Friday, 3 October 2008

Teresa Kok...Hang In There

Her recent unjustified detention under the ISA, the relentless character assasinations and celebration of her release with the Molotov Cocktails have continued to put her in the limelight. As I said earlier, while I had only heard of her now I know more about Teresa Kok; her popularity speaks for itself.

My own theory about the reason for the continued attack on her good name is that she is currently the "poster girl" of the Selangor PR government and the DAP; if the perpetrators can "bring her down" then the others would be easy...sort of like David bringing down Goliath but with reversed protagonist role.

Teresa Kok - Dressing appropriately. Seen here with DYMM Sultan Selangor on Hari Raya. Couple on the right of Tuanku is YB Teng Chang Khim, DUN Selangor speaker and wife.

This commentary by Wan Hamidi Hamid in the Malaysian Insider sums it up:

Teresa Kok and the supremacist minority
Commentary by Wan Hamidi Hamid


Teresa Kok must be wondering why some Malays are adamant in portraying her as a Chinese chauvinist, villain of peace and enemy of Islam. With her impeccable record as the most hardworking wakil rakyat and the Member of Parliament with the highest majority votes in the country, she must be at a loss to fathom the attempts to assassinate her character.

From the blatant lies that she had opposed the azan (the Islamic call to prayer), to her wearing a skirt inside a mosque, the Seputeh MP has to live through the nightmare of racial politics almost on a daily basis.

Despite repeated denials of the azan issue for which she was detained under the draconian Internal Security Act for seven days Kok is still being chastised by some quarters linked to Umno, including the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia.

For the three-term MP, who is known among her close friends as a devout Catholic and a staunch believer in multiracialism, the detention without trial-ISA was not enough for her detractors. After her release, some extremist elements threw a Molotov cocktail into her parents' house.

To make matters worse, a whole lot of text messages were sent around justifying the violent act. The saddest part of the story is that some Malays actually believe that Kok is guilty of insulting Islam which she is not.

The problem is those who believe the lies probably read one particular newspaper that is prone to promote racial supremacy. There are other Malay-language newspapers with higher circulation than the one espousing racist tendencies, yet they are not keen on resorting to false news. They seem to know the danger of playing up baseless racial accusations.

So what gives? Despite the many possible answers, it is likely that Umno, particularly in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, which suffered one of its worst election defeats, is venting anger in the only way some of its leaders know racism.

Already many Barisan Nasional component parties are unhappy with recent racial episodes.

Now that the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) has left BN and Gerakan is mulling a similar move, the situation is critical for Umno-led BN. The fact that Umno is more concerned with its leadership transition, thus ignoring its partners, is likely to be a push factor for component members in the federal ruling coalition.

The tussle for the top leadership in Umno is expected to bring out the nastiest and dirtiest of tactics, especially when the party divisional meetings ~ the real backbone of Umno ~ begin next week.

As reflected during the branch meetings of the last three months, Ketuanan Melayu, or Malay supremacy, was the keyword among the grassroots leaders and members. Although top leaders have defined it as the struggle for the betterment of the Malays, others took it literally to mean the superiority of the Malays over other Malaysians.

This is especially true in the case of Teresa Kok when attempts to demonise her, despite being based on slander, continue to spread among the racist political element of the usually moderate and fair-minded Malays.

To this racist minority, Umno hegemony is their game, never mind that the basis of BN is racial harmony. They couldn't care less about muhibbah so long as their supremacist definition of the Malay is accepted by all.

Their only problem is that they are in the minority. Even Kok acknowledges it. She knows many more Malays accept her, not only as an MP or a Selangor state executive councillor, but also as a fellow Malaysian.

But spending a stint under the ISA and suffering the trauma of her parents' home being fire-bombed is not an easy experience to live with. She is hoping that more Malaysians, especially the Malays, speak up against racism and those who perpetuate the dangerous trend.

Even in high places she has good Malay friends. Former de facto Law Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim quit the government in protest against Kok's arrest under the ISA and has even written an open letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to abolish the cruel law.

Kok has always been a popular figure with the Malay grassroots in the Klang Valley.

Immediately after she was released from the ISA, she attended a number of breaking-of-fast ceremonies, including at the Cheras Baru mosque, the one which she was accused of going into wearing a skirt.

The truth of the matter is the event was organised outside the mosque and Kok was wearing a long skirt covering her knees, similar to skirts she wears in Parliament, the Selangor state assembly and her state government office. She did not even enter the mosque.

But racists with agendas do not let facts get in the way of a good distortion in their favour. It's never too late, however, for some of these people to reflect on the good month of Syawal to ask for forgiveness from those who have been wrongly accused.

Maaf zahir batin

UPDATE; 4th October

Why Teresa Kok Is The Target

The attacks against Kok and the attempts to portray her as a Chinese chauvinist who is anti-Islam represent a crude attempt at undermining the credibility and viability of the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, as a viable multiracial alternative to BN.

She has been vilified as a Chinese chauvinist and portrayed as anti-Muslim. She was detained one week under the Internal Security Act for allegedly stirring up religious sentiments. And last week, unknown assailants threw a Molotov cocktail into the compound of her family home in Kuala Lumpur.

But ask DAP Member of Parliament Teresa Kok why she has become the target of a smear campaign in recent months and she will probably be hard pressed for an answer.
And those who know her insist she is anything but a chauvinist or an enemy of Islam that her detractors claim she is.

When Kok was detained under the ISA, even Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who quit the Cabinet as de facto Law Minister partly in protest against the use of the law, said of her: "I know Teresa personally and I cannot see her as anti-Islam."

While Zaid was the only Umno member who spoke out publicly, he was not the only one who viewed the recent ISA detentions of Kok and a female journalist, who was released after 18 hours, as unwarranted.

"Look, everyone who knows her (Kok) knows she is not a bigot or a chauvinist. This makes the government look bad," one MP from Umno said.

In fact, it was some of Kok's political opponents in Parliament — from the ruling Barisan Nasional — who met with government officials in private to plead for her release. Such is Kok's popularity that when she made her first public appearance at a press conference hours after her release on Sept 19, she received a standing ovation from reporters.

It is probable that Kok, who won her Seputeh parliamentary seat in Kuala Lumpur with a 36,492-vote majority — the biggest — in the March elections, could win with an even bigger margin if polls were held today.

To her supporters, she is a hero who has been wronged.

It was alleged that she had abused her position as an MP and a member of the Selangor state government to direct a mosque to reduce the volume of its public address system during prayer times because it was disturbing non-Muslims living nearby.

The allegation, made by former Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Mohd Khir Toyo, and highlighted in the Umno-ownedUtusan Malaysia newspaper, was found to be untrue. Even the mosque committee came out to publicly deny the allegation. Still, she was detained by the police.

The attacks have not stopped despite her release. Utusan Malaysia has made her, in her own words, a "cover girl" since her release. After she complained about the allegedly low quality of food served during her detention, comparing it to dog food, she has been chastised repeatedly in the newspaper.

Kok, known for her multiracial stand, has been determined more than ever to flaunt it since her arrest.

Following her release, she has been attending breaking-of-fast functions almost nightly during the just-ended fasting month of Ramadan.

But even that has become the subject of attacks by Utusan Malaysia.

Last week, Kok was criticised in the newspaper for "wearing a skirt to a mosque". The article appeared to suggest that she was wearing something outrageous and that her attire caused serious discomfort among Muslims present at the function.

However, facts suggested otherwise. Kok wore a long-sleeved dress which came down almost to her ankles. She also did not enter the mosque, remaining instead in its compound.

One of Kok's Malay-Muslim supporters said: "I don't understand why she is being targetted. She is usually so sensitive to the religious obligations of Muslims it is almost ridiculous. She usually takes great pains to tell me what I can or cannot eat when we are out that I find it hard to believe she would be anti-Islam."

Ultimately, the smear campaign could be attributed to the fact that Kok and a number of leaders from the Chinese-dominated DAP have taken pains to reach out to Malay-Muslim voters.

As a member of a party who is part of three state governments — along with its Malay partners in the Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Pas — DAP leaders like Kok have been reaching out more than ever, and successfully, to Malay voters.

This is undoubtedly a political threat to the ruling coalition led by Umno.

The attacks against Kok and the attempts to portray her as a Chinese chauvinist who is anti-Islam represent a crude attempt at undermining the credibility and viability of the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, as a viable multiracial alternative to BN.

But targetting Kok, known for her congeniality as much as anything else, may well backfire.

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