* Commentary by Mustafa K Anuar.
A GOVERNMENT is yet to be formed in the wake of a hung parliament that was primarily caused by three coalitions and other smaller parties competing for and splitting the votes.
As a result, Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Anwar Ibrahim and Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin were summoned by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to ascertain who has the majority to form the federal government.
The king suggested that PH and PN form a unity government but that was rejected outright by Muhyiddin.
So it looks like it will take some time before the country can move on.
The two major coalitions have already invested much time and effort to consolidate their respective positions before meeting the king.
Malaysians, who for years have been reduced to mere spectators in the selection of their leaders, are once again seeing the politicians scramble for a credible coalition government.
PH and PN were desperately looking for partners to enable them to occupy Putrajaya.
Given that politics is the art of the possible, PH was meeting with its rival Barisan Nasional (BN) to explore the possibility of teaming up. But that strategy fell through after BN leaders decided to play the role of opposition in parliament.
To court parties in the Borneo territories, a re-energised PAS, which bagged 49 parliamentary seats assured Sabah and Sarawak that the Islamist party would not set religiously oppressive policies if it became part of the new federal government.
This came about after PAS got wind of the disquiet among the grassroots members of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) over the prospect of joining forces with PAS, which is seen as anathema to Christians.
Some former leaders of GPS component parties also expressed concern over creeping Islamisation and conservatism in the federation.
Stung by the criticisms, the GPS leadership subsequently said it would leave the selection of the prime minister to the king.
PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan had insisted that his party respected Malaysia’s diverse races, religions and customs and recognised the people’s right to practise their creed and cultures as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.
He was no doubt aware Sarawak folk were still rankling over the bigoted and racist statements of PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang.
During the 2009 Batang Ai by-election, the Marang MP insulted the Iban by calling them “cawat” (loincloth) wearing voters who did not know how to vote when blaming them for Pakatan Rakyat’s loss in the polls.
Sarawak people were also riled up by Hadi’s assertion that non-Malay communities were the root of the country’s corruption.
It does not help that Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin was caught on video expressing anti-Christian sentiments on the eve of the elections.
Having said that, could it be possible that PAS, on a political high, has turned over a new leaf and accepted cultural diversity?
Has the party realised that it was wrong, for instance, to prohibit Malay-Muslims from participating in the Japanese Bon Odori festival in Selangor, which has been held yearly for decades?
And has the Islamist party realised that it is not kosher to oppose a whiskey, enjoyed by non-Muslims, simply because it is named “Timah”, meaning tin, which it insisted was the name of the prophet’s wife, Fatimah.
Or are all its post-election assurances just a sham for expediency?
Various parties also spent money and effort on campaigns, ceramah, and social media messages during the election.
Such platforms as YouTube and TikTok were skilfully utilised by certain parties to transmit messages and visuals, some of which deliberately fanned racial sentiments and religious bigotry that gained traction in targeted audiences, but unfortunately gave rise to fear and suspicion between the racial and religious groups.
A resultant divided society caused by unscrupulous political campaigns and the politics of race and religion needs to be healed.
The prime minister must have the ability and willingness to be inclusive so as to take care of Malaysians of diverse races, religions and regions.
Whoever takes the top job must surely know that racism and religious extremism cannot be worn as badges of honour. – November 23, 2022.