A rhetorical battle erupted recently in Sarawak when a BN component party chief James Masing, claim that the people should not `lawan taukeh’(fight the boss). He went on to ask the people not to bite the hand that feed them. The argument did not go down well with many parties especially the unhappy electorate, including his adversaries in the BN parties. It was however a good opportunity for the Oposition to challenge him to a debate that he would not have the gut to attend. For a while the people are the boss. They just need to keep to this new understanding to realise democracy in Sarawak!
Masing: Never bite the hand that feeds you
In an astonishing interview with the pro-BN newspaper The Borneo Post, James Masing tried to elaborate on a claim – subsequently derided by both sides of the political divide – that elected politicians are “the boss“, and voters must be subservient.
Masing appears to believe the relationship between elected representatives and voters is analogous to that of a master and his large pack of registered dogs.
His remarks are an odd defence of the indefensible. Mong Dagang, a vice-president of Masing’s PRS party, had demanded that welfare benefits be removed from Fresius Lebi (left), a disabled man, because Fresius had opposed the PRS in last April’s state election. Masing’s response was to warn Sarawakians “don’t cross your boss” (jangan lawan tauke).
Masing has been lampooned for saying that voters are “the boss” only during elections, while elected representatives have absolute power in between elections.
He now appears to believe that he can make his way out of his hole by digging deeper.
His unconventional political manifesto states that ‘the majority’, as defined by the government of the day, is always right.
“We also listen, but we will not listen to everyone that coughs and sneezes. We decide based on (the) majority. Not just because of one or two people only. Whatever we do is based on the majority and the majority is for us to decide,” he was quoted as saying.
By inference, Masing must hold that the Nazi majority were behaving perfectly reasonably when they exterminated minorities, such as disabled Germans, Jews, Slavs and Romany people.
Similarly, it follows that Masing must have no objection to the persecution of ethnic minorities in Sarawak, since no single ethnic group forms a ‘majority’. Hence, it would appear, the theft of the natives’ land by tycoons and their political patrons is wholly to be applauded.
Penan schoolgirls – as young as 10 – have been raped by loggers in Sarawak’s hinterland. According to Masing’s refreshing political dictum, such abuse is not to be condemned. This is not only because the Penan girls ‘asked for it’ (as the usual argument goes), but because they happen to have been born into a small ethnic minority.
Political awareness boosted
Masing defended himself in the pages of the Borneo Post, having meekly declined an invitation to speak at a political forum entitled “Who is the Boss?”
The public forum was held by the PKR’s national women’s wing chief Zuraida Kamaruddin and state assembly representatives Baru Bian and See Chee How in Kuching last Sunday.
Politicians and academicians at the public forum discussed the rudimentary requirements for a working democracy, including free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, rule of law, respect for minorities and constitutional liberties, besides the need for a vibrant mass media.
Had he attended, Masing might well have nodded off, since his only personal requirement for democracy is regular elections.
Mubarak, Marcos and Mahathir stayed in power for decades by insisting they represented the majority. All the while, they ran sham elections, jailed and tortured their opponents and crippled democratic institutions.
Predictably enough, Masing is in little doubt regarding the fairness of our own election process.
“I never question the integrity of the SPR process. There is no way you can tamper with the ballot box,” he told the Borneo Post.
“If you question the (validity of the) ballot box, then you must also question the results in Penang and Selangor. The opposition only questions if the results are not in their favour,” he argued.
Pakatan Rakyat supporters would agree, if only in the sense that Pakatan’s victories in these states in 2008 would presumably have been even more comprehensive had there been a level playing field.
But there is a silver lining to the dark cloud of Masing’s outburst. The mainstream newspapers have gleefully highlighted the jangan lawan tauke story in the past fortnight.
This publicity can be partly explained by infighting between BN component parties. Masing’s PRS has offered a safe haven to five elected representatives from a rival BN component, the SPDP.
In turn, the SPDP supporters in the mainstream media have vented their frustration at the perceived PRS opportunism by needling Masing over his indiscreet political rants.
Thanks to the publicity generated by Masing’s tomfoolery, Sarawak’s political awakening continues apace.