by Anisah Shukry
The Malaysian Insider
14 December 2015
The demonising of DAP in this year’s Umno general assembly was a calculated move by party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak to use the opposition party as a bogeyman to drum up support among the Malays and distract his supporters from his own weaknesses, say political analysts.
DAP was Umno’s villain of choice because PKR was not seen as a threat, due to the jailing of party de facto chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, while PAS was seen as a potential ally, said Ibrahim Suffian (pic), the executive director of independent pollster Merdeka Center.
“The economy is not doing so well, the prime minister and the party are less popular. So in order to round up support, particularly among its core supporters, it needs to define an opponent that is very different from them.
“Here, DAP is targeted as the bogeyman to rally Malay support because it represents the antithesis of what Umno stands for – DAP is secular, it champions a more liberal democracy, it wants more equality for minorities, for example.”
Lim Teck Ghee, the executive director of the Centre for Policy Initiatives said Najib was also trying to distract supporters from his own failings by demonising DAP.
“The targeting and demonising of DAP, and recourse to crude racist allegations against the opposition party, is also the mark of a desperate leader seeking to distract attention from his own shortcomings and the opposition he faces within the party,” he said.
But Ibrahim said Umno should also be credited for making the clear distinction that DAP, as a party, was the enemy, and not the entire non-Malay community.
Last week’s Umno assembly saw no racial or sensitive remarks surfacing, unlike last year’s, where Najib kicked off his policy speech with a reminder of the May 13, 1969 riots, youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin warned non-Malays not to dispute the special rights of the Malays and the rulers’ position, and Baling Wanita Umno chief Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim alleged that a Chinese in the state burnt the Quran in a prayer ritual.
But even though the non-Malays were not painted as antagonists this year, it did not mean Umno – a party that purports to champion and protect the Malays – had abandoned the race card altogether to drum up support, said Ibrahim.
“The vilification of DAP was done to accentuate the point that Umno remains the primary party for the Malays, that Malays have to trust Umno.
“While Najib’s speech was not directed at the Chinese, it still wanted to draw public attention to the fact that in the opposition coalition, Malay representation is poor, they don’t have much of a voice and are less prominent.”
He said it remained to be seen whether the speech would affect race relations, given that Najib had not spoken out against the Chinese or the Indians.
He added that it was erroneous for anyone to equate DAP with the Chinese community, and even Najib had taken pains to equate DAP to liberal politics.
Lim said it was no surprise that grassroots leaders The Malaysian Insider spoke to agreed with Najib’s claims that DAP was racist, extremist and anti-Islam, despite the opposition party’s efforts to woo more Malay members.
“The assembly’s response to his speech is predictable. It’s not that they have fallen for the president’s line of thinking and logic. They share it. The ideology of ‘ketuanan Melayu’ (Malay supremacy) is alive and deeply rooted in Umno.
“In expressing their support for the president, they are simply showing their mindset, which is in denial of the real reasons for the decline in the party’s stature, that is, corruption, venality and greed.
“But some Malays within and outside the party have woken up to the truth. That they have not openly expressed it does not mean that there is little or no awareness of the party’s fall from grace, which has been rapidly accelerated by Najib’s leadership,” said Lim. – December 14, 2015.