Is Hishammuddin Apologizing For The Wrong Thing?

The biggest piece of news this weekend has to be the ‘apology’ by Hishammuddin Hussein for raising the keris during the last 2 UMNO General Assemblies. However, some commentators have mentioned that the apology came a little too late. Karpal Singh of DAP has this to say:

“He should have apologised long ago. There is no use slamming the barn gate after the mare has bolted.”

Personally, Hishammuddin’s apology means nothing to me, because I think he truly missed the whole point. Here is what he has to say:

“I am sorry if it had affected the non-Malays,” he told reporters after attending a Barisan Nasional (BN) Youth meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

At the same time, he also apologised to the Malays over his “failure to uphold the Malay symbol (keris)”.

The values of the keris is not what has been portrayed by certain factions but the “current realities” (election results) show otherwise, he explained.

“I’m not a vain and arrogant person and I can accept this. This is also a sad lesson for me but if the politics of today say otherwise, I’ve to accept it,” said Hishammuddin, who is also BN Youth chief.

“The struggles of BN is ultimately more important than myself and we cannot indulge in actions which will frighten other races,” he added. “This is a realisation that we’ve come to today in our meeting after one-and-a-half months of soul-searching.”

But when asked if keris-waving would be discontinued at this year’s Umno Youth assembly, Hishammuddin replied, “This is not the forum to discuss that.”

Why do I think Hishammuddin missed the mark? As I had blogged earlier in Hishammuddin Explains the Keris At UMNO General Assembly 2007 and We will see the keris until we are de-sensitized, I had said the following:

To be honest, kissing or waving or unsheathing the keris is a non-issue for me. It’s a free country, people should be able to do whatever they want. But it becomes an issue when the actions are combined with words filled with hate and a threat of aggression.

It’s really not the keris that people feel threatened by. I mean, the Agong seems to wear one during official functions, and people do not feel threatened by that.
It’s what you do to the keris (holding the keris with a facial expression of someone who has gone amok) that puts fear and doubt into people’s minds.

So if Hishammuddin wants to continue this ‘tradition’, then all power to the guy. But please remember, the keris is not just a symbol, it is a weapon, and weapons kill people. Don’t use the keris to make a point in an irresponsible manner.
People might get a bad impression. And Malaysians will not be de-sensitized. It’s just going to strengthen a lot of stereotypes that they already have, and that’s not going to do much good to unity in this country.

My point is, Hishammuddin does not need to apologize for raising and kissing the keris.

He should apologize for his silence in the aftermath of waving the keris with his war face on, when there were members from the floor urging him to use it on others. Silence means acceptance in the eyes of many, especially if you’re a leader of UMNO Youth. He should apologize for perhaps even inciting the UMNO members in the crowd to speak up in such a manner. To those who forgot, here’s a pic to jog the memory:

Hishammuddin and the Keris

I also take issue with the way he has fashioned his apology. He apologized “if it had affected the non-Malays” (as if it didn’t). And he apologized to the Malays for not upholding the Malay symbol (which further reinforces the false notion in many people’s minds that the non-Malays have no respect for Malay culture and are out to destroy Malay culture).

I hope that Malaysians will not miss the point and demonize the act of raising the keris (especially if done responsibly). Malaysians should focus instead on how the keris was waved in an aggressive manner coupled with calls of hate for using it on other people.

Other views on the blogosphere:

No keris-wiedling in December
he apologised but…
Sorry for the keris waving, but I may do it again
Hang Tuah Would Be Very Sad