On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

No place for racist remarks

The newspapers and TV stations can be directed to tone down political temperature but Internet news websites and bloggers are there to record the irresponsible words spouted by these politicians. 

And thanks to free video-sharing website YouTube (www.youtube.com), we may even get to see the antics of those who get carried away with their rhetoric in the belief that they can play to the gallery, be popular and still not be held accountable for their words. 

The days of politicians saying one thing in the Malay newspapers and giving another version to the English or Chinese newspapers, to cater to different audiences for political expediency, are over too.  

Nothing escapes the attention of Malaysians these days and if politicians have still not woken up to this reality, then they will be haunted by the ghosts of their communal statements at the next general election. 

Neither can they escape the heat by blaming the press for misquoting them. Politicians must be accountable for their words and actions. It's that simple. 

The issue is not whether the annual general meetings of communal-based parties should be telecast live. The issue is that delegates to these party assemblies must take responsibility for what they say. It's the content, not the communication tool, that matters. 

The speakers are after all picked by their respective state liaisons. The permanent chairmen of the various parties, who preside at these meetings, can interrupt to stop speakers from making remarks that are not just hurtful to other Malaysians but can be seditious in nature. In short, there is no place for issues relating to race and religion in Malaysia. 

If these delegates were to carry on with their fire and brimstone speeches, then the wrong message would be sent out. Worse, Malaysians may assume that their views have been endorsed even if they were just expressing their personal views.  

But when delegates speak at assemblies, they also represent their respective state or division. 

In one particular case, Umno Youth information chief Datuk Azimi Daim is a state executive councillor in Kedah.  

He is a senior Umno leader and should be wise and responsible enough to refrain from making remarks that might give rise to misinterpretation. 

On Monday, Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said future Umno general assemblies may not be telecast live, given the flak the party has received over this year's proceedings. 

Many people felt that the telecast was an inappropriate thing because it gave a distorted view of Umno proceedings.  

Najib who is Deputy Prime Minister said it was up to the Umno supreme council to decide but said the leadership was seriously looking into the wisdom of having a live telecast. 

He also admitted that certain speeches during the just concluded assembly were extreme, adding that delegates should realise that "when they speak, there are others outside the party who are also listening." 

The racist remarks by a few delegates created unease among the Barisan Nasional component members and have continued to be a talking point among ordinary Malaysians, who felt it was out of place in our attempts to forge national unity. 

On Tuesday, MCA vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek also said such AGMs should not be televised, saying all AGMS were racially charged including the MCA and MIC meetings. 

It is common to hear delegates at Umno, MCA or MIC meetings talk about defending their community rights but there is surely no need to intimidate or make threats. 

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has proven that he did not have to make racial statements to climb to the top of the party hierarchy.  

He has always been consistently moderate, which puts him high above the rest. He should be a model for party aspirants as he stands for all Malaysians, not just one race. 

Umno leaders have tried to assure non-Malays over the past few days that the views of these few delegates did not represent the thinking of the Umno leadership. Most Malaysians would agree but certainly it was not comforting for many.  

Malaysians look forward to the day when party delegates speak of orang kita, woh men or nam el lorum, when they really mean their fellow Malaysians and not just their own race.  

After all, they get their votes in the general election from not just one but all ethnic groups.