Pakatan must have alternative vision for Malay identity, say analysts

Sheridan Mahavera

Pakatan Harapan leader Anwar Ibrahim talks to the crowd at a ceramah. Experts feel the opposition has not been able to engage Malays to reassure them of their place in a multicultural society. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 4, 2020.

ALTHOUGH it rejects race-based politics, Pakatan Haparan has to come up with an alternative vision of the Malay identity if it hopes to gain enough support from the community to return to power in the 15th general election, said analysts.

The lack of this alternative vision has allowed Umno and PAS to dominate the Malay voting ground, which has become increasingly conservative after the 14th general election, said political analysts in a webinar organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Compared to the past, when it was mostly a rural attitude, more urban, educated and English-speaking Malays are becoming conservative after GE14, the experts said.

PH’s Malay leaders must champion a new vision of being Malay that is comfortable in multicultural Malaysia that the coalition wants to build, if it hopes to counter this conservatism and win the community’s support.

The failure to do so will mean that Umno and PAS will dominate the discourse with Malays, using the idea that the only way Malays will have a future is for Umno to be in political power.

This idea is still is not being challenged by PH’s Malay leaders, said Universiti Malay historian Prof Hamidin Abd Hamid.

“When we do research we notice that Malays are ready to move to the next step, which is a Malay identity post-Umno,” said Hamidin, who is also a research fellow at polling outfit Ilham Centre.

“This is the challenge where PH has failed miserably: to create a clear structure, a clear narrative on what it is to be a Malay in a new government,” the webinar Umno At The Crossroads: Implications For Malaysian Politics”.

“This is what is missing. Any party that can define this will get a strong leg up among Malays,” said Hamidin, adding PH had started this discourse in the Malay community as it was campaigning in GE14 to break Umno and PAS’ stranglehold on the Malay psyche.

“Our research in 2018 in the rural areas, where we always assumed that the pace of change is slow, surprisingly showed that there was an openness to discuss this idea.

“Yet, it stopped after GE14. PH can’t decide whether it wants or does not want to say anything about Malay policy.

“It’s a pity for them because it’s the biggest opportunity to craft a new Malay identity for the future.

“In its 22 months in power, there was not even a seminar by the government to discuss the position of the Malays. They didn’t use any communication channel to challenge Umno and PAS.”

In contrast, Hamidin said that surveys among Malays during PH’s administration showed that there was a strong demand from the community for the coalition and its Malay leaders to address the issue.

As PH insisted on taking a non-racial approach to politics, this left Umno and PAS a wide open field to inject its own divisive views among the community.

“No party can ignore this demand among Malays and you can see how Umno and PAS could win 90% of Malay support in by-elections after GE14 by using their Malay rhetoric.”

The lack of a PH Malay narrative further increased the conservative attitude among the community, which is now common even among English-speaking professionals in the corporate world, said Hamidin.

Another panellist, political analyst Mazri Muhammad, said the rise in conservatism among Malay professionals post-GE14 has manifested itself in the Buy Muslim First campaign and online discussions on banning alcohol to curb drink driving.

“The debates have taken a different perspective. A lot of people missed this,” said Mazri, who was a special officer to former-prime minister Najib Razak from 2009 to 2013.

“After the PH debacle and the DAP issue, Umno has mined these issues to the hilt and reaped the dividends,” said Mazri who was also the deputy chief of Najib’s policy and research division. – June 4, 2020.

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  • The only people that can provide a new Malay Narrative are people like Rafizi and Nurul. The old and ineffective Malay leaders in PH need to step aside for this new Narrative to move forward. Muhyiddin Azmin Mahathir and Anwar should step aside.

    Posted 4 years ago by Loyal Malaysian · Reply

  • What then is the difference between PN and PH when Malays Chinese and Indians want their own narratives.

    Posted 4 years ago by Zainuddin Yusoff · Reply

  • The way to be great again is to liberate from controls and elements that restrict human development. UMNO and PAS? Nah!

    Posted 4 years ago by Tanahair Ku · Reply