.”

At which point I have to strenuously restrain myself from vigorously slapping the person – repeatedly – to wake him/her up. Not good for family/friend/business relationships, you see.

But seriously, there is much work to be done to secure the commitment of the fence-sitting Chinese.

23 12 2007
Klaw

Good post. I hope not only will Malaysian Chinese read this, Malaysian Indians will read as well. The government’s propaganda is extremely powerful, but its easy, just vote based on performance. How have the BN parliamentarians represented you? Don’t give them another chance to con you into extending their term.

I would like to add that if even it is possible to convert that 15% apathetic Chinese, it won’t translate well into seats in Parliament due to gerry-mandering. But we’ll take it a step at a time.

[ GhL ] : Yeah, we need to stop the rot now before the continued subversion-corruption of the Election Commission and other state institutions renders our deeply-flawed elections even more meaningless.

An idea: I’m going to write to some international election watch NGO’s to try and get them to send election observers to Malaysia.

24 12 2007
chansey

Agreed, agreed and thrice agreed! Perhaps it’s simply because I’m exposed to “the Chinese angle” a bit more, but as far as I can see a good portion of the blame truly falls on us – and there are even political analyses (e.g. RK Vasil’s Politics in a Plural Society) that attest to this.

Ladies and gents, living in a country doesn’t simply involve doing business with ‘our fellow citizens’. We all have the responsibility to serve our countrymen. We’ve put that aside too many times.

GhL, anyone with an internet connection is a potential supporter – but internet penetration in Malaysia is as we all know, limited. To reach out to everyone, we’re going to need to adopt other methods. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samizdat as an example.


[ GhL ] :
Agreed, our chosen medium has limitations in reaching out to the masses, although it is improving by the day; we need to broaden our reach to build the critical mass necessary to effect change.

Technically, what we civil society bloggers are practising now is the digital form of ‘samizdat’.

24 12 2007
JK

I’m Chinese myself. I’ve recently registered to vote – but wouldn’t have if someone didn’t show me how or point out how important it was.

I suspect most of the fiery Internet-generation Chinese guys and girls haven’t registered to vote, or know how to for that matter. This would be a chunk that would be very significant I think…

[ GhL ] : Good for you, JK; Please help to urge everyone you know (and everyone they know) to register themselves and vote smartly in the coming election. The cutoff date is approaching rapidly, as our scintillating Election Commission claims it requires 3 months to register a voter, and UMNO will try desperately to hold the election by March, before the resurgent Anwar Ibrahim once again becomes eligible to stand for election.

This will be a watershed election.

13 03 2008
Sean E

If you want to have a better future for our children in Malaysia, do your part by signing the on-line petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/RCER2008/petition.html

This is one of the way (non-violence) to bring our message to the Government.

Don’t just sit there, stand up and be counted!

Why do we need to reform the Election Commission?

1) Gerrymandering. The discrepancy between number of voters in voting areas is too great. The smallest parliamentary seat (Federal Territory, Putrajaya) has only 6,608 voters while the parliamentary seat for Kapar in Selangor has 112,224 voters. What this means is that one vote in the Putrajaya parliamentary constituency is equivalent to 17 votes in the Kapar constituency.

2) Phantom voters. A common tactic is to ‘buy’ the identity card of the voters. Party members from the ruling parties will then vote on the voters’ behalf. Random checking of a person’s identity must be conducted using those finger print checking device (like the bank use). Any voting done on another person’s identity must be made a serious offence under the election law.

3) Postal votes. The rules on postal voting must be reviewed, tightened and amended. The current rule favours the ruling party as the armed forces personnel and policemen who vote by ‘postal voting’ would obviously not jeopardize their career or promotion prospect by voting for the opposition. Voting under postal voting is not secret as it is under the watchful eyes of the senior officers.

4) Spoiled votes. How do we define spoiled votes. It is very easy to turn good votes into spoiled votes (by adding one more x to the ballot paper). Are spoiled votes being verified and watched over by the party representatives? In marginal areas in which the winning margin is razor thin, the so-called spoiled votes need to be scrutinized.

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