by Eileen Ng
The Malaysian Insider
January 09, 2014
Several top Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders are sitting out of the latest row over who can use the word “Allah”, believing reticence is better than stepping on a political landmine, say analysts.
There have been no statements from top leaders of MCA, MIC and Gerakan, who mainly represent non-Malays and non-Muslims in BN, since a firestorm ignited over Christians insisting they are not bound by a Selangor royal decree and the seizure of some 300 Malay and Iban Bibles by the state Islamic authorities.
“It is a no-win situation for them, so in this case, silence is golden,” Professor James Chin, a political analyst with Monash University Malaysia, told The Malaysian Insider.
He also said that component parties were caught in a bind as anything they say would offend either religious or political groups.
Chin said the lack of strong leaders like former long-serving prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to rein in the high emotions caused by the controversy has exacerbated the problem and put the component parties in a spot.
“There is no leader now with enough clout who is strong enough to control the political and religious groups,” he said, and warned this would contribute to worsening ethnic relations.
Christians make up about 9% of the Malaysian population, or 2.6 million. Almost two-thirds of them are Bumiputera and are largely based in Sabah and Sarawak, where they routinely use Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages in their religious practices, including describing God as “Allah” in their prayers and holy book.
Some have also moved to the peninsula to live and work and Orang Asli Christians in the peninsula also typically use Bahasa Malaysia in their worship.
Those who have been vocal over the issue are the second-tier leaders, such as Gerakan’s Youth chief Tan Keng Liang and MCA’s Religious Harmony bureau chief Datuk Ti Lian Ker.
In the run-up to the Gerakan, MIC and MCA elections last year, the leaders had stressed on the need for their respective parties to reform and champion the people’s cause.
But the “Allah” controversy has shown that the component parties are still scared of stepping on the toes, with Centre for Policy Initiative director Dr Lim Teck Ghee saying that any statements from them would backfire since they were part of the ruling BN federal government, which had made a total mess of the issue.
“They are also fully aware that Umno disapproves of them stepping out of line with any statements and will punish them – hence silence appears to be the best policy,” he said.
However, Lim said the issue would not be the death knell to them as they, together with BN lynchpin Umno would insist they remained relevant.
“They will try hard to preserve the image of a closely knit and largely equal coalition but the reality is that they are beginning to resemble small fry parties, hitching a ride on Umno’s bandwagon and largesse, and with little or no power to influence any major issue.”
What the component parties should do, suggested political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, was to get Umno’s cooperation to ensure every decision was made and agreed upon by the BN council, so that everyone was aware of what was going on.
“Right now, it seems that everything is decided by Umno. So the parties need to regroup and persuade Umno to go back to the BN council platform.
“It is a political problem so a political solution is needed,” he said. – January 9, 2014.