Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The cost of Malay political disunity | theSundaily


The cost of Malay political disunity

Posted on 23 December 2014 - 07:22pm

Azman Ujang

WHEN it comes to calling a spade a spade regarding the woes afflicting the Malays, no one does it better than Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Malaysians first began to take notice of the man in 1970 when he came out with his controversial book The Malay Dilemma which was banned by the government under Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Of course when a book is banned, it becomes even more popular and The Malay Dilemma was a "must buy" item for Malaysians visiting Singapore where it sold like hot cakes until the ban was lifted.

He analysed with stark frankness all about the Malays, which in his words, was necessary not only to encourage the Malays to know themselves but also for the non-Malays to understand the Malay reaction to the problems of the day.

"No apologies are offered. What I have written is written with sincerity," he wrote in the first book of its kind against the backdrop of the May 13, 1969 riots in Kuala Lumpur and 11 years before he became prime minister.

The most damning warning he gave in the book is his belief that it's not entirely out of the question that "ultimately, political power might prove the complete downfall of the Malays".

And for 22 years as prime minister, his most popular mantra for his race was "Melayu mudah lupa" (Malays easily forget) and he readily admits that he has failed to change the Malay mindset.

Over the weekend and almost 45 years after The Malay Dilemma was published came another vintage Mahathir outburst. He said because the Malays are now badly split politically, they have become the minority in a country where they are the majority.

And because of their disunity, the Malays are now forced to become beggars for support in the general election. As he put it: "When we become beggars, we no longer have power. The country's success does not guarantee the success of the Malays."

He's talking about Malays having split into three "sects" – Umno, PAS and PKR – that has resulted in the Malay political power base splintering three ways, with each having no more than 50% of support.

This has become even more evident during the last two general elections where the Barisan Nasional led by Umno lost its popular vote for the first time but retained power on account of winning more seats in Parliament based on the Westminster-concept of government.

The BN lost even more seats in last year's general election because in Peninsular Malaysia, its component parties like MCA, Gerakan and MIC were virtually rejected by the races that they used to represent or formed their traditional support base.

What this means is the BN is still in power today thanks to the continued support from just two states – Sabah and Sarawak – with their 56 seats in Parliament.
But what most people, including BN politicians in the peninsula, forget or seem to ignore is that when we talk of Sabah and Sarawak, about 70% are non-Malays or non-Muslims and they are the ones that still form a major part of the BN stronghold.

"It's not impossible the Malays will lose their political power despite being the majority if they continue their political bickerings and disunity. Dr Mahathir has fired his latest salvo because he wants to see the Malays united politically before it's too late," warned prominent Sarawak political analyst Dr Jeniri Amir.

He said the Malay political power is very much at stake with their grip on politics loosening and they only have themselves to blame if they don't come to their senses.

Datuk Dr Ishak Tambi Kechik, a former vice-chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia, told me it's still not too late for Umno and PAS as the two biggest Malay parties to work towards political reconciliation as was the political landscape in the mid-1970's under prime minister Tun Abdul Razak until they split in 1978.

The onus is now on Razak's son, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib, to repeat this political "feat" although on paper it's easier said than done.

"I must thank Dr Mahathir for again giving this warning to the Malays and it's a very strong warning indeed," said Ishak.

Ishak said although PAS's spiritual leader Datuk Seri Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat is against such a move, for the sake of Malay political survival, he believes chances of this to happen are there when Nik Aziz's deputy, Datuk Dr Haron Din, the highly respected ulama, takes over the position.

I'm baffled by the way DAP founder Lim Kit Siang has grossly misrepresented and taken completely out of context Mahathir's "Malay becoming beggars" remarks.

Kit Siang, who has been 48 years in active politics and the country's longest serving politician, asked why after 57 years of Umno-led government and six Umno prime ministers, Umno deputy prime ministers and the heavyweight Umno ministers besides the heads of the civil service, police, armed forces and senior heads of departments and university vice-chancellors being Malays, Mahathir is still saying the Malays have lost political power and become beggars in their own land?

The "beggars" dimension that Mahathir talks about does not refer to begging for things other than begging for the support of the non-Malays in the general election per se. This is borne out by fact that the Malay hold on power amid the acute Malay political split, is being kept intact with the support of the non-Malays in Sabah and Sarawak especially.

And Kit Siang has also challenged Mahathir to debate on the "Malays now beggars" claim.

What is there to debate? The former prime minister is just telling the truth and all Malays know it and the sooner they rally behind the clarion call for Malay political unity, the safer is their future.

Definitely, Mahathir won't give Kit Siang the "cheap thrill" of engaging in a debate over what is basically a Malay problem and which Kit Siang should keep out of.

With a potentially huge vote bank among Gen Y, Azman thinks the Malays can no longer take their political power for granted. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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