August 9, 2017
Malaysia: The Ambitious Home Affairs Minister
by Mariam Mokhtar
Prime Minister Najib Razak–There is a knife behind your back, watch it!
Is Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi a liability, a loose cannon or Najib Abdul Razak’s loyal henchman? It is never a proud moment when one scores an own goal, so what was Zahid thinking, when he attacked the lineage of the former PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamad?
In one fell swoop, Zahid undermined his boss Najib’s “1Malaysia” pledge of a diverse nation. On the other hand, many Malaysians feel that Zahid may have done them a favour by inadvertently airing the sensitive issue of “ethnicity”.
In the past, Malay nationalists have taken pot shots at the non-Malays, and told the Chinese to “balik Tongsan” and the Indians, to “balik India”. Now, the Malaysians of Indonesian stock can be told to “balik Indon”.
More importantly, when Zahid commented upon Mahathir’s Indian heritage, he attracted jibes of “The pot calling the kettle black” because of Zahid’s Indonesian origins.
With that attack backfiring, Zahid then criticised Mahathir for his role in the Memali massacre of 1985. This may damage Zahid more than it will Mahathir.
Zahid has grabbed the wrong end of the stick. Eye-witness accounts allege that Umno Kedah had warned Mahathir that the charismatic and influential PAS ustaz, Ibrahim “Libya” Mahmood, was their greatest threat in the (then) upcoming general election of 1986. They predicted that UMNO Kedah would lose to PAS.
Musa Hitam (photo) has already said that Mahathir was in KL and not in Beijing on the day of the incident. The critical question is, why 32 years later, PAS and its leader, Abdul Hadi Awang, are aligning themselves with UMNO-Baru? Mahathir once said, “Melayu mudah lupa”. Zahid should question PAS’ allegiance with UMNO-Baru after the betrayal.
Does Zahid’s personal staff enjoy the schadenfreude of seeing him make public gaffes? His speech, in English, at the United Nations, made Malaysians squirm with embarrassment. Even my grandparents’ generation, living in the kampung, speak better English. Zahid’s speech writer probably over-estimated Zahid’s proficiency in English.
When Zahid was the Defence Minister, in 2012, the English version of Mindef’s official website became a Twitter and Facebook sensation. His humiliation was made complete when he closed down the site and admitted that his staff had relied on the free online services of Google Translate. A similar Manglish caption was also used to welcome former President Barack Obama to Malaysia.
Zahid’s lack of commitment to the rakyat
Malaysians are furious about Najib’s assertion that an Arab Prince made a RM2.6 billion donation and yet Zahid took only three minutes to address Parliament about this serious issue. Three minutes is the time it takes to cook a perfect soft-boiled egg. Zahid’s casual attitude towards this matter shows his lack of commitment to the rakyat.
During the September 2015 Red Shirt rally, the red-shirts went on the rampage, damaging property, cussing and insulting others. Their leaders had little control over them.
Zahid publicly supported the red-shirts’ mission to “defend” Malay dignity, and said, “Do we keep quiet when our dignity is challenged, and when we are pushed against the wall? …we will rise to defend our dignity.”
What is so dignified about trashing public property during a rally? How had Malay dignity been challenged? Why defend MO1 and the missing billions of ringgit?
We want compassionate leaders, but two examples demonstrate their lack of empathy with the public. When seven Orang Asli (OA) school children disappeared from their rural boarding school, in August 2015, the security forces only conducted their search and rescue mission on the fifth day of their disappearance.
Valuable time was lost because the authorities dismissed the parents’ concerns. Seven weeks later, two children were found a stone’s throw away from the school. Five had perished.
In 1998, Zahid, who was a close ally of the former DPM, Anwar Ibrahim, criticised corrupt government officials during Mahathir’s tenure. Now, Zahid is the Home Minister and DPM. He has restricted Anwar’s family’s access to him and curtailed prison visits during Raya.
Anwar’s daughter, Hana explained her father’s treatment, when she said, “Power can change people. My family and I have seen this phenomenon, since 1998.”
When Zahid became the Home Minister in 2013, he claimed that 250,000 Shi’ite Muslims were hiding in Malaysia, and started a systematic witch-hunt to track them. Former PAS Deputy President, Mat Sabu, was also accused of involvement in Shi’ite activities.
This targeting of religious minorities is worrying. With a DPM who previously expressed support for the Malay gang, Tiga Line, one wonders if the abductions of Pastor Raymond Koh and social activist, Amri Che Mat, are linked to the criminal underworld.
As DPM, Zahid may have the heads of departments and the Armed Forces at his beck and call, but now, he must be feeling isolated. His increasingly incoherent and personal attacks have isolated the non-Malays, virtuous Malays, the mamaks and the Shi’ites; in other words, decent, law-abiding Malaysians.
Incredibly, Zahid has managed to make both Mahathir and Najib look good.