New Malaysia is hopeful that we won’t go back to the same old same old but past trends are re-emerging which we should be very concerned about and take steps to check.
Firstly, there was the Melayu Bangkit rally held last Saturday to protect “Malay rights, the Malay rulers, and Islam”, which was organised by Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman. These are the same issues that Umno has always raised as rallying points to bring the Malays back to Umno whenever they felt that Malay support was threatened.
Understandably, Umno is worried. According to Merdeka Centre figures, the party got about 35% to 40% of the Malay votes with PAS getting about 30% to 33%. About 25% to 30% of the Malay votes went to Pakatan Harapan (PH). This 30% of Malay support — together with the bumiputra votes from East Malaysia and the non-Malay vote — was sufficient to give PH a simple majority to form the new government. In government, if PH succeeds in helping the rural and lower-income Malays, that 70% support may whittle down, hence the “Malay rights, the Malay rulers, and Islam” clarion calls aimed to resonate with the majority conservative Malays.
This is what Umno politicians have always done: to raise the racist and religious spectres of Malay rights and religion believing these would bring in Malay support at the risk of estranging non-Malays.
However, couldn’t the same thing be achieved by simply offering a better more inclusive alternative? Wouldn’t it have been better if Tajuddin and the Umno leaders who attended the rally had come up with a policy or a course of action to improve the lives of the Malays who support them? And presented it to the government to consider? Wouldn’t that have been more constructive political action?
Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s ongoing elections for the post of deputy president is another example of the same old same old. The two contenders, Economics Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and Invoke Malaysia founder and CEO Rafizi Ramli, are engaged in a seemingly vicious battle to win the post. Rafizi has been going on the offensive with Azmin not responding until his one single outburst last week when he referred to Rafizi as the “toddler” when party president Anwar Ibrahim started the path to reforms.
The issue isn’t that they are competing to win; the issue is how they are fighting. Both are capable men with their own strengths. Azmin has strong grassroots support and works well with people while Rafizi is the thinker and the strategist. But their fight seems to be centred on who is more loyal to Anwar.
Anwar is the unopposed PKR president and the next prime minister. That is assured. The deputy president will be next in line to the premiership after Anwar and if PH remains in power. So, should the fight be about Anwar or what each can bring to the table to add to their predecessors’ work to lift the nation through higher stages of development until we reach developed status?
Making the fight over a personality even if he is Anwar is puerile politics. It is what the politicians of the past have always done — attack the opponent to gain political points.
Wouldn’t it have been better if the two candidates simply presented what they would do for the party and the nation if he became the deputy president?
Thirdly, prime ministers-in-waiting should discreetly stay in the background until called upon to take the place of honour — with the incumbent’s blessings. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is known to have a “difficult” relationship with the sultans for his firm stand on their role. A leader who said “No” to China, can easily say “no” to the sultans.
The relationship between Dr M and some sultans are, at best, testy. So, Anwar’s presence at the Sultan of Selangor Cup football game on Aug 25 naturally raised eyebrows. He was seated next to the Sultan which, of course, is the sultan’s prerogative.
The question is should Anwar have accepted the invitation to that place of honour? This is the kind of support-building that took place in the past and should it continue into the future? Perhaps, Anwar was just being nice to respond positively to the Sultan’s invitation and to allay whatever fears there might be about PKR’s support for the Sultan since PKR leads the state government under Dr M’s leadership.
But, should a prime minister-in-waiting have done that? A prime minister must show the people that he or she will uphold national sovereignty at all cost. The previous administration failed to do that, holding itself in debt to foreign nations and others in questionable deals. But, national sovereignty and the attendant qualities of national independence and neutrality are qualities that Dr M has in excess and qualities that subsequent PMs must have! These qualities are prerequisites for any prime minister for it shows that he or she will be beholden to no one — whether it is a foreign nation or institutions such as the royalty — and, therefore, can be trusted with upholding the people’s interests.
This is the one singular quality that a prime minister must prove he or she is committed to because it shows he or she cannot be bought over for whatever reason. This does not mean being antagonistic towards the rulers or foreign nations. It just means that they will be friendly with all but remain neutral and will not enter into any kind of arrangement which puts them in a position where others can call the shots.
In all of the above, the natural tendency was to fall back to the ways of the past. Current leaders and the leaders to come need to start exploring new ways of thinking to address the issues and realities of the day. The only way to stop harking back to the old ways is to think of fresh ways of dealing with current realities. That will be the new Malaysia.