On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Drop those who play the racial card

Aware of this, Abdullah sent a note listing the names of
a few people who grew up with him in Kepala Batas. On the list were his
teacher, a Chinese man, an Indian engineer and a grassroots Umno leader.

His circle of friends, whether personal or political,
continues to be multi-racial. The Prime Minister has taken great pains to
emphasise his commitment to multi-racialism at the personal level.

Pak Lah, as we all know, has made it clear that he is a
leader of all Malaysians and not just one community. He has taken the
unprecedented step of sending Christmas cards to Christians and attended open
house at a church. He has opened a conference of world Christian leaders.

That is the hallmark of a true moderate Malaysian leader.
He has been consistent in his beliefs throughout his unblemished political
career. There has not been a single racist remark from him.

But, sadly, some politicians have of late gone back to
the old racial game. It is sad because their statements have come so soon after
the general election and national day.

Irrespective of whether they are politicians from Umno,
MCA, MIC, DAP or PAS, they must exercise great care that their statements do
not hurt the feelings of any particular ethnic group. The same principle
applies to journalists and Internet bloggers whose work reaches a large section
of the population.

I am concerned over the comments made by some politicians
and Internet writers recently, more so when the Prime Minister is committed to
national unity and has made it a major part of his work agenda.

As more racially mixed constituencies are being created,
politicians must remember that they need the votes of all races, especially if
the fight is close.

It is easy for some to play to the gallery, especially at
their party assemblies, and make themselves communal heroes, but in this age of
modern communication, their remarks and statements are reported in all
newspapers and websites.

It is even easier for politicians to forget about their
voters after winning an election. Come the next general election, these leaders
will have to face voters of other races. And they will need the support of
other parties in the same alliance.

During the recent general election, I remember a young
Barisan Nasional politician seeking the help of component parties because he
was having a difficult time with a minority group who would not forgive him for
some racial remarks he made some years ago.

Leaders of component parties, expecting the difficulties
ahead of the polls, suggested to the young politician to hold a gathering with
the minority voters to win them over. If he had to, he could apologise
privately without the presence of the media. But he was too proud.

In desperation, during the campaigning, he called up the
top leaders to seek help. Luckily for him, he pulled through.

Politicians who play the racial angle must be prepared to
face the consequences of their actions.

They may not realise it but their statements will return
to haunt them. Their opponents will certainly remind the voters, and these
politicians will realise that making threats by bringing up the black spots in
our history will prove to be a costly mistake.

Mature politicians like Abdullah have proven that a good,
decent leader does not need to be controversial and outspoken. Racial threats
and comments not only hurt the people but also the party's image.

The politics of moderation and consensus has been the
hallmark of our founding fathers. Malaysia
is what it is today because of the wisdom of Umno, MCA and MIC leaders.

The press can help to keep out politicians who play the
racial card by ignoring them. They don't deserve to have their names mentioned
anywhere in the media. Where party bosses are concerned, these ungrateful
elected representatives should simply be dropped in the next elections.