Jun 23, 2014
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has had a terrible month. His formula of using the 4Rs – race, royalty, the rural people and religion – to deceive the rural voters, most of whom have supported Umno Baru, is disintegrating.
One of the few good things which Mahathir did was to clip the wings of the sultans in the 80s, especially during the period when the rakyat appeared to be helpless in the face of criminal acts being perpetrated by the people to whom the rakyat professed their allegiance.
Mahathir’s emasculation of royalty was half complete. In recent weeks, the Johor sultan flexed his economic muscles, but the response of the politicians and rakyat was muted. Even fewer people were willing to discuss, in public, the awkward divorce of the former sultanah of Johor, months after her husband’s death.
Who dares to say anything, when they are at risk of being persecuted? This is not a respectful silence borne of loyalty, this is keeping silent out of fear.
Meanwhile, the newly-minted sultan of Perak proclaims that he would like to discharge his duties fairly and equitably. He said, “Do not tell me tales, to send me into dreamland, when the reality on the ground is something entirely different from what has been related to me.”
How many of us would like to believe him, especially when the merest mention of anything mildly critical is like a waving a red flag to the inspector-general of police (IGP), and attracts a charge of sedition, a fine and a jail sentence?
If he wishes, the sultan can easily access the alternative media and see the true state of the country, unless he is denied access to the Internet by courtiers who wish to spoonfeed him with propaganda. Surely, Nazrin cannot be so naïve that he believes the mainstream media.
We should thank Mahathir for wanting to propel Malaysia into the 21st century with the Information Super Highway. The new sultan is not living in a bubble. Does he want to believe what he hears, or seek the information for himself?
Perhaps, Mahathir’s most damning revelation was his confession in an interview with Mingguan Malaysia that the Approved Permit (AP) system had been abused by certain Malays, for money, instead of helping other Malays set up businesses. He said, “We want to help the Malays, but they don’t want to help themselves.”
It took 40 years for Mahathir to realise what most of us already knew in the mid-70s. Perhaps, Mahathir should have listened more and stopped being fed information by aides who only wanted to protect their interests.
Will Mahathir be willing to admit to the rural Malays that his policies have failed and that rural Malays were duped? Will he tell the rural Malays that other Malays were responsible for their backwardness? Will Mahathir admit, to the rural Malays, that their lack of success should not be blamed on the non-Malays?
Correcting the other wrongs
Now that Mahathir has finally acknowledged that the AP system has been abused, what will the current Umno Baru administration do to rectify the problem? While they are at it, will the government of Najib Abdul Razak correct the other wrongs which Mahathir and Umno Baru perpetuated, such as petrol station permits, permits for driving schools and taxi permits?
Over the years, billions of ringgits have been spent on schemes to help the Malays but much of this money was squandered or mismanaged. The ordinary Malays have been pampered, feted and courted, and yet they lag behind the other races, economically, educationally, socially and in religious spirit.
Religion – the final ‘R’- will Mahathir admit that his administration’s ban on the use of ‘Allah’ and other words by the non-Muslims has divided Malaysia? The government does not respect the constitution, which guarantees each citizen the right to freedom of religion, furthermore, Bibles have been confiscated. So, will Mahathir help resolve the issue, which he started in the 1980s?
Yesterday, the Shah Alam MP, Khalid Abdul Samad (right), claimed that Jais raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) and the raid on a Hindu wedding, were really attacks on the Pakatan Rakyat Selangor government.
He said, “Umno which lost the state government wants to regain its power through the backdoor, so it uses the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais)… The head of Mais is not appointed by the state but by the sultan. The chairperson Mohamad Adzib Mohd Isa is an Umno member.”
Is Khalid not aware that the rakyat have already suspected this, since the day the BSM was raided? We are also suspicious of the wedding raid, just as we are suspicious of the body-snatching in Penang. We know that these are surreptitious plots to undermine the opposition. It is odd that we don’t hear about these incidents in Umno Baru-led states.
The question is not that Khalid said that this is an Umno Baru plot, but that he waits for six months to say it. So now that PAS has acknowledged this, will they do something to remedy the situation before the rakyat’s patience is lost and the state is regained by Umno Baru?
Khalid said that he did not want people to think he was “currying favour with non-Muslims” because “I only defend Islam because Islam teaches us to respect all other religions and their houses of worship.”
People will not condemn Khalid for supporting non-Muslims. As an elected MP, he should defend every one of his constituents, regardless of their race or religion, if they are the victims of an injustice.
Many people see PAS as the chink in the opposition armour. The threat of political Islam and a caliphate looms large in peoples’ minds. PAS needs to work on their image and appeal to every Malaysian. Not just the very conservative Muslims.
If PAS wants to become a mainstream political party, it must abandon policies that are abhorrent to most Malaysians and engage with all the races and religion, of which the rakyat is comprised. The rakyat should not be made to choose between Islam and democracy.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).