Monday, April 29, 2024

Will non-Malay discontent bubble up in KKB polls?

S Thayaparan
Published: Apr 29, 2024 7:00 AM

“Therefore, those who call for voters to boycott are people who are not responsible for our country’s democratic system.”

- DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke

COMMENT | The upcoming Kuala Kubu Baharu polls could be an indication if the non-Malay polity is slowly giving up on Pakatan Harapan’s politics of compromise, and weaning itself off a system predicated on slowly eroding constitutional rights of Malaysians in favour of a theocratic model.

Now of course the Harapan candidate may win but the margin of victory and turnout is also a snapshot of how non-Malays feel about how their elected representatives act for their interests in the federal and state government.

Now as someone who is on record as writing that voting is the least a citizenry can do in a democracy, what Loke should be asking is why is there a call for non-Malays to boycott this election?

Anecdotally speaking, what really bothered many non-Malays about the whole KK Mart fiasco, for instance, was that the vitriol that led to violence was sanctioned by Umno, a coalition partner whose influence is not predicated on electoral power but by personalities close to the prime minister.

Humiliating a non-Malay business in an attempt to make a populist appeal was petty and shocking to many non-Malays who just want political and racial stability.

The govt did nothing

The prosecution of the KK Mart owner, after he apologised numerous times and on bended knee, was not enough for the extremist elements in the government, and DAP did nothing except make a few mouse whimpers about the inappropriateness of it all.

Here was a non-Malay business serving the majority community and what does an Umno political operative sanctioned by the establishment do? He asks his friends at KK Mart to find another avenue for business.

What non-Malays were left with was that this government, which they had supported wholeheartedly, did nothing to protect their economic interests but instead used this incident to galvanise the far-right elements in the country.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, meanwhile, has remained silent when his comrade’s cars were firebombed and KK Mart was an attempted target of terrorist attacks.

Instead, he expanded the role of the religious bureaucracy, reminded everyone that the educational quota system was here to stay, presided over the conversion of a Hindu youth, rabble-roused on the Palestinian issue, made expensive overtures to the civil service in the form of salary and bonus enticements, and gave a platform to the corrupt elements of the Umno regime.

Anwar, but of course, remained silent to the numerous racial and religious provocations his non-Malay base has been subjected to.

Not to mention freedom of speech and expression has gone down the manure hole since Harapan took over. The MCMC has been weaponised and many people are left wondering how words and speech that were perfectly acceptable during the various Umno and Perikatan Nasional regimes suddenly became seditious and worthy of state intervention.

DAP continues to be silent

DAP, meanwhile, is a victim of its own propaganda success. The party’s scorched earth policy when it came to race relations about what MCA was doing with Umno and the rhetoric surrounding the failed Umno policies – which Harapan has no problem emulating – was effective propaganda for non-Malays.

But like all propaganda, it came back to bite Harapan’s collective behind.

Similarly, when accusing MCA of remaining silent when it comes to the alleged crimes of the Najib regime, DAP and PKR - both multiracial parties - now remain silent while the country slides into a kind of Islamic dystopia.

Let’s not forget the anti-corruption platform destroyed by Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s acquittal, Najib’s reduced sentence, and possible house arrest. Non-Malays, who are the anchor of Harapan, are left wondering - will this country ever change?

Is there merit in believing that pragmatism trumps the state’s theocratic inclinations? Pragmatism in knowing, but not saying, that it is in nobody’s interest to change the system, but instead replacing the powerbrokers in the hopes of maintaining some kind of social and political equilibrium?

And really, there are elements within PKR, for instance, who have no trouble believing that majoritarian will, as opposed to democratic first principles, is perfectly acceptable in Malaysia, especially when it comes to syariah laws, for example.

Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim

Here is what PKR MP Hassan Abdul Karim said about the syariah law amendments which were rejected by the judiciary: “The people of Kelantan are more than 90 percent Malays who are Muslim. For more than 33 years they have elected PAS, an Islamic party with an agenda to enshrine the syariah law in Kelantan.

“The people chose PAS in Kelantan through the ballot box, not through threats and force. PAS rules in Kelantan through democratic elections per the principles of democracy, not through violence.”

So which coalition holds the secular and constitutional line? Which coalition is supposed to be about defending the Constitution of Malaysia, not to mention the freedoms that come out of democratic first principles? This is why the changing demographic of Kuala Kubu Baharu is so dangerous when it comes to religious and racial policy.

‘No alternative’

Malaysians do not really care if the pace of reforms is slow. Indeed, by nature, Malaysians generally have a carefree attitude when it comes to policy failure and inaction, but the backpedalling and complete U-turns on reforms are disheartening, especially since these reforms protect the secular and constitutional foundations of this country.

PKR deputy president Rafizi Ramli

Anwar is very well aware that although non-Malays rant and rave on social media, the reality is that when it comes to the ballot box, they will vote for his proxies because they believe that as flawed as he is, there is no alternative.

This is why Rafizi Ramli can confidently say, “If you want to talk about the trust deficit of non-Malays, I can confidently say that more than 90 percent of non-Malay voters have full confidence in today’s unity government. If there is a trust deficit, it is a trust deficit in the opposition, not the government.”

Some folk claim that the Kuala Kubu Baharu polls are a bellwether. I can’t shake the feeling that either victory or defeat, it is a death knell.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum - “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

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