THERE is a prevailing thinking that has been purveyed both consciously and unconsciously that things could be worse if Perikatan Nasional (PN) comes to political power.
At least under the unity government, the political, social and economic environment is tolerable especially for the non-Malays.
This is precisely the reason why this fear – real or imagined – has been used to ensure that non-Malay support remains intact within the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional (PH-BN) alliance in the unity government.
There is fear that non-Malays and to some extent Malays will lose their rights with the ascendancy of political Islam in the country.
This is the fear or propaganda that has been perpetuated by those in the unity government which is anchored by the PH-BN alliance. It thus explains why the non-Malays, particularly the Chinese, remain staunch supporters of the PH-BN coalition in general and DAP and PKR in particular.
In the last general and the recent state elections, DAP emerged as the sole custodian of non-Malay votes although Indians were slowly beginning to desert the party.
Indian electoral support for PH-BN conspicuously declined in the three states of Penang, Selangor and Negri Sembilan.
Further erosion of support is possible in the coming years because Indians in general don’t see the DAP or PH as their representatives even if there is no political alternative.
Of course, things might change if the unity government falls back on the badly needed reforms.
The idea that the fate of the non-Malays will be much worse under political Islam is not the sole doing of the PH-BN coalition but the main responsibility seems to lie with PN.
Incessant political propaganda touching on race and religion have caused much apprehension among the non-Muslims. The fear of the imposition of an Islamic system seems real in the minds of many non-Malays.
There is a thinking among them that if the PN comes to power, they will lose whatever rights and privileges they have under the unity government.
So, it is better to maintain whatever rights they have than to switch their political allegiance to a right-wing coalition that has nothing but contempt for them as citizens of the country.
This is the trump card of PH and the DAP in particular. As long as the fear of the PN remains relevant, the DAP might be relevant to the non-Malays in general.
The DAP’s relevance seems not related to what it can do to advance or protect the rights of the non-Malays.
Over the years, the party has lost its earlier fighting spirit especially on matters of political, social, cultural economic rights of the non-Malays. Being in the government, it more interested in preserving the status-quo.
In fact, even as the DAP has the support of the non-Malays, particularly the Chinese, it cannot translate this support into their future well-being.
Paradoxically, the party is strong but not in a position to do anything for the betterment of the non-Malays for the fear spooking the conservative Malays.
Non-Malays become sacrificial lamb
Whether there will be an imaginative future political configuration within the ranks of the DAP remains unclear.
Both in the recent general and state elections, the PN had the golden opportunity to ingratiate themselves to the non-Malays in the country. It could have come out with an agenda or policy measures to placate the non-Muslims but miserably failed.
Apart from some token statements about respecting the rights of non-Malays, PN remained steadfastly a political coalition of Malays and Muslims.
With PAS remaining as the dominant component, there is little or no hope that the party can accept the political realities of the country. It is fine for PN as an opposition coalition but not as a coalition that might form the future government not to accommodate the interests of non-Malays.
As long as PN’s race and religious rhetoric remains dominant, there is little or nothing it can do to entice the support of the non-Malays. A radical thinking might be necessary to accept the political realities of the country.
The fear of PN’s political Islam might be the main reason why the non-Malays have no choice but to put up with PH. It is not that PH has promised the heaven for the non-Malays in the country.
In countering the growing influence of political Islam, the unity government is slowly but surely moving to the right. This is as though such a move might stop the juggernaut of PN.
The need to perpetuate the unfairness of the political, economic and cultural system inherited from the past makes a mockery of the much talked about reforms of the unity government. – Aug 26, 2023
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the former DAP state assemblyman for Perai. He is also the former deputy chief minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.