Malaysiakini : "That will be my message to young people out there. I felt
empowered at 18, that I could do anything, that I will not allow fear to
dictate my actions." - Nurul Izzah Anwar
COMMENT | The grand Umno poohbah, now opposition leader, says that the “public” – read, Malays – are unhappy
with the Pakatan Harapan government. If that is the case, there would
be thousands on the streets, like what happened with the numerous
rallies when BN lost the popular vote in 2013.
Remember that. Thousands on the streets, even though we lost, going
to post-election rallies. That is rakyat power and not these snivelling
NGOs and Rais Yatim (of course) reminding the government of Malay rights.
About the only thing I agree with our current Malay opposition leader
– I say Malay, because Umno and PAS only care about the Malay vote - is
that Lim Kit Siang should stop stalking him. I mean this with the
utmost respect, Mr Kit Siang, but there is neither a need to remind
people what a kleptocrat Najib Abdul Razak is, nor is it necessary to
remind people how toxic his
politics – our? – politics is.Instead of studying every word Najib
says, effort should be spent on describing how Harapan intends to remedy
the mistakes of the long Umno watch. There is no need to fire up the
What someone like Kit Siang should be doing is expanding the base and
the way how to do this, to inform people of the reforms that Harapan is
in the midst of that would change the lives of Malaysians for the
If there is anything to talk about, of course, do talk. Because
continuing screeds against Najib is best left to political pundits and
not elder statesmen. Kit should be starting conversations on the
possible changes in Malaysia and ensuring that political parties in
Harapan do not revert to the days of Najib's Birkin Bag democracy.
The Malay far right is like Cardinal Richeliue. All you have to do is
give them six lines written by the hand of an honest man, and they will
find something to hang him with. In politics, there are no honest men.
Hence the Harapan political operatives should be mindful.
Of the Malay opposition I wrote this:
“The Malay opposition will define itself by offering a virulent
counter-narrative when it comes to issues of race and religion. They
will attempt to force the Harapan regime to demonstrate how committed
they are in their secular principles, and of course their egalitarian
principles – if they are committed to these at all.
“Add to this the perception that the ketuanan types will
project that the ‘Chinese-based’ element of Harapan is pulling the
strings will no doubt come into play, and it will be interesting to see
how equal power sharing translates in this new milieu.”
Corruption and religious hypocrisy
While Najib may claim that Kit Siang is equating
Islam with kleptocracy, the reality is that corruption and religious
hypocrisy go hand in hand. That has always been the problem with the way
how the DAP has attempted to use Islam in politics. My advice has
always been to stay away from religion.
Embrace your secular position and defend it without having to rely on
religion – any religion – to make your case. Speak up against religious
harassment but do not attempt to define religious beliefs in line with
your political agendas.
While I may bitch and moan about what Harapan is doing or not doing,
the reality is that, for once, there is a bigger democratic space in the
Malaysians political and social landscape, where the state will not
stamp its boot on your throat at the slightest provocation.
The only people who are unhappy with the Harapan government are the
far right instigators who think that when someone, for example, like
Nurul Izzah Anwar (photo) wants to clean house with a TVET programme. They smell the fear in each other that their corrupt practices would be made public.
Anecdotally speaking, I think the average rakyat knows this. They
know they have been screwed for so long and they understand that the
government is attempting to do things to rectify the situation. That's
the baseline. A small amount of cautious goodwill that should not be
conflated by the social media outpourings by the Harapan faithful.
Khairy Jamaluddin may hope that the PAS/Umno Sungai Kandis tango is a one-off thing,
but we all know that this is the new normal for Malaysian politics. But
here’s the thing. The genie is out of the bottle. Malaysians understand
now that regime change is possible. And however you self-identify,
there’s this feeling that the rakyat can hold the government
accountable. The genie of regime change is out of the bottle.
Umno miscalculated with PAS. Whenever I speak to PAS political
operatives and activists, I get the sense that the base is fired-up. For
once they think they really have the upper hand. PAS may have split the
Malay vote in the last election but they know that this cannot be the
strategy forever. PAS is testing the waters with Umno, knowing full well
that their base is divided on working with Umno.
Slowly shifting to Bersatu
Sooner or later Umno is going to fall before PAS. Look, even the most
unsophisticated PAS member knows that PAS is offering something to the
Malay voting demographic. Religion. What is Umno offering?
Umno can’t say it is the protector of race and religion anymore
because everyone who had a role in propagating that has been slowly
shifting to Bersatu. People like me may complain about the religious and
racial politics of Harapan, but the reality for a majority of
Malaysians is that this sort of equilibrium is something they are used
Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's (photo) nose may twitch whenever he thinks he smells
some sort of transgression in the Malay social and political terrain
but the reality is that most Malays will eventually settle on the fact
that the new ruling coalition will look after their rights, much like Dr
Mahathir Mohamad did when he ran Umno. That’s not a rat he smells –
those are Umno establishment rats abandoning ship.
The best part about this whole new Malaysia is that, for once, the
majority Malay community understands that the power they wield is not
dependent on Umno. If the Malays were really spooked, there would have
been hundreds of thousands at that rally with Rais Yatim. The young Malay vote is the key.
You see it in the way how former propagandists still ply their trade,
aided by young extremist voices, new voices emerging questioning sacred
cows that rattle the cage and the way how, for once, there’s a sense of
real uncertainty when it comes to the Malay vote. This is a good thing.
There is really no point banging the drum on racial and religious
issues. All it does is to remind young Malay voters how they have been
screwed over by the system.
What Harapan should do is encourage young Malays through economic and
social reforms, so they become suspicious whenever a political party
claims that only their party can look after their interests.