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Ruling a divided Malaysia

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Hadi’s proposal of an all-Muslim-Malay cabinet is a blatant and dangerous denial of the fact that Malaysia is founded on diverse ethnic communities, cultures and religions, write Mustafa K Anuar.

Wishing all Aliran members and friends a Happy New Year. We hope that 2018 would bring us to a better Malaysia than what last year brought us.

We may not be able to erase the bad memories, but we can learn a lesson or two from last year’s incidents so as to help us build a better tomorrow.

Take Hadi’s controversial political proposal. It was not surprising that many were rightly shocked and felt offended when Pas president Abdul Hadi Awang recently proposed a Muslim-Malay-only cabinet.

This proposal is a blatant and dangerous denial of the fact that Malaysia is founded on diverse ethnic communities, cultures and religions.

It also refuses to acknowledge the democratic rights of particularly the non-Muslim communities who have been rendered a second-class citizenry – but who also have a lot to contribute to nation-building.

Equally sinister, it smacks of a politician’s desperate attempt to play to the gallery filled with far-right Muslims in the relentless pursuit of power.

His proposal also repudiates the very notion of a federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak, where the latter two have ethnic communities that are predominantly non-Muslim and who should have equal stakes in this beloved country of ours.

This diversity, which is an asset to the country, should be celebrated at every level of society, and this includes a cabinet line-up that should represent all the stakeholders who have hopes and dreams of a better Malaysia.

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Pas’ proposal to have 10% of its candidates in the coming general election from non-Muslim communities can only be read in this context as a patronising act.

As many are aware, the diversity that is found in life is a divine construct not to be made as a basis for us to divide ourselves to the point of being racist and xenophobic, but for us to learn from and love one another as as His creation.

Hadi would do himself – and other Malaysians – justice if he gazes beyond his navel. A look at Canada would be instructive. In the current federal cabinet of that country, they have ministers from faiths other than Christianity to reflect the multicultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic composition and needs of Canadian society.

Surely what counts most for a country that thirsts for progress, prosperity and peace is governance that is implemented around the noble values of justice, freedom, democracy and compassion especially when it has a diverse population such as Malaysia’s.

Given the serious implications of Hadi’s proposal, it begs the question raised by former Aliran president P Ramakrishnan: what is the stand of Prime Minister Najib Razak on this crucial matter?

The question becomes more urgent in the context of Pas engaging in a courtship of sorts with Umno in the larger design of enticing the Malay constituency into their fold.

Such an ethnoreligious approach to politics in multi-ethnic Malaysia is obviously unhealthy for ethnic relations. But it is indeed a sad commentary of the kind of political leadership that we have had for so many years.

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Much to the chagrin of many concerned Malaysians, ethnic politics especially within the ruling coalition, is on the rise in recent years, with each component party trying to play the role of championing the interests of its own ethnic constituency at the expense of national solidarity.

What’s worse, as K Haridas rightly points out, the component parties of the BN have been overly subservient to the ethnic politics exercised by Big Brother Umno to the extent that the former are on the verge of being made totally irrelevant politically.

Umno’s dominance within the BN has deep implications for not only the ruling coalition but also the political future of Malaysia as a whole given that Umno is currently the driving force in the governance of the country.

As we draw closer to Malaysia’s general election, we would do ourselves a great favour by pondering over what has happened politically over the last few years and subsequently make an informed choice at the polling station – for the sake of ourselves, our children and their children.

Mustafa K Anuar
Co-editor, Aliran newsletter
4 January 2018

Pas has since denied that Hadi Awang said that only Malay Muslims should be cabinet ministers, claiming his words were twisted by the media. See reports here, here and here.

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