In 1987 the nation was facing rising political tension with racial issues embedded. The situation was tinder dry with clowns pouring paraffin onto piles of kindle.
Protests against the government’s decision to send non-Mandarin qualified principals to Chinese vernacular schools.
Guess who was the (UMNO) Education Minister? Wakakaka!
There was bipartisan political support against the Education Ministry’s decision, but alas, this was where the racial element supposedly crept in - the bipartisan stand against the Education Ministry were from the Chinese-based party MCA and mainly Chinese-based Gerakan, both part of the ruling party BN, and the opposition DAP, a party demon-ized for years by UMNO and thus perceived as a Chinese party by Malays.
Gathering at a KL Chinese temple together with Dong Jiao Zong (Chinese educationists & parents association) they vociferously voiced their anger and disagreement with what they saw as the Education Minister’s ulterior motive to weaken the leadership and administration of the Chinese vernacular schools. They threatened to boycott the vernacular schools for 3 days, though this specific threat was subsequently withdrawn.
However, the choice of a Chinese temple as a venue for the protesting parties was most unfortunate because it provided justification for then-PM Dr Mahathir’s to conduct pre-emptive arrests. He subsequently alluded to the Chinese gathering at Thian Hou Temple in KL as a Shaolin-type rebellion against the central (Qing) government.
While he didn’t mention the word ‘Shaolin’ wakakaka, every Chinese Malaysian understood what he meant when he said (as I was told), words to the effect, the history of Chinese groups gathering at a Chinese temple to protest against the government, has shown this to be dangerous for the authority.
How did Dr Mahathir know about the history of Shaolin? Maybe he was informed by his Chinese (or SB Chinese specialist) advisors, or maybe he was a closeted Chinese kungfu movie fan wakakaka.
In typical Malaysian political jaguh (heroic) fashion, an intrinsic characteristic of our ethnocentric political culture, UMNO Youth responded with a planned mass counter-rally. Someone declared he wanted his keris to be dripping with Chinese blood.
The rest is history, which saw Ops Lalang launched.
Now, what did I say at the very beginning of this post?
Yup, the political situation today is not unlike that in September 1987, with the tinder dry escalating political tension, racism at its worst, a protest (Bersih) is planned, a counter protest by a favoured party (Good Lord, it’s the same one though with a devolved name), the keris is implied by someone telling the Chinese to stock up with emergency food, etc etc. Three names involved in 1987 are still with us today, namely Najib, Anwar and Dr Mahathir.
Ops Lalang II?
If that comes about, make a guess who’ll be eating nasi kamunting, some perhaps for a second time under a new Lalang sweep?