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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 into BN.

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.

M.G.G. Pillai