Home Civil Society Voices Focus on the economy, stop bickering on racial issues

Focus on the economy, stop bickering on racial issues

Cartoon: Zunar

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Patriot is glad that the planned anti-Zakir Naik rally has been called off.

The Mumbai-born preacher has apologised, and we hope that his apology is sincere and he has learnt his lesson not to tread on sensitive issues. Malaysians have long learnt that comparing religions to cast aspersions and labelling others as “pendatang” are taboo subjects, which have already been buried in the “Jurassic park”.

Let us now move on. We have for the past 15 months wasted too much time bickering on ethno-religious issues instigated by opposition parties and on the power struggle for domination within the Pakatan Harapan coalition. This has hampered efforts that could have been better used to work for the promised reforms.

We are now into the second year of PH governance. Unity among the various ethnic groups is nowhere better. Inter-ethnic distrust remains high, and so does inter-religious distrust. The level of trust among Sabahans and Sarawakians towards the federal government has not improved.

There is a saying in the military that there are no bad soldiers, only bad officers. Applying the analogy to political leadership, if the people are in disarray, disunited, un-driven for a common cause, then it reflects on the poor leadership of politicians. The cabinet has to take responsibility.

On 29 August, at the Politeknik Ungku Omar convocation ceremony, DYMM Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah made a timely regal reminder.

Sultan Nazrin said that extremism should not be allowed to undermine national unity, and that those with narrow and short-term political aims should not be allowed to hijack the voice of unity and moderation that has brought the people together since independence.

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Acts and conduct that instigate hatred and sow enmity and distrust – irrespective of the status and position [of the perpetrators] – must now stop.

All, including politicians, should take heed of Sultan Nazrin’s advice.

In this regard, Patriot supports Inspector General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador’s statement that no more warning would be given to those who incite racial and religious sensitivities. Culprits are to be arrested immediately.

Patriot urges cabinet members to take note of the nation’s poverty rate, an issue that was highlighted on 23 August by the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston.

Alston had disputed our official 0.4% poverty rate and the poverty line (monthly household) income threshold of RM980, and suggested the figure was way to low. The correct poverty rate, according to him, should be around 15%.

If Alston is correct, the 14.6% difference in miscalculating the poverty rate is a very serious omission. It has serious ramifications on our nation’s socioeconomic policies and the various five-year economic plans. It also means that our government policies have not been effective.

Patriot is disappointed with Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali’s quick dismissal of Alston’s suggested figure, saying it was a baseless claim. Azmin should rightfully ask his officers to reassess the statistics and the basis of the poverty line calculation.

This denial syndrome of government officials when suddenly caught with a blunder has to stop. Common sense tells us that a family of four will find it impossible to survive with a meagre income of RM980 a month in the Klang Valley.

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Patriot urges the PH leadership to focus on economic issues, including wiping out poverty, both rural and urban. Opposition parties should play their rightful role in checking on the PH government’s performance and stop harping on ethno-religious issues from now on.

We must all think as Malaysians and think of what is good for our country. Never forget that our destiny is shared.

Retired Brigadier General Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot).

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