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Where has all the violence gone? Mapping old and new conflict.

In Francis Loh Kok Wah (ed.) Building Bridges, Crossing Boundaries: Everyday forms of Inter-ethnic Peace Building in Malaysia, Jakarta and Kajang: The Ford Foundation and Malaysian Social Science Association, 2010, pp. 15-51
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    Where Has All The Violence Gone? Mapping Old and New Conicts   13 Part I   Everyday 1.indd 1305-10-09 3:33:16 PM  14   Building Bridges, Crossing Boundaries    Everyday 1.indd 1405-10-09 3:33:16 PM    Where Has All The Violence Gone? Mapping Old and New Conicts   15 1 Where Has All The Violence Gone? Mapping Old and New Conficts  Francis Loh Kok Wah It is axiomatic that major as well as minor conicts occur in any society,  particularly in complex societies. At base, this is due to competing views and interests as well as attempts to dominate which are then resisted.  Not unlike many of its neighbours, Malaysia is a complex society in two senses – it is multi-ethnic and multi-religious and   it is a society undergoing rapid economic development which has contributed towards structuration along class, patriarchal, regional and other fault-lines as well. The important point is to ensure that conicts do not result in widespread violence and life is civil instead of ‘nasty, brutish and short’. It is for this reason, according to Hobbes, that we need to surrender our right to harm and kill others to a third party, namely the Leviathan state, which then assumes a monopoly over the use of violence. However, history has shown that once granted such inherent powers, there is all likelihood that the state begins to act arbitrarily to promote its own visions and interests at the expense of those of the rest of society. Therefore, to prevent or minimise abuse of that power, we need laws to regulate the role of the state too. We need to distinguish the various roles of the state and to separate the powers of the Executive from the Legislature, and from the Judiciary, so that these bodies can act as ‘checks and balances’ of one another. Via an autonomous Judiciary, and especially  popular election of the members of the Legislature, an attempt can be made to control the Executive, making it responsive to society. The introduction of competitive party systems and regular elections, as well as guarantees of fundamental liberties to all citizens, including the right to argue one’s case   15 Everyday 1.indd 1505-10-09 3:33:17 PM  16   Building Bridges, Crossing Boundaries  in the Courts of Law, further ensure that conicts are settled in non-violent fashion. Decentralising power from the centre to the provinces or states, even better down to the local authorities via some system of federalism, is also a good idea. It is partly because of these arrangements to embed ‘the rule of law’ that we witness fewer occurrences of violence in western liberal democracies. However, the relative absence of violence has also to do with producing greater wealth and   sharing that wealth. The socio-economic rights of the lower classes can be promoted via recognizing their claims to equity and carrying out social reforms. Indeed, the gap  between the upper and lower classes in western capitalist societies, which had opened up during the early days of industrialisation, was narrowed to some extent as a result of such social reforms. The interests and rights of women, cultural and religious minorities, and other marginalised groups, have also to be accommodated to some extent to secure the peace. Unless socio-economic and gender equality, and the cultural/religious rights of minority groups are recognized, no sense of common citizenry can emerge. Or put another way, multilayered notions of citizenship will not  be able to secure political stability and peace. Alas, with the turn towards neo-liberalism since the 1980s and the dismantling of the welfare state throughout western industrialized societies, many past gains towards lasting peace have been reversed. Indeed, the Southeast Asian nation-states are even more prone to violence. The usual reason given is that they are multi-ethnic, multi-religious societies. By extension, it has been difcult for these plural societies to entrench the rule of law so soon after Independence. In this regard Malaysia stands out as aberration; for although it is multi-ethnic and multi-religious, and a relatively new nation, it enjoys considerable  political stability. Why this is so will be discussed later in this Chapter. In what follows, I rst recount briey the violence associated with the formation of the Malaysian nation-state beginning from the late 1940s until the May 1969 communal riots. This is followed by some discussion of the tensions and conicts which arose after the introduction and implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and other related  policies which generally favoured Malays and the other bumiputera   groups. Second, I discuss in detail the new kinds of conicts that have emerged especially since the 1980s. In comparison to the earlier phase of conicts, the latter-day conicts are no longer related to the question of nation-state formation. Rather, they have arisen in conjunction with rapid industrialization and the uneven spread of development. However, Everyday 1.indd 1605-10-09 3:33:17 PM    Where Has All The Violence Gone? Mapping Old and New Conicts   17  because Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society, some of these conicts have taken on an ethno-religious veneer. But there are also new kinds of conicts arising from the patriarchal structure of Malaysian society, the pre-eminence given to private property over claims to social equity, and the abuse of power by state authorities, even as development  proceeds apace. Nation-State Formation Conicts, 1945-1969 Major conicts associated with the formation of the Malaysian (earlier Malayan) nation-state occurred during1945-1969. These major conicts involved the ruling authorities on the one hand, and the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and its supporters on the other. Almost immediately after World War II, the CPM mobilised its supporters against the state authorities - rst the British colonisers and after 1957, the independent government of Malaya. Its ultimate goal was to usher in a socialist republic instead of any attenuated Westminster political system and capitalist-style economic system the state authorities sought to impose. Insofar as the majority of the members of the CPM and its supporters were Chinese, and the police and military personnel associated with the British/Malayan authorities were predominantly Malays, these conicts relating to nation-state-formation took on ethnic overtones as well. I have compiled a list of pre-1970s conicts drawing from NOC (1969), Short (1975), Cheah (1988), Loh (1989), Ramasamy (1994) and Chin (1997). These major conicts include:• the Bintang Tiga Malay-Chinese clashes lasting a month in 1945 during the interregnum after the surrender of the Japanese and before the arrival of the British.• the Emergency 1948-60 when the CPM was engaged in an anti-colonial guerrilla war against the British. One of the ways the CPM was defeated was by resettling some 1.2 million residents, or one-tenth of the entire Malayan population in the 1950s. Principally Chinese, about half of these people were relocated around existing small towns, tin mines, factories, saw mills and plantations while another half were forcibly moved into 480 New Villages established in the rural areas. These New Villages were fenced with barbed wire, and the residents subjected to curfew, body searches and other restrictions. No doubt, this was a ‘violent’ experience for the New Villagers. From the security point of view, however, separating the CPM guerrillas from Everyday 1.indd 1705-10-09 3:33:17 PM
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