MGG: The BN rejects the Punjabi party
By M.G.G. Pillai
31/1/2002 3:59 pm Thu
The National Front (BN) would not admit the 20,000-strong Punjabi
Party of Malaysia into its ranks. More impressive to me was not
the BN rejection but its membership. Of 200,000 Sikhs in the
country, half are under 21 or in universities and colleges and
therefore cannot join a political party. About 40,000 married
Sikhs; the women are not, as a rule, active in politics. The
rest are bachelors and spinsters. From this group of about
60,000, the PPM has, by word of mouth, and from under the noses
of the MIC and PPP, recruited a third of them. It is impressive
by any means. It does not include those irrevocably committed to
opposition parties, like Mr Karpal Singh and sons, or MIC like
Tan Sri K.S. Nijhar, and their Sikh followers. Despite its
undoubtedly superb organisational skills, the PPM is not into
The BN, which can cook figures better more elegantly than
Arther Anderson in Enron, must have smelt a rat. It does not
like a supplicant who outdoes it in such matters as membership.
Its members claim to be so organised that all members who could
be in politics in their communities already are. They know their
figures lie. So why should the PPM claim be true? UMNO claims
more members than they are adult Malays. The MIC claims more
members than they are adult Indians. MCA claims more Chinese in
its ranks than could possibly be. The other Chinese political
party, the Gerakan, mopped up what MCA could not. The MCA claim
at least is believable. In a party squabble nearly two decades
ago, the membership list included thousands whose last residence
for years had been the area's cemetries; many were Malays and
Indians who took on Chinese names to join, so enamoured they were
of the MCA that they wanted to join it by hook or by crook. That
tradition continues there, if no where else.
It is numbers which determine a non-Malay party's strength
in BN, not its ability to be returned to parliament and state
assemblies and to rejoice in the sinecures and titles in the BN's
gift. So, when the opposition parties claim a decent membership
(even here, fudging is the norm, though not as blatant as in BN),
it is attacked by the BN parties. UMNO proves its case by
getting members by the thousands whenever there is a byelection.
Some of the fellows who crossed struck lotteries as well:
several move around in Proton Wajas they got after they saw the
light, and moved into the BN camp. If you add up the members
claimed by all political parties in Malaysia, the total would
suggest a political acuity amongst toddlers and schoolchildren in
Malaysia, barred as they are from politics by law, and join
political parties in droves before they are legally allowed to.
So BN then did not need PPM. But its dustbin, the People's
Progressive Party (PPP) does. Its president, Senator Dato' M.
Kayveas, asked PPM to join PPP and head into irrelevance. The
PPP cannot understand why Malaysians do not rush to join its
ranks. But if the mountain would not come to Mohamed, Mohamed
would go to the mountain. And PPP scours Indian groups -- mark
you, this multiracial party is interested only in Indians -- to
ask their members to join the party. As usual, he knows not what
he talks about.
Social clubs and organisations cannot but be apolitical.
Asking its members to join PPP would make his political career
shorter than it is. I did not join social organisations so I
could sneak into PPP as a member. He thinks one joins a
political party to praise the leader and shut up. All require a
conformity to party dictates many self-respecting Malaysians
would not agree. Malaysians are asked to join political parties
to boost numbers. Dato' Kayveas does not begin to understand all
this. His big problem now is to get a PPP member to stand for
elections for a state assembly or parliament. It is, for him and
PPP, tougher than climbing Mount Everest. Not when Dato' Seri S.
Samy Vellu, Dato' Seri Lim Kheng Yaik and others watch his
political antics like hawks.
He does not understand why the Siks must reject his offer:
they believe their rights are better addressed if in the BN in
their own right. But these are weighty matters of law, culture
and citizenship that one accustomed to throw rubbish into dustbins
cannot be expected to know. He needs to prove to Malaysians how
irrelevant he and his party are in the scheme of things. He provides
the much-needed comic relief.