Saturday, June 29, 2013

Going bonkers over Jonker Walk

Going bonkers over Jonker Walk
 
QUESTION TIME The closing down of the Jonker Walk night market in Malacca’s Chinatown is yet another reflection and manifestation of the hard stand that some people within Umno are taking against the so-called ‘Chinese tsunami’ in the last general election.

While common sense may have prevailed to stop this totally short-sighted move by the new chief minister of Malacca, who is now vigorously backpedalling after his earlier outbursts and his highly irrational justification of the closure, that something like this can happen is a major cause for concern.

Various quarters - and especially Umno-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia - have systematically attempted to fan Malay hatred against the Chinese by perpetrating half-truths, portraying the swing of Chinese votes away from BN as a plot by the community to take over political power.

Although such an assertion cannot be true simply because Chinese voters only form some 28 percent of the total, and the opposition which also has Malay-based parties such as PKR and PAS for whom the Chinese voted, no major Umno leader has come out to openly condemn such blatantly racist and possibly seditious remarks aimed at inciting racial tensions.

NONEThis has resulted in more so-called Malay champions such as the Malacca chief minister coming forward to do what they, in their myopic view, see as their duty to punish those who voted against the BN, and especially the Chinese.

While Malacca Chief Minister Idris Haron (right) now denies that there was an element of punishment in the move to close the Jonker Walk night market and insists that traffic alleviation was the purpose, that was not what he maintained at first.

Malaysiakini reported that according to Kwong Wah Daily, Idris had argued that the decision passed by the Malacca executive council on June 12 to close the night market - which has been attracting tourists for 13 years - "follows the intention of the people".

Idris reminded that it was DAP that protested against the state government's decision to cordon off Jonker Walk from road users to make way for the night market, when the idea was first mooted.

That time, he said, DAP slammed the state government for sacrificing the interests of road users to benefit only some 200 hawkers.

'We hope they will be happy'
"Now, we see most of the Malacca residents fully supporting DAP over MCA candidates who have been serving them. Hence, we decided to cancel the night market and we hope they will be happy," the daily quotes Idris as saying.

He admitted that MCA's electoral defeat in the state prompted the closure of Jonker Walk. Incredibly, he added that he was not worried about the impact of the closure as there were other tourist destinations in Malacca.

NONEHowever, Idris backtracked when Tourism Minister Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz (left) denied that the Jonker Walk night market has been closed down in order to punish Chinese hawkers who did not support MCA and the government in the May 5 general election.

In the meantime, the prime minister weighed in by saying that he will discuss the closure of Jonker Walk with the state government, putting further pressure on Idris. Perhaps the hitherto little-known Idris might take comfort in the fact that he is now the centre of attention and that he might be regarded among Umno hardliners as a sort of hero.

If he intends to go for a position in the Umno polls later this year, the entire silly episode may give him some standing. Aspiring, upcoming politicians know only too well that taking a hard stance is one of the quickest ways of getting recognised. Loss of credibility is probably more than compensated for by name recognition.

What is amazing about this entire event is that a chief minister can go to the extent of deliberately closing down Jonker Walk, affect the livelihood of perhaps up to 200 stall and shop owners, and even adversly affect the tourism industry, which is a mainstay of Malacca’s economy.

NONEIf so many tourists are coming to Malacca and causing traffic jams in and around Malacca because of Jonker Walk and its attractions, surely the solution must lie in easing the traffic congestion rather than killing the golden goose.

Those who come to Jonker Street surely will also go to other parts of Malacca and partake of its other offerings. It stands to reason that everyone - not just Jonker Street traders whatever race they may be - will benefit if more people come to the street.

But the ultimate result of hate-mongering is that the nose is cut to spite the entire face. Let’s stop these kinds of incidents in their tracks, focus on what is best for everyone, and let reason and common sense prevail.

Unfortunately, this is something we seem to be finding increasingly harder to do in the wake of the general election.

P GUNASEGARAM is founding editor of KiniBiz.

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