Shifting Alliances in the Corridors of Power


September 21, 2018

Opinion

Shifting Alliances in the Corridors of Power

 

The Pathetic Inheritors of the Corrupt UMNO Najib Legacy

COMMENT | Former minister Nazri Abdul Aziz is now brazenly saying out in the open that UMNO’s best-case scenario for future prospects is to support and team up with Anwar Ibrahim.

More than any party here by far, UMNO is a collection of fat cats.They reached their heights of obesity and opulence by sitting in the free-ride comforts of a government they never imagined losing control of.

Quite simply, almost all UMNO leaders have absolutely none of the integrity, experience, gumption, skill, drive, motivation, diligence, intelligence, passion, know-how, fibre, endurance (you get the idea) or interest really, required for being an effective or successful politician outside of the federal government.

All the UMNO fat cats really want is a shortcut that will take them from the cold rain, in which they now shiver and starve, back into the warm government mansion they grew up in, to purr and preen in comfort amidst their never-ending gravy train.

The path Nazri seems to be advocating offers exactly that, and all they apparently have to do is to create enough friction between Bersatu and PKR, and make sure that Anwar becomes the prime minister.

As detailed in Part 1 of this article, Anwar could conceivably then dump Bersatu in favour of UMNO – especially if he starts to feel that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed may renege on his promise to hand over power.

Mahathir could of course react by calling for early elections. Perhaps it was in anticipation of such a scenario that Anwar started courting good relationships with the Malay rulers very early on, as a refusal by the palace to dissolve Parliament could complicate matters.

Mahathir taking pre-emptive measures?

Image result for master yoda mahathir mohamad

Needless to say, Mahathir is far too intelligent to let such an outflanking manoeuvre happen without a response, and calling for early elections is likely a last resort rather than the first line of defence.

I think this is the context of UMNO’s recent resignations – the post-Port Dickson timing of which could be no coincidence at all.

Not every UMNO person buys Nazri’s plan. Indeed, while most of the party members do favour the fat-cat shortcut back to power, there appears to be considerable differences of opinion as to which shortcut in particular is best.

The three main schools of thought seem to be: through PKR, through PAS, or through Bersatu.

Nazri is probably correct in pointing out that going through PAS makes pretty much no numerical or ideological sense whatsoever.

Image result for Musthapha Mohamad and Anifah Aman

Perhaps the likes of Mustapa Mohamed and Anifah Aman(pic, above) are leaning towards the Bersatu route.

This is an interesting response. If there is a sufficiently large migration from UMNO to Bersatu, this could basically make Bersatu the new UMNO in terms of their position in the coalition – a big, Malay party that everyone agrees will nominate the PM.

Splitting UMNO could also neutralise any effort by Anwar to use UMNO as a threat against Bersatu.

If large numbers of UMNO MPs join Bersatu, then the UMNO support may no longer be the same bargaining chip it currently is.

Then again, for all an outsider like me knows, Mustapa and Anifah could be the ones looking to join PKR.

Either way, those who have left clearly do not have faith in UMNO as a bloc, and appear to be seeking their futures elsewhere.

Two out of three

In summary, in this bizarre love triangle between Bersatu, PKR, and UMNO, almost any two-out-of-three combination essentially produces a workable win.

There are a number of other factors, and/or radical possibilities.

DAP will obviously play a big role, while PAS, PBB, Amanah, and Warisan will play slightly smaller ones. Then there is the Azmin Ali factor.

Only while writing this article did the scenario occur to me: Especially if Azmin loses the PKR Deputy President’s race, what’s to stop him from defecting over to Bersatu?

This solves a number of different problems for both Bersatu and Azmin.

If the PKR elections go on in its current trajectory, the bad blood between team Azmin and team Anwar may be irreconcilable, and Azmin’s position within PKR may no longer be tenable.

Azmin moving to Bersatu would give the party a more viable succession plan with regards to subsequent PMs (a Goh Chok Tong to Mukhriz Mahathir’s Lee Hsien Loong perhaps?), and the numbers that could follow Azmin would also, again, help with Bersatu’s low-in-parliamentary-seats problem.

An exodus from PKR to Bersatu would be even bigger if Bersatu goes multiracial – further reducing the role or need for a party like PKR.

These battle lines are perhaps already visible in the copious amount of columns, blog posts, and viral Whatsapp messages that are either very strongly pro- or anti-Anwar, suggesting a consolidated and coordinated effort.

The race factor

Needless to say, all of this is speculation – and a somewhat sensationalist one at that.

For all I know, we could see a smooth transition to Anwar becoming the next PM, a stable rota system put in place to determine future prime ministers, and Harapan continuing just the way it is, happy as a clam.

Or, it could all be unrecognisable inside a year. It’s hard to say.

All these seismic shifts are potentially possible in large part because ideology has almost never played a big role in modern Malaysian politics.

The only vital and somewhat ideological question is how much of a factor race should be in Malaysian politics. This may come into play, say if Umno MPs need to decide which new party they want to support.

Perhaps some see maintaining Malay supremacy as the priority, a goal which can only be achieved by supporting Bersatu or PAS, while others may prefer the PKR route.

Other than that, Malaysian politics can likely be said to be dominated more by personality politics than anything else. It often comes down to which feudal lord one likes better.

Transforming incentive structures

Of course, just because this is the way it is, doesn’t mean that this is the way it always needs to be. Changing the incentive structures and the architecture of our political system could largely eliminate the need for many of the conflicts above.

One radical way to drastically cut back on inter-party conflict (such as Bersatu and PKR fighting over long-term stewardship of the PM’s post), is simply for all Harapan parties to merge.

Many would cite mind-boggling logistical difficulties (true, no doubt), and extreme resistance to the idea by conservatives.

If we think about it though, what function does having multiple parties in the coalition actually serve?

The old BN model was simple, for the peninsular at least. We have one party for one race. If you are Malay and have a problem, go see UMNO; Chinese, look for MCA; Indian, MIC.

It was devilishly simple in its concept, but simply devilish in the divided Malaysia it eventually created.

What about the realities of today? Do we want to follow the old formula? Malays see Bersatu, Chinese see DAP, and Indians can see the new Malaysia Advancement Party?

A merged party will still have leaders and elected representatives from every community that voters will likely find approachable.

True, little Napoleons will perhaps find themselves with less power, but wouldn’t that be a good thing?

It’s a bold idea that is unlikely to see the light of day, but regardless, I do hope we keep looking to radical solutions to blaze paths forward and leave behind the endless internal politicking that takes up far too much time and energy of Malaysian politicians.

After all, all the intrigue and speculation is somewhat entertaining, but don’t we have a new Malaysia to govern?

YESTERDAY: Future PMs: Many possibilities within Bersatu, PKR and Umno triangle


NATHANIEL TAN is eager to serve.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity


September 21,2018

Malay anxiety, exclusion, and national unity

A fragmented Malay society is making ‘Malay unity’ more urgent for those defeated by GE-14.

Image result for Rais Yatim

 

Think Critically and Speak the Truth to Power with Integrity


June 23, 2018

Think Critically and Speak the Truth to Power with Integrity

by Mariam Mokhtar

http://www.malaysiakini.com

We need to iron out our differences, educate everyone and build our children’s future. We may not see the results of our work, but they will. That is why we need to continue to talk with one another, even on sensitive issues, and learn from each other’s stories.–Mariam Mohktar

COMMENT | In the past, we did not listen critically and analyse what our politicians were up to. We allowed things to slide and we complained only when things were almost at the point of no return.

Image result for Mariam Mokhtar and Mahathir Mohamad

 

We have passed the 100 days of Pakatan Harapan rule. If we become complacent, the chances are that they will end up being UMNO Baru 2.0.

Here are ten reasons why you, as the most powerful person in Malaysia, are resistant to change. We need to get rid of these bad habits, to exercise our power and be instruments for change.

Gossip

Who doesn’t love a bit of gossip? Some of us thrive on it. We are aware that denigrating someone who is not present is a disgusting habit. We also know that the person with whom we are gossiping will within a few minutes gossip about us, and yet we persist.

Drama

TV3 has made use of our ability to be absorbed by mindless, mind-crippling drama. When we want to engage others in serious conversation about important issues, people look away and switch off.

We do nothing when things go wrong instead of speaking up and complaining to the relevant people about poor customer service, or something which is underperforming, because we have more important things to do, or cannot be bothered.How can anyone even begin to help a person who will not help himself?

Being judgemental

Imagine an injustice being perpetrated against a member of the LGBT community. We speak out, but some people criticise those who are trying to help. When will we start to listen without being judgemental?

 Negativity

Image result for Malays defending Islam

The Crooked Defender of Islam–Where is this guy today? We punished him by removing from power in GE-14. We can do it again via People Power.

When there are problems in the community, like the rights of non-Muslims being trampled upon, we do nothing and instead of taking action, we say, “What can I do? The Syariah Court is all-powerful, and I do not have the remotest chance of winning.” People give up too easily because they think they cannot do anything; but have they tried?

Complaining/Bitching

Instead of complaining to the relevant people about incompetence, we do nothing and give up at the slightest hint of resistance.

Complaining followed by inaction seems to be a national pastime, but it will not resolve any issue. We complain about everything. The weather. The economy. The education. The roads.

Some people in UMNO Baru have made complaining an art form. The economy is bad. Blame it on DAP. The currency is falling. Blame it on the Chinese. Food prices have risen. It is the Singaporeans’ fault. The rain is non-stop. Blame it on the Christians who stopped Malaysia from adopting hudud laws.

Excuses

You have been treated badly but refuse to complain about this abuse of power, your excuse for doing nothing is that you know nobody and you will lose. So, you justify inaction with a multitude of reasons.

Exaggeration

UMNO Baru and PAS politicians say that only their party can defend the Malays and protect Islam. Do we confront the politicians and ask, “Defend the Malays from what? Protect Islam from whom?”

Image result for Zakir Naik

Many Malay Muslims in UMNO, PAS, and Perlis Chief Mufti, among others, agree with this bigot from India.

Malays enjoy positions of power in the civil service, armed forces, GLCs, and many other institutions. Islam is the official religion of Malaysia. The Malays comprise 60 percent of the population. Why should they exaggerate their fear of being threatened?

Dogmatism

This is like being bombarded with “facts” and someone else’s opinions, or fake news. Instead of checking to see if these stories are true, we share this information with others and claim that it is the gospel truth. It makes listening very difficult.

These ten deadly sins hamper our ability for progress, but the good news is that one way forward for Malaysians, is to ‘MATI.’

‘MATI’

‘M’ is for the Malaysian identity and Malaysian values. It could also stand for materialism.”As the nation grew and many became wealthier, we forgot our values, we became greedy, ignored the poor and the needy, and pursued material wealth.

At the same time, most of us identified ourselves or allowed others to portray us as Malay, Chinese, Indian, Orang Asli, Sarawakian or Sabahan. In ‘new Malaysia’, we need to forge a new Malaysian identity.

‘A’ is for alarm and accountability, or it could stand for apathy. For decades, we were consumed with apathy. When we saw that our leaders were not serving the rakyat but themselves, we finally saw the importance of leaders who were accountable for their actions.

‘A’ could also be for action. And in the 14th general election we voted for change. ‘T’ is for thought or thinking, and for tolerance, or rather the lack thereof.

In ‘new Malaysia’, we should start to think about our actions. When Najib said that only UMNO Baru can save Islam, we were too lazy to listen critically and tell him off for talking bullshit.

‘I’ is for integrity and intellect, or thinking things through. I is also for ‘I’.

What is personal and professional integrity? Why are there lapses in the judiciary, the police force, the education system and in the public service? Why did we let things slide?

Rebuilding Malaysia is not about you, or me, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Pakatan Harapan, or even UMNO. It is also about the future of our children and their children.

We are investing in their future and hope to create a country which they will learn to love, as we love our country.

The success of Malaysia is tied to the success of everyone. Malay. Chinese. Indian. Orang Asli. Iban and Kadazan.

We need to iron out our differences, educate everyone and build our children’s future. We may not see the results of our work, but they will.

That is why we need to continue to talk with one another, even on sensitive issues, and learn from each other’s stories.


 

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Ultra-liberals and the futility of discourse


August 14, 2018

Ultra-liberals and the futility of discourse

by S Thayaparan

Young, smart, ambitious, impatient and brash Rafizi Ramli

The political nature of man made it highly unlikely that a society designed to meet regularly would remain peaceable. “The way to make friends quarrel is to pit them in disputation under the public eye,” Jefferson said.

― Jon Meacham, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

COMMENT | Truth be told, I like Rafizi Ramli. Sure, we have had a very public spat but the reality is that for whatever reasons, he often kicks the Pakatan Harapan regime in the nut sack and more often than not, gets pilloried for it on social media.

The internal politics of PKR, I have very little interest in. No matter who runs the good ship, PKR politicians in Harapan will not stray too far from mainstream Malay politics even though they, like the DAP, claim to be a multi-racial party.

Malay establishment politicians have to pay attention to certain agendas and non-Malay establishment politicians have to enable such dictates. It does not have to be this way but it is easier to retain power this way.

Image result for azmin ali and dr. mahathir

Dato Seri Azmin Ali, as Economics Minister, is a key Cabinet Minister and ally of Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

Recently, Rafizi labelled those hounding Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on the whole child marriage fiasco as ultra liberals who “focus on the one issue”. Not nice, Rafizi.

Dismissing these critics, while saying these ultra liberals are not responsible for the poor (while the DPM was) is a strange way of deflecting from the criticisms of the cautious response of the DPM on this issue.

Firstly, child marriage, as in marriages between children and adults, is normalising sex with children.

Furthermore, it is normally the “poor” children who are exploited in this manner. Also, this idea that ultra liberals are single-issue advocates is rather bizarre, because it’s like saying that rights groups who advocate on a specific subject do not care about anything else – the poor – because they advocate for specific issues.

Last year when UMNO was in power, my Malay-speaking activist friends were always worried that the state labelled them as deviant and that meant they were liberal. As one young activist said (in Malay no less), how could he be liberal when he can’t even speak English that well.

Even now I do not want to go into the whole definition on the debate about what a liberal is even more so an ultra-liberal, which I suppose is akin to an ultra Malay or Islamist or howsoever else Malaysians define such things.

Image result for Dr Wan Azizah wears a tudung

Where is  Deputy President Azmin Ali?

It gets really messy when Rafizi claims that some activists are biased against Wan Azizah because she wears a tudung, more “Malay” looking in her outlook and appearance and behaves like a moderate. Really?

Some would argue that Wan Azizah is an idealised version of a Malay woman. A fair skinned, tudung wearing, religious and socially compliant political operative. I mean we are talking about a community which is a melting pot of various people foreign and domestic, right?

Why even say horse manure like that? And what does having a Malay outlook mean and does having this Malay outlook, trump whatever agreed upon principles that the opposition says it has? How does one define the middle ground this way?

But wait. Rafizi already staked out the middle moderate ground.  “And the moderate centre behaves like Wan Azizah. The moderate centre does not behave like very vocal social activists who want outright political condemnation,” he said.

Wait, so all those years when tudung wearing Malays were outright in their condemnation of UMNO policies and rhetoric, they were not the “moderate centre”? All those social activists many of whom were tudung clad did not represent the centre of Malay politics, which is what the opposition (Harapan) was saying was the true face of this country?

What about those who do not wear tudung? Are they somehow less “moderate” in their views? Does the content of the criticisms change depending on whether one wears a tudung or believes in a specific religion?

Muddying up waters

But what is the moderate centre in PKR? By labeling activists who are vocal in their criticisms about a political operative who is also the women and family development minister, as ultra-liberal, then what is the moderate liberal’s position? Less vocal?

It is like PAS saying that anyone who disagrees with their interpretation of Islam is liberal but an ultra liberal is someone who actually voices out such disagreements. Where does someone like Zaid Ibrahim fall when it comes to the liberal and ultra-liberal label?

Which brings us to the futility of the discourse and the big tent approach of PKR. Let us be honest here.

In most cases, the discourse is between the Malay component – liberal or orthodox – and the non-Malay component of PKR.

Rafizi’s example of Malay groups who are not happy with the UEC recognition and bringing those who are and those who do not together sounds like a swell idea.

But really, when it comes to Malay rights, can there ever be a dialogue? Why do Malay rights groups oppose the UEC? The basis of their dissent is based on racial and religious supremacy, right?

So it’s how you have to allay their fears, right? But this is the problem right here. Non-Malays as citizens of this country should not have to allay the fears of their countrymen. How exactly does the UEC, for example, threaten the culture of the Malay community?

How exactly is talking about this with people who base their objection to specific issue along racial or religious lines going to get us to that place, where we are all treated equally before the law?

How erectly does the discourse work with people like this? I mean really, saying non-Muslims can use the word, Allah – as long as it was not misused – is something to be proud of? If I ask an orthodox Malay who believes in Malay supremacy how do the non-Malays misuse the word Allah, he or she would say that by uttering the word, they would be misusing it.

For whatever reason, Rafizi is the only political operative who pisses in the Harapan kool-aid occasionally. I will take occasionally over the prostrating of most political operatives at the altar of the great old one.

But for Allah’s sake, be mindful of how you respond to criticism. If your critics are wrong just say they are wrong and but don’t engage in identity politics.

The discourse is hard enough already without folks who should know better than muddying up the waters even more.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Welsh on PAS in Terengganu


August 5, 2018

Welsh on PAS in Terengganu

by Dr. Bridget Welsh

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Terengganu Crystal Mosque

The so-called Islam Hadhari in Kuala Terengganu built during the Badawi Era

COMMENT | On Malaysia’s beautiful east coast, PAS is experiencing a sweet honeymoon in Terengganu. On the ground, PAS is similarly receiving the positive energy and goodwill felt in the Klang Valley towards Pakatan Harapan.

In fact, one could even argue that Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar’s leadership of Terengganu is seen as one of the most dynamic nationally at the state level. With less resistance to its leadership within the civil service, a young professional team and a focus on economic development for the state, PAS’ new government is working to establish itself. Dr Sam, as he is known, is quickly coming out of  Abdul Hadi Awang’s shadow, despite being his protégé.

The challenges PAS faces in Terengganu are significant. The state’s oil and gas revenue are on the decline. UMNO seriously depleted the state funds in its mismanagement, leaving little in the coffers. The sharp disparities between the wealthier south and poorer north remain large. Some of the northern areas around Setiu are among the poorest in Malaysia.

Read this: https://thetravelintern.com/reasons-you-should-visit-beautiful-terengganu-malaysia/

There remains a large dependence on government assistance, with a “bantuan” mindset deeply entrenched. There is a large young population in search of jobs, and a deficit of opportunities in the marketplace. Unlike in entrepreneurial Kelantan, more Trengganuites opt to stay in their own state and this reinforces a more insular orientation and conservativism.

 

These factors converge on three key issues – a need for money, a need for new drivers in the local economy and a need for leadership to move the state toward greater modernity.

Learning lessons

What will be crucial to PAS’ success in moving Terengganu forward is whether they learn the lessons associated with GE-14 and avoid their party’s mistakes of the past. The May 2018 election has striking similarities to that of 1999 when PAS won the state in the groundswell of anger against Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his local stand-in, Wan Mokhtar Ahmad, the former Chief Minister in office from 1974 to 1999.

PAS’ 2018 victory in Terengganu was decisive. Not only did they win 22 seats in the 32-seat state assembly, a large majority in the state government, they also secured six of the eight parliamentary seats. There was a swing of 8% overall toward PAS this election, which in the history of Terengganu is one of the largest swings, although not as large as that experienced elsewhere in GE-14.

A first potential mistake is to assume that this victory was a vote for PAS, rather than a vote against UMNO. Sure, the Islamic party’s grassroots did support the party, but the majority of new votes it received came courtesy of Najib Razak. Trengganuites voted strategically, for the party that was the most likely to defeat UMNO, most organised on the ground and most familiar in the risk-adverse environment.

PAS thus faces the task of giving voters a reason to continue to support it, as anger to Najib and his GST no longer serves as a lightning rod for discontent. Given the continued divisions within UMNO in Terengganu, however, PAS is in a relatively safe position, but its foundation of support remains weak.

Second, and perhaps even more important, in Terengganu, this election was not a “green tsunami”. The state’s vote was not about religion or even religious leadership. Voters were not voting for Hadi Awang, or the 2004 election slogan of “Islam for all”. The waters shaping the state’s political tide were BN blue and if there was a tsunami at all, it was a “greed tsunami” that drove Umno’s excesses at the national and state level.

This lesson is especially important for Terengganu as it is where PAS went wrong after 1999, interpreting its victory as a green light toward religious conservatism and the imposition of a restrictive religious agenda. While most Terengganuites are religiously conservative compared to many of their counterparts elsewhere in Malaysia and religion is an important part of their daily lives (which it is for most Malaysians across faiths), religion is not the main priority of voters. To paraphrase Bill Clinton’s strategist James Carville – it was the economy and to think otherwise would be stupid.

If there was an area where morals did in fact play a role, it is in the area of good governance. Terengganuites – as do most Malaysians – want a government that is not corrupt. There are residual questions involving the allegations on the use of UMNO money by PAS and the ties between the parties, which will not be cleared up with a legal case that will only serve to remind voters of this issue.

The challenge for the new PAS government will be not to return to the past when by 2004 questions were being asked about the distribution of contracts and patronage, and to make sure that the state government remains clean and different from that it kicked out of office. This will involve some clean-up within PAS itself, which will not be easy given differences within the party over contentious issues such as the relationship with Umno and management of money.

Difficult decisions

To embrace a focus on pragmatic delivery and better governance, PAS has to deal with two obstacles.

The first is within Terengganu PAS itself. This is the state where the traditional internal party struggle between the “professionals” and “ustaz” was perhaps the most acute. While these labels are no longer as relevant as they were in the past to define factions in the party (in part because many professionals are actually ustaz as well), Dr Sam’s team is now seen as the new “Young Turks” pushing for a different path within the party.

There is resistance from many older leaders to this change, especially since many of those being brought into the government and its GLCs are not from Terengganu. For now, Terengganu PAS is not focused on inclusive national governance, but on a path tied to having deliverables in the present rather than in the afterlife. The pull of conservatism within PAS in Terengganu is even stronger than the conservatism in the state itself. The question ahead is whether the older generation of leaders will give way to younger ones. Hadi Awang’s role is important in this regard.

 

The second obstacle for PAS is to manage the political relationships in New Malaysia. While those in Selangor focus on the UMNO-PAS relationship – it is one of the main issues in the Sungai Kandis by-election where in fact many PAS leaders (although not all) are supporting UMNO – on the East Coast, there is much greater distance between these two parties. In fact, to secure the oil royalty and the much-needed funds noted above, eyes are on Pakatan Harapan and especially the need for PAS to maintain cordial ties with Bersatu and PKR.

Terengganu PAS knows that a relationship with UMNO is no longer advantageous, and in fact would be seen negatively by many of its voters. UMNO now is a political liability and more in need of PAS than vice-versa. The status of the relationship between PAS and other parties is likely to unfold in the months ahead. There are different views and interests that point to greater distance rather than connectively between the two traditional Malay parties. The two obstacles are interconnected as what happens within PAS itself will shape who it allies itself with or whether it opts to go it alone – at least for now.

Developments in Terengganu will have national impact. This is another chance for PAS to show whether it is capable of governing, and Terengganu’s success will be directly tied to whether it can make a political comeback elsewhere. PAS remains an important national political player. Developments in the state will also reveal what its priorities are and shape relationships in New Malaysia.

For now, Terengganu PAS is capitalising on its welcome by voters, but as it moves forward, the lessons it learns and decisions it makes will determine whether Terengganu will make a turn toward a more modern future.


Dr, BRIDGET WELSH is an associate professor of political science at John Cabot University in Rome. She also continues to be a senior associate research fellow at the National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies and The Habibie Center, as well as a university fellow of Charles Darwin University. Her latest book (with co-author Greg Lopez) is titled Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore. She can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Naik and Mahathir–Pandering to UMNO-PAS Politics


July 11, 2018

Naik and Mahathir–Pandering to UMNO-PAS Politics

by Cmdr (rtd) S. Thayaparan

http://www.malaysiakini.com

“You perceive the force of a word. He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense… Give me the right word and the right accent and I will move the world.” – Joseph Conrad.

I think the reason why Zakir Naik is not deported – secret deal or not – is that the Malaysian government does not consider what he is alleged to have done in India a crime. They probably justify those charges as religious persecution against a beloved Muslim preacher. They probably think that anyone who disagrees with what Zakir Naik says is Islamophobic.–S. Thayaparan.

COMMENT | It is really a funny question, right? When I say “our” and there are people who were born here, like Letchumie Sinnan who has been given the run around by the bureaucracy for 20 years and been stuck in permanent resident limbo, while a demagogue, alleged money launderer and extremist sympathiser like Zakir Naik get feted by the political and social elite.

Meanwhile, there are thousands of Indians and Chinese who have to eke out a living and contribute to the economy but are not considered citizens of this country. Over the years, I have met and attempted to help – in my own small ineffectual way – dozens of Malaysians to get their MyKad. It is really galling to witness a religious hatemonger like Zakir Naik being defended by the political elite in this country of the Islamic persuasion, while so many – a legion, I would say – have no one to speak up for them.

Image result for Mahathir pandering to Islamophobia

The fact there are Indians and Chinese in this country who are considered, for whatever reasons, permanent residents (if they are lucky) and the state wilfully refuses to recognise them as citizens, while Zakir Naik gets to spread his horse manure in comfort, is an insult for anyone who has served this country, either in the state security apparatus, in the teaching profession or whatever else capacity that has made this country what it is today.

Let me say this. I bet my last ringgit that all these Malaysians who have been denied their citizenship, who have been given the run around by the bureaucracy and who toil in menial jobs unable to get a foothold, I bet that they have contributed more to this country than the radicals like Zakir Naik. All those people I have attempted to help over the years display a profound love and loyalty to this county, even though they have been marginalised.

Someone like me often wonders, how could you love this country when it doesn’t even recognise you? How can you be loyal to this country when it has willfully abandoned you? We live in a great country is their common refrain. Yeah, a great country, where the likes of Zakir Naik get to say what he likes and (now) to be deported only if he misbehaves.

 

Tell me, what does “not creating problems” mean? What would it take for Zakir Naik to be kicked out of this country? What exactly is the threshold here?

We all know that Zakir Naik uses words to instigate, demean and mock other cultures and religions. We know that his words are meaningful to large sections of the Malay polity, even though they may not understand him. We know that he remains unrepentant since he has probably met with every Malay power broker of note in this country. So, what exactly does misbehaving mean? His kind of Islam is supposedly the antithesis of the kind of Islam Harapan wants to propagate. Or is it?

Kudos to P Ramasamy, the Penang Deputy Chief Minister II, for giving it his all when it comes to the extradition of Zakir Naik. What I want to know is why aren’t the rest of the Harapan gang coming out with a unified comment on this issue. Are the major power players in Harapan reserving comment? Are they too busy, thinking up ways of how not to spook the Malays?

Freedom of speech?

Every time I write about Zakir Naik, I get many emails from people – Malays – berating me for insulting this man. I sincerely do not get it. When I provide evidence – Zakir Naik’s own words – of the racist, bigoted and inflammatory speeches he has made, it is ignored. When I explain why non-Muslims would be offended by what he says about our religions, it is ignored or dismissed, as not understanding his intent.

Image result for Mahathir pandering to Islamophobia

The Harapan Prime Minister is playing UMNO-PAS politics

When I attempt to provide an analysis of why, even if you were not religious, Zakir Naik’s words amount to incitement against secular democracies, I am told that he is an expert and thus qualified to speak about everything under the sun. Why do we need this man in our country? What possible service has he done for Malaysians that warrant the political elite to think of him as someone who is an asset to this country?

And here’s the thing, if there was freedom of speech like the kind Zakir Naik has for everyone, nobody would have an issue with him. But we have blatant double standards that border on malicious. It is the smirk which tells us that he can say things without consequences but the ‘kafirs’ have to take it.

The last time I wondered if Zakir Naik was a security threat, I got hate mail up the wazoo. Here’s what I wrote – “However, Zakir is a special case. In a time when the Islamist agenda in this country is taking new forms and the agenda is promulgated by new alliances, a preacher like Zakir who specialises in deepening already established cultural and religious rifts is a threat to national security.”

I get it. I see all these huge rallies, and the Malay/Muslim hegemons don’t want to be the Muslims who deported Zakir Naik to India. The country, which even our local preacher took a dig at in a poem which managed to insult the Hindu community, but he insisted was a personal letter to the Prime Minister of India. Nobody wants to be the pious Malay/Muslim political leader who said that Zakir Naik does not belong in this country.

Ramasamy hammers the point home when he reminds the Malaysian government that they deported Chinese Uighurs and Sri Lankan Tamils back to their countries of origin. What is the hold up with Zakir Naik? Why is he a special case?

You know what I think. I think the reason why Zakir Naik is not deported – secret deal or not – is that the Malaysian government does not consider what he is alleged to have done in India a crime. They probably justify those charges as religious persecution against a beloved Muslim preacher. They probably think that anyone who disagrees with what Zakir Naik says is Islamophobic.

Why is it, for some people, the beauty of their religion is only found in the vilification of other religions?


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.