Giving right-wingers free rein will backfire, analysts warn Umno

by Melissa Chi
The Malay Mail Online
January 14, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 ― Umno’s continued silence as the voices of Malay right-wing groups grow louder by the day could end up being misconstrued as Putrajaya’s endorsement of extremism and racism, analysts have warned.

By staying passive to appease its supporters in Malay-Muslim Malaysia, Umno also risks having its own grip on power weakened in the event such groups later decide to enter the political arena as opponents, the analysts added.

Director of independent pollster Merdeka Center Ibrahim Suffian acknowledged the strategy, saying the easiest, tried and tested way to shore up support from a particular group, is to use emotive issues.

“Certainly by not curbing this, by not doing anything, (it) actually condones these kinds of statements.

“It also has a counter-reaction, not only espousing more extreme and conservative views by allowing more leeway for them to do whatever they want, but it might also increase the politicising among religious groups, the Christians for example, could be more politicised and resort to being extreme as well,” he told The Malay Mail Online when contacted.

“One of BN’s (Barisan Nasional) strength is the party’s ability to maintain political stability and peace; if overtime they let this behaviour unchecked, it will also undermine its strength”.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) chief executive officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan stressed the need for Umno’s top leaders, especially Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, to drown out the voices of right-leaning groups like Perkasa and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) before the brewing racial and religious tension spiral out of control.

“Umno is the one who has to say they distance themselves from these voices and then it will really isolate the far right voices from anybody else,” he said, warning that it would otherwise be lumped in with the group.

Isma has been at the forefront of attempts to discredit the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the Universal Periodic Review Process (Comango), which has come under fire from other Muslim activists who claim the group’s human rights recommendations to the United Nations ran counter to the “true” teachings of Islam and the sovereignty of the Federal Constitution.

On Wednesday, the Home Ministry declared Comango as an “unlawful organisation” and accused it of promoting anti-Islamic values here.

Protests by the Youth wing of the Malay rights group Perkasa also forced Putrajaya Corporation to abandon plans for a Hard Rock Cafe in the administrative capital, after the group claimed it was inappropriate to serve alcohol and have “wild entertainment” in the city is said was modelled after the Muslim holy city Medina.

Centre for Policy Initiatives director Dr Lim Teck Ghee said it was difficult to understand Umno’s silence so far, saying it dented the moderate Muslim image Malaysia has cultivated.

“Externally, the country’s moderate image — besides that of the PM’s — has taken a beating which will impact on business, tourism and other spheres of activity,” he told The Malay Mail Online via e-mail.

Wan Saiful pointed out that most of those who are promoting the far right ideas are Umno supporters.

“I think the reason why they are continually behaving like this is because the weak leadership in Umno is unable to stand up against the far right voices.

“They are pushing the country towards a more right-wing agenda, even in the realm of public policy. If it is only rhetoric, it’s fine, but when it comes to public policy, it’s dangerous,” he said.

Agreeing, Lim said keeping silent on the growing voice of extremism is a betrayal to Malaysians who voted for the ruling coalition and their liberal, moderate agenda.

“Voters did not vote for a government that is wishy-washy and is intent on playing up to the Malay and Islamic gallery. The payback will surely come at the next elections,” he said.

Ibrahim also agreed that Najib’s moderate stance and efforts to promote moderation may seem less convincing than his predecessor Tun Abdullah Badawi because of the former’s lack of Islamic background.

This, he noted, has resulted in a gap that has been increasingly filled by the conservatives working within his bureaucracy like those in the Selangor Religious Department (Jais), the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim), or religious scholars.

“I think there is a vacuum in terms of leaders that can utilise Islam as a mobilising force,” he said.

But Ibrahim pointed out that with the Sarawak elections coming in two years’ time, the Najib administration would need to communicate that it was not an administration that only catered to the Malay-Muslim community.

Unlike in the peninsula where the Malay-Muslims are the majority, the group only accounted for a quarter of the votes in the state considered a vote bank for the ruling coalition, he pointed out.

Sarawak’s last state poll was held in April 2011 at the height of the controversy over the seizure of a consignment of the Alkitab bibles, which contained the word “Allah”.

It was in the run-up to the polls when the Najib Cabinet mooted the 10-point solution to resolve the longstanding dispute and ordered the release of the impounded books, besides pledging never to seize them again, according to a media report.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 - 10:29 am

    I like to remind everyone that there is NO SURVEY that says that the Malays object to Christians or anyone else using the word “Allah”. What any existing survey did was asked Malays if they believe the word belong exclusively to Muslim. In other words, the surveys just confirmed most Malays don’t know the issue or the facts well.

    If those who wanted to resolve the issue were sincere, the question should have been done with a prelude that tell each respondent that the word “Allah” pre-date Islam and used by Christians and other religion then already, would they object to them using the word? There is no way the the answer would be the majority of Malays..

    Its already revealed that in the Cabinet and BN, the majority are against the extremist but the small minority clearly has them hostaged and silenced. What is more abhorent is that the PM has allowed this minority to silenced him and no less the DPM has stood up for them.

    Lets ask these minority so concern with the soul of the rest of us – what are they doing about PKFZ culprits all getting away, rising prices and taxes, falling education standards, rising income gap, continue bail-out of hopeless privately owned car companies, concentration of wealth just ONE Malay, still rising and worsening crime even after new laws etc. ?

  2. #2 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 - 10:48 am

    ” .. it was difficult to understand Umno’s silence so far … ”

    Not difficult at all. All the confused sheep and goats are merely looking for a leader and there is none around. So they go round and round staring at each other hoping someone will take the lead but, alas, they are all dead lost and confused. The situations and crises fester, deteriorates, and the wolves have a field day. Come Visit Malaysia Year 2014.

  3. #3 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 - 12:41 pm


    “What the hell is that?”

    So you see. These idiots dont even understand the meaning or the significance of something “back-firing”.

  4. #4 by undertaker888 on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 - 6:24 pm

    Perkasa would not protest if they rename Hard Rock Cafe to Kopi Batu Keras in putrajaya. Business will be as usual.

  5. #5 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 - 1:16 am

    Dis nation CANNOT go on like now, so F arked up by a small grp of ultras creating all sorts of issues day in n day out, wasting energy n time of rakyat

    Eventually dis nation may b PARTITIONED in2 2 independent nations, let d ultras hv 1 nation n d others who r willing 2 work harmoniously together in a diverse land n equitable fashion hv another nation

    Just look at our history, M’sia lost an island n d rest is history

    Perhaps it’s time 2 split again

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