What’s with Dr Mahathir’s Malay agenda campaign?

K. Kabilan

Former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pictured) wants Malay voters to go against Anwar Ibrahim-led Pakatan Harapan and his new ally, Umno. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 8, 2023.

Commentary by K. Kabilan

DR MAHATHIR Mohamad is on a campaign again to oust a sitting prime minister, this time by playing up race and religious sentiments to rouse the Malay community against Anwar Ibrahim.

He wants Malay voters to go against the Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan (PH) and his new ally, Umno.

His call for action is allegedly because the current unity government does not protect the Malays and Islam, and should be changed.

To do this, he has been using his Malay Proclamation platform, and in recent weeks has extended olive branches to PAS and Bersatu.

He aims to lead a Malay charge to topple the current government with the help of PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin, and his fight is set to start with the state elections.

Many questions arise out of this new venture by Dr Mahathir.

For starters, does he still have the drive to become prime minister again? Is he really influential, especially after the manner of his own defeat in the last general election, and with all of his candidates under Pejuang and Gerakan Tanah Air not only being defeated soundly but also losing their deposits.

Does he still have any followers apart from the handful who still follow him around?

More importantly, is the Anwar government really marginalising the Malay community and overlooking Islam? Put simply, is the current federal government being dictated by forces that want to suppress the Malay/Islam agenda?

The answer to this last question is a loud “no”.

Perhaps one major oversight so far has been the way Putrajaya handled the “Allah” issue but that too seems to be under control with the government taking its proposed solutions to the Malay rulers and then implementing its new policies.

By all accounts, it is unlikely the federal government will allow non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” and other related words, but with some exceptions to Sabah and Sarawak. Malay/Muslims need not have any fear about the abuse of their holy words.

Apart from that, Anwar’s government had in fact been moving away from its moderate stand when it came to defending the Malay/Islamic agenda. Just look at the issues on Swatch pride watches and the ban on Muslims from attending Singapore comedian Kumar’s show in Labuan, among others.

Anwar himself is busy attending many events with Muslim scholars and in mosques to stress his religious credentials.

So what is Dr Mahathir talking about when he keeps saying that Anwar’s government has failed to protect the Malays and Muslims?

And why is Malay-based PN ready to join forces with him?

The answer to this is simple – it is all politics, and about winning power.

That is why Dr Mahathir is ready to work with Muhyiddin who he had previously accused of backstabbing him, and with Hadi who he never really had much love for.

He only wants to oust Anwar’s government and is ready to ride the green wave provided by PN.

For PN, it is taking a chance of using the octogenarian to win over Malay support in the PH-held states of Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Penang, and against the unity government.

It is left to be seen if this race-based political alignment will work in the state polls but it means we will be seeing more racial and religious rhetoric, and DAP bashing in the coming weeks.

It is a case of building perception with the right amount of fear.

One can only hope this does not result in Anwar’s government bending backwards to show it can be more Malay and more Islamic than what Dr Mahathir and PN are offering. – June 8, 2023.

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