The Malay-dominated Perikatan Nasional coalition has from its very formation professed to prioritise the interests, concerns as well as unity of the Malay-Muslim community in diverse Malaysia.
This explains why its ethno-religious ideology has gained traction in the Malay-majority areas of Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah and Perlis. The so-called “green wave” of PN has also hit pockets of the Malay community in Penang, Perak and Selangor.
PN’s focus on its Malay base, however, has caused concern among certain Malay political observers who think it is politically counterproductive as far as electoral gains are concerned.
In particular, former Umno information chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan, in his recent Keluar Sekejap podcast segment, urged the opposition coalition to widen its appeal to the ethnic minorities as well as pay more attention to economic issues if it wants to win in the next general election.
Although Pas and Bersatu each has its own non-Malay-Muslim wing, such provision in the respective parties does not seem to stop the bigwigs in PN from indulging in race-and-religion rhetoric that largely alienates the minorities, such as the idea that the top leadership of the country should exclude ethnic minority politicians.
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Nor does it stop certain top PN leaders from embracing a seasoned politician who espouses the idea that the ethnic minorities are immigrants, even after all these years, which is bordering on relegating them to ‘second-class citizen’ status.
In other words, it appears that PN has worked hard enough to project itself as an exclusive club of the Malay-Muslim community to the point of putting less emphasis on, if not neglecting, the wellbeing of the ethnic minorities.
To be sure, PN needs to be inclusive so that the concerns of the minorities are sufficiently addressed, and not solely for the purpose of the coalition gaining ethnic minority votes.
In short, PN not only needs to change its electoral strategy, but more importantly to make a paradigm shift.
In the name of national unity, the minorities must be included in the grand narrative of nation-building because they simply are citizens of the country who should have access to the rights that come along with citizenship.
Otherwise, it would be tantamount to window-dressing if PN were to attract the ethnic minorities only to seek their support for its coveted project of taking over Putrajaya.
As part of seeking wider support from the people irrespective of their backgrounds, as suggested in the Keluar Sekejap podcast, PN should seriously embark on drawing up economic policies to show the people what it would do to uplift their living standards if it gets into power again.
It must spell out measures to be taken, for instance, to ease the people’s cost-of-living burden, to revive the economy and to enable Malaysia to compete economically on the world stage.
Furthermore, PN, or any other parties worth their salt, should cease resorting to the toxic politics of race and religion, which does not add value to nation-building and ethnic relations. This is especially so if certain PN policies have the effect of eroding the rights of the minorities.
We have seen how such toxic politics has often distracted many politicians away from more important issues of the day, such as education, healthcare and public utilities.
Only time will tell whether PN would be willing to be really inclusive in its politics, given that the Malay base is its raison d’etre. – The Malaysian Insight
Source: The Malaysian Insight