As the new adviser to Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra) party, Dr Mahathir Mohamad has declared that he’d be using the Malay nationalist party as a platform to continue his fight for ethnic Malay rights.
The former prime minister along with 12 other members quit Pejuang, the Malay party he founded, in early February. The party candidates had suffered humiliating losses in the November general election, unable to win even the minimum number of votes to get back their deposits.
No stranger to controversy, Mahathir has joined, founded and left several parties in his professed struggle for Malay rights throughout his political career.
At a Putra event, he said Malays have lost economic and even political control and that it was up to him and like-minded others to see to it that the community is not left behind and “foreigners” are prevented from becoming politically dominant.
In particular, he feared an impending government push for changes in electoral boundaries could result in a reduction of Malay-majority seats. The Malays, he added, needed to be saved from such calamities.
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His misgivings about the sorry state of the Malays, however, have raised a curious question: is this an inadvertent admission he has failed the Malays as a whole despite occupying the top job in the country twice over so many years?
Does this also mean that the past governments had failed the Malays even though they had provided the community with generous economic assistance and other incentives to uplift their socioeconomic standing?
As we know, there have been various economic policies aimed at improving the lot of the Malays. The New Economic Policy (NEP), for one, is a major corrective instrument that was meant to eradicate poverty among the people, irrespective of ethnicity and religion.
And yet, to reiterate, many Malays are still confronted with economic hardships and other forms of backwardness. The Covid pandemic aggravated their situation.
Given such an unpleasant scenario for the Malays, shouldn’t the nonagenarian politician be reflecting on what was wrong with the economic strategies and actions of the past governments, including the ones he helmed?
More importantly, shouldn’t there be a concerted effort to address serious allegations that it was the Malay politicians in power who over the years hijacked the NEP for personal gain and for the benefit of their families and cronies?
These politicians personally profited while professing to promote and protect Malay interests. This is where the culture of corruption and power abuse has thrived.
To be sure, certain non-Malay politicians also took advantage of their positions as supposed champions of their respective races.
So it is disingenuous as well as divisive to entirely blame the ethnic minorities for the persistent poverty and backwardness of a segment of the Malay community. The country is divided enough in the wake of the last general election.
The former Langkawi MP made the sweeping statement that the Malays have lost political control and rights to “foreigners” while ignoring the fact that all the prime ministers and most cabinet members have been Malay since independence. These Malay politicians were entrusted to promote and protect the welfare of the community and the ethnic minorities.
Incidentally, why did the former prime minister refer to the ethnic minority Malaysians as “foreigners”, as if they are equal to the Bangladeshis or the Rohingya, who have no citizenship rights? We are talking about fellow Malaysians who have made this land their home and contributed to nation-building. Some had even put their lives on the line in the fight against the communists and other national security threats.
Building and maintaining a siege mentality among the Malays can only result in short-term gains for politicians who continually play the race and religion card.
What the country most needs is for its leaders such as Mahathir to instil self-confidence in the Malays, especially in this age of many challenges, such as climate change, fast-changing technologies and uncertain global politics – which have serious implications for food security, the environment, employment and economic development.
Mahathir would have been well-placed to play a statesman-like role in helping a divided nation to heal and progress harmoniously. – The Malaysian Insight