On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Uphold the interest of all

Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar  Tan Sri Mohamed Isa Abdul Samad  claimed that the opposition had  asked the Malay voters whether  they preferred a kuil (Hindu temple) or
masjid (mosque) in their  area.

The opposition, he alleged, had  also
told the voters that the Malays  should
only vote for a Malay candidate.

It will be difficult for Isa to  prove
his allegations as opposition 
campaigners are unlikely to use 
these tactics openly.

But it is clear that the opposition  had
decided to field Kassim to capitalise on the high number of Malay voters.

While the decision could well be  a
clever tactical move, it has also  put to
the test Keadilan's claim of  being
multi-racial and non-communal.

In last year's general election,  the
opposition fielded N. Gobalakrishnan on a Keadilan ticket. Although he lost,
the spirit of multi racialism was, at least, reflected.

Many issues will crop up during  the
campaigning, but what is more  important
here is the concept of  power-sharing
among the various  races in this country,
which has  been taken for granted

The politics of accommodation  and
consensus in Malaysia has  made this
country special and  unique.

None of the 192 parliamentary 
constituencies is an Indian-majority area, but the belief in power
sharing has allowed the community to have a minister, a deputy and  two parliamentary secretaries  from its list of seven MPs and 15  state assemblymen.

This is to ensure that every minority group, no matter how small  they are, are represented in Dewan  Rakyat and Dewan Negara.

Malaysian society is plural, and  its
politics will always be complicated. There will always be moments of
frustration, but the spirit  of
consensus, if constantly upheld,  will
allow problems to be amicably 

The Alliance and subsequently  the
Barisan Nasional may be made  up of
communal-based parties, but  it has been
able to bargain, compromise and accommodate in a  non-communal fashion.

It has its flaws, but it has been  proven
to be effective in holding  this
multi-racial and multi-religious country together because of  its moderation.

In past general elections, MCA 
candidates had stood in Malay-majority areas and won with the support of
Malay votes because the  Malays were more
comfortable  with the MCA than the

Last year, the Chinese supported  Umno
candidates, throwing out  even Chinese
DAP candidates, for  various reasons.

They had confidence in the leadership of Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir  Mohamad, the economic recovery,  the cohesiveness of the MCA, the  fear of an Islamic state, and the  strong belief that only the Barisan  can hold the country together.

The bottomline is that the majority, irrespective of their ethnicity,  believed that only the Barisan  could work, even when the credibility of the
coalition was at its  lowest.

This pragmatic approach, including the component parties'  ability to strike durable compromises, has
been the Barisan's winning formula.

Thus, right from the beginning  when the
Teluk Kemang seat fell  vacant, the
understanding among  the component
parties was that the  seat would go to
MIC. The racial  composition of the
constituency  was never an issue.

The concept of accommodation  needs to be
re-emphasised from  time to time. Even
Barisan leaders,  especially the younger
ones, do not  fully appreciate its
magnitude at  times.

The Gerakan and MCA grassroots, for example, must appreciate that even when
Umno had more  state seats than the two
parties in  Penang, the chief minister's
post  automatically went to a

It was a non-negotiable issue and  the
Barisan leadership, including  those from
Umno, did not bow to  pressure,
particularly in 1995.

The same scenario has taken  place in
Sabah. Dr Mahathir has  correctly
insisted that the rotation  of the chief
minister's post must  continue although
Umno has the  most number of seats.

Despite continuing pressure  from the
Sabah Umno rank and  file, the prime
minister has refused to budge.

That aside, younger Umno leaders must also understand the need  to reward other communities in the  wake of efforts by PAS to win their  support.

Similarly, the other Barisan  component
parties must be prepared to forego their posts in the  event their parties perform badly  in future elections should they demand more

The politics of compromises  must be
fully appreciated by everyone. It is a win-win game but no  one ethnic group is supposed to be  fully satisfied.

Over the years, there has been  less
emphasis on communalism,  but the reality
is that it has not  gone away.

In the case of the Teluk Kemang 
by-election campaigning, racial 
and religious slurs have come into 

The voters of Teluk Kemang  need to send
a reminder that racial  play, in whatever
form or manifestation, is unacceptable.