May 12, 2015
Phnom Penh by The Mekong
MInister Paul Low is right in pointing out that race-based politics is unavoidable in Malaysia. That is the first decent and realistic comment he made since he assumed his ministerial post in Najib’s Cabinet. But apart from saying that “the people” want it and Malaysian politicians are driven by “political survival”, he did not say why this was so. If politics is not about serving the people, then what is it?
It is going to take time, that is true. There is caveat to this. Malaysian politics will not change unless we start doing away with raced-based political parties like UMNO, MCA, MIC and the Islam based PAS. That is ideal but UMNO does not want to be seen to be “abandoning the Malays and Islam”. Remember Dato Onn Jaafar tried it. When he could not, he resigned to set up Party Negara, which did not take off because this great Malaysian was too ahead of his time.
UMNO is still a major player today. It is backed by racist NGOs like PERKASA and ISMA and others. That is why under pressure from Malay nationalists and pressure groups UMNO has been playing with race and religion to galvanize Malay support, especially in the rural heartland.
UMNO President Najib Razak is not a reformer of the Onn Jaafar mold. He will not do anything that will sacrifice UMNO and run the risk of being remembered in history as the UMNO leader who abandoned the Malay cause. Maybe he is concerned about his political survival. But if he continues with mismanaging the economy which is burdening the Malays in particular, he will find that he will lose the support of his party and his UMNO presidency. He will be humiliated and his premiership will end as well.
Both the MCA and MIC are losing support of the respective communities. The reason for this clear. They are seen to be lackeys of UMNO. To survive they must reform. That is not possible in the immediate future. The current leaders are perceived to have benefited from UMNO largesse, being content to play a subordinate role to UMNO warlords. Both MCA and MIC must too deal with internal problems. Looking ahead to the next few years as GE-14 approaches, they could face rejection from Chinese, Indian and other voters.
Pakatan Rakyat did well in 2008 when they fired the imagination of Malaysian voters. In 2013, they received more than 50 percent of the popular vote. We thought we were heading towards a two coalition party system in our country. That prospect grows dim by the day.
Following the Khalid Ibrahim saga and the incarceration of Anwar Ibrahim, we witnessed the political game played by PAS President Ustaz Hadi Awang, who resurfaced as the champion of Hudud Law. His erratic and flip-flopping conduct has put Pakatan Rakyat in a quandary as UMNO seeks to entice PAS away from the opposition coalition by the playing the Islam and Malay unity card. PAS has reached a turning point in its history with a clash between the conservative hardline Ulama faction and the Erodogan moderate group very much in the works. There is now a strong likelihood that should the Ulamas win the contest, the Erodogans may form a new party, PASMA.
Anwar’s party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has problems of its own. Who will succeed Wan Azizah as President. It is going to be clash between a young and ambitious group led by party led Secretary-General Rafizi Ramli and Nurul Izzah and others who want to keep the recently elected Permatang Puah Member as party president for as long as they, and the supporters of Azmin Ali, the dyanmic incumbent Menteri Besar of Selangor; the Azmin faction wants to see a change in party leadership so that the party can be a strong coalition partner again.
The DAP, on the hand, has no serious issues within its ranks. Party elders are gradually paving the way for a new generations of very qualified and professional leaders like Teresa Koh, Tony Pua, Liew Chin Tong, Ong Kian Ming, Anthony Loke, Gobin Singh Deo, Zairil Khir Johari, Dr. Ariffin Omar, Kula Segaran, just to name a few. The party is not short on talent. But it must recruit more non-Chinese members to eliminate the stigma of being perceived as a chauvinistic party.
As far as politics is concerned, Malaysia is into exciting yet uncertain times. The ruling UMNO- Barisan Nasional regime is under threat. Its leader is fighting for his political future. One should not be surprised, in his struggle to survive, he will take his case to the Malay rural heartland, where he can be expected to play the race and religion card. Minister Paul Low is right. We should not expect politics of race and religion to go away anytime soon. But that does not mean we must not strive towards an issues-based politics–Din Merican
Paul Low: Race-based Politics is Unavoidable
Race-based politics is unavoidable because politicians rely on it to ensure their survival, a minister said, despite research showing that such voters are increasingly against such politics.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low said that politicians had to satisfy the wants of the people in rural areas who still voted based on race.
“The last election had shown that race and religion in the rural areas were key factors behind the support for the government in power today,” he said at a forum, The Great Debate: Everything in Moderation, held in Kuala Lumpur last night.
“Suppose politicians say they want to change now, then the question they will ask is, ‘will I receive votes from the people in the rural areas if I change?’ So to politicians, it is a risk. Why should they take a risk?”
His comments caused the moderator, Sharaad Kuttan from BFM, to interject and ask Low if there was no political will to do away with race-based politics.Low replied: “No, it is political survival.”
Another speaker at the forum, writer Niki Cheong quipped that he was “depressed” with Low’s contention.”So the reason why we’re not moderate is because politicians want to win the elections and therefore they tell these people that they have to think along racial lines as this is the only way they can survive.If these people are the ones leading our country, then sorry, I’m depressed,” Cheong said, to laughter from the crowd.
PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi says the popular vote won by Pakatan Rakyat in the last general election proves that race-based politics is not necessary anymore in Malaysia. .PKR Youth chief Nik Nazmi says the popular vote won by Pakatan Rakyat in the last general election proves that race-based politics is not necessary anymore in Malaysia. Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad who pointed out that 52% of voters who voted for Pakatan Rakyat in the 13th general election had in fact rejected race-based politics.”So there is a possibility to eliminate race-based politics if there is political will,” he added.
Speaking to reporters after the forum, Low said that there were still many who subscribed to race-based politics and who vote based on that. “The parties are still based on race because there are people who support such parties,” he said.
“People are still ingrained with that mentality. This is why politicians are still catering to it. In the end, it is for their political survival.”
In March, a survey carried out by independent pollster Merdeka Center found that Malaysian voters overwhelmingly want political parties which take care of all Malaysians, rather than ones that fight for just their own race and religion.
The survey, commissioned by The Malaysian Insider, found that the racial rhetoric these parties thrive on was not consistent with what Malaysians want. The major component parties of the ruling Barisan Nasional government – UMNO, MIC and MCA – rely heavily on race-based politics to drum up support.
Low, the minister in charge of governance, integrity and human rights, also claimed that Malaysia needed more time to tackle race and religion issues despite almost 58 years of independence. “We are still a young nation. 53 years (sic) is not enough for a transition period. We are a very young country.
“The United States took some 300 years to tackle racial issues. So 53 years is not enough,” he added. – May 12, 2015.