PH racial unity campaign hits snag

PH racial unity campaign hits snag

By: Hema Subramaniam

PUCHONG: A campaign by Malaysia’s new prime minister to promote racial harmony received a jolt after a Malay majority rally last Saturday called upon their gathered steam for Muslim Unity to “rise and unite” against demands by ethnic minorities.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad questioned whether Himpunan Pertahan Kedaulatan Islam (HPKI) on Saturday was to defend the sanctity of Islam and the Constitution or to draw support for certain political parties.

Meanwhile, certain quarters of the political parties voice up their rights and privilege in every matter of policies through religion as a game changer so that they can jointly resist pressure from the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

HPKI literally means Defend Islamic Sovereignty Assembly. It was on the premise that Islam is under threat. The Malay Rulers too were brought into the picture as can be seen evidently from the banners highlighting the Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.

The timing of the article — when Dr Mahathir is promoting unity — reflects anger among many Malay leaders to the increasing boldness of minorities.

The social media outrage on recent death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim from injuries he sustained after he was allegedly assaulted during the Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam temple riot in Seafield in November 2018 is one of the breaking point of racial divide in the recent days.

Meanwhile ethnic Indian government politicians posts vocal complaints by minorities against longtime government policies that give majority Malays priority in jobs, education and business opportunities. The government says Malays lag behind minorities economically.

The series of comments made on Chinese investment in the country by certain quarters of politicians and public have affected the confidence of Chinese investors. Those who originally wanted to come are adopting a wait-and-see attitude, while those already in are careful about their expansion plans.

Generally on social media, the Chinese are seen as a threat by some people as they associate DAP as mainly safeguarding the Chinese community.

In the past, UMNO’s partners in Barisan Nasional are ethnic Chinese, Indian and other minority parties. Now with their alliance with PAS, there are constant racial issues raised that is linked to the policies of the new government.

In an attempt to heal the rifts, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim today said race relations in the country has deteriorated despite efforts by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration to bring about change and reform.

“Racial and communal sentiments should not be taken lightly. If left unchecked, they could wreck efforts to get the country back on track,” he said in a statement to commemorate PH’s first year in power.

His remarks follow those of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who said yesterday that race is still a big issue in the country despite talk of unity and being “Malaysian first”.

“Everybody talks about his own race,” he said in an interview with the media, adding that ministers who wished to gain support from their own communities had to bring up race-related issues to the government.

Pakatan Harapan has yet to outline specific measures to achieve racial unity and has drawn criticism from opposition politicians who have labeled it as vague rhetoric that is too weak to tackle racial disputes that have multiplied in recent days.

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