The dilemma of Malay leaders

The dilemma of Malay leaders
Najib delivering his speech at the convention in PWTC during the opening of the Federal Territories Umno convention at the Putra World Trade Centre.
PHOTO: Sin Chew Daily Publication

Articles appearing in the column of Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) chief executive Saifuddin Abdullah in Sin Chew Daily have been highly inspirational, in particular for his analysis of the dilemma of Malay leaders from the angle of a Malay politician.

Saifuddin categorized the dilemma into three portions: global scope, future developments and a pluralistic political philosophy. He offered a few points for pondering: the positioning of the Malay race, how to tackle the third wave of democratization, the siege syndrome, and the fact that neither BN nor Pakatan Rakyat was able to consolidate pluralistic political philosophies.If solutions to these questions could be identified, the current political turmoil and even the national crisis, could all be dispelled.

Undeniably the political, cultural and religious beliefs of our Malay compatriots have come under the tremendous impact of the prevailing global situations, drastic changes taking place in the Islamic World, the democratization tide and the Internet age. Both Umno and PAS not only have failed to lead the masses to tackle these challenges, they have themselves lost their own directions.

The ethnic politics and religion-politics affiliation practiced by both Umno and PAS have failed to resolve issues related to the country's cultural diversity and religion, putting things in bigger shambles.

Politics-wise, we have seen the bewilderment of Umno and PAS. Chinese voters came under Umno censure for rallying behind Pakatan Rakyat during the 2013 general elections. As Saifuddin has said, "Many Malays do not come to see that everyone has his own right to make his political choice. Such a choice has nothing to do with Malay solidarity." It is imperative that Umno members rectify their flawed political belief.

The major push factor to bring Chinese voters to the opposition's arms is the various race-based politics implemented by Umno. Ethnic politics have a hand in shaping the government's policies and has entrenched social polarisation.

Umno leaders were still wrapped in their fantasies as to how to consolidate their fundamental support base, introducing the bumi economic empowerment policy in glaring deviation from the principles of impartiality and liberalization. If politics has to be practiced along racial lines, calculating how many votes receivable from each ethnic group, then they won't be able to secure the support of all Malaysians.

Umno has been attempting to consolidate its support by way of handing out gratuities, but this sparked further power struggle and clash of interests within the party, including Mahathir in an attempt to topple the Najib administration. Once the interests are no longer able to maintain a state of equilibrium among the various rival factions, much bigger intra-party conflicts could ensue. In fact, this same drama has been going on now and then over the past few years.

In the meantime, how is the constitutional monarchy system coming into play in the existing political environment? The exchange of words between Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim and a senior Umno minister has evolved into a mass rally outside the Istana Besar. This is likely to influence the Malay society, adding another strong risk factor for Umno in the state.

PAS, another Malay party, is heading decisively towards conservativeness, and this is poised to intensify the emotions of party members and supporters. A party that has now receded to its only stronghold in an east coast state will no longer be able to lead the entire nation.

The rise of extremist thinking is yet another crisis factor. Even as we have seen the emergence of a moderate voice in the Malay community in the form of G25, it is by no means sufficient to check and impede the advances of extremism, because our political leaders have opted to stay out of site on this matter.

Religionized policies are visible in states from Terengganu, Melaka to Selangor. More recently Malaysia's gold medalist Farah Ann Abdul Hadi was reproached for her allegedly indecent outfit during he SEA Games gymnastic competition while dress codes enforced at government agencies have all pointed to an obvious lean towards conservatization.

Worryingly, many young Malaysians have been drawn to the ideals of the IS Caliphate. Such an extremist trend could only be blocked from a political approach. Our Malay political leaders are duty-bond to see that such a dangerous trend is arrested.

Malay political parties must also reflect on themselves whether they are able to satisfy the political needs of young Malaysians, professionals and liberals. If they are unable to adapt, it is a matter of time they eventually get flushed out.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala has written an open letter to refute an article by Bloomberg columnist William Pesek. While not everything written by Pesek was right, at least his "race-based policies that strangle innovation" warrants some thoughtful contemplation among Malaysians.

The many problems of this country, including mismanagement, sliding economic competitiveness have all derived from our rigid politics. We cannot afford to overlook this any longer.

There have been voices advocating a multiethnic MCA while Najib's younger brother Nazir is in the midst of putting up a new NGO. It is now time for Umno to transform itself into a non-racist political party.

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