They say marriages are made in heaven, and that is exactly what PAS and Umno leaders said this week when they “consummated” their cooperation with a formal alliance they termed a “marriage.”
Malaysian politics is never short of anecdotes, and as this one goes, it has to be one of the most striking. The story about the proposal, ring and marriage really caught me off-guard.
Some weeks ago, during a Grab car ride, I had a very interesting conversation with my driver. In essence, it was about politics and the economy and how both of us were unimpressed with the state of both.
He told me that despite all the bad things said about former Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, things were much better under BN’s reign and his family could eke out a decent living. He asked what was the use of a clean government or a government that said it was clean but was unable to do anything for the rakyat.
I think that sums up Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) challenge.
PH came to power on the back on many lofty promises but also with an avowed mantra of how they would do things better.
Furthemore, the Malay ground, both rural and urban, has shifted considerably since May 9th, 2018. In fact, there is a general feeling of malaise with a slowing economy, heightening racial tension, bickering between the PH parties and a general lack of direction on governance.
Besides prosecuting Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders and a purported flying car, the
government does not really have much to show for.
PH’s liberal base that religiously sustained its pursuit of power has been left confounded and confused by PH’s aversion to abolish oppressive laws and enact serious reforms. Three parliament sessions have passed, but the government has really nothing to show besides the repeal of the Fake News law.
Either because they lack imagination or foresight, their focus seems to be on undoing many BN policies for the sake of it without actually making a real attempt to materialise their
For example, the announcement on tolls within days of the Semenyih by-election was actually seen as a betrayal of PH’s election promise as it was insincere and misleading. Essentially, tolls will be called a congestion charge and only those who use tolls during the wee hours will not need to pay.
In fact, the memes and jokes that accompanied the toll announcement, whilst hilarious, exposed that PH’s honeymoon is over.
With this as the backdrop, Umno and Pas have been working feverishly to cement and formalise their cooperation. In fact, I have long posited that Umno’s fall from power will draw it into PAS’ arms and their aim of Islamisation of Malaysia can proceed unhindered.
In the Cameron Highland’s by-election, Umno and Pas combined got nine out of 10 Malay votes. In Semenyih, the same combination received seven out of 10 Malay votes.
The Semenyih by-election is a rude awakening for PH as Umno and PAS are now making inroads into their heartland. Also, BN did well with the younger voters in Semenyih, which have also been a core support base of PH.
PH leaders have either been dismissive of this new political force or been extremely critical of it. Lim Guan Eng said it was a “declaration of war” on non-Malays, whilst Liew Chin Tong said Umno and PAS were practicing “scorched earth” tactics.
However, as I browsed Twitter after the announcement of the Umno and PAS “marriage,” one comment struck me. One user said “Kalau 80% bukan Melayu undi PH itu demokrasi, kalau 80% Melayu sokong Umno dan PAS itu dikatakan rasis.”
Loosely translated it means, 80% of non-Malays voting for PH is seen as democracy, whilst 80% of Malays supporting Umno and PAS is called racism.
This exposes a massive fault-line in Malaysian politics. Ever since 2008, PH parties, especially DAP and PKR, have fueled its popularity on the near complete support of non-Malays.
In fact, their approach worked so well that in three election cycles they found themselves in government.
And the healthy dose of demonisation of PAS and UMNO that they relied upon to sustain this incredible support of non-Malays is now their undoing; or as they say, one reaps what one sows.
Let me give you an example, I was recently in a Whatsapp group chat called “Rebuilding Malaysia” which is part of Invoke’s initiative to spread their message and ensure continued support from the government.
The administrators of this group chat strictly control its posts and do not allow any debate or discussion. In fact, anyone who goes against the rules of the group chat – and trust me there were many – would be removed.
So, on a daily basis, anti-Umno and PAS messages and memes would be spammed in the group and anyone who disagreed would be branded as BN and Umno “cybertroopers” and immediately removed from the group.
And when some us in the group told the administrators that now that PH was in government, the focus should be on governing the country and PH’s policies as opposed to anti-BN and Pas rhetorics that can very racist at times and completely contrary to national building, we were told to leave and form our own group.
So I left.
It goes on to show that PH is struggling to transition from opposition to government, but at the same time, Umno and PAS have found a new purpose in their nuptials.
PH must understand that the country is quite tired of its “it is not my fault, blame BN” approach. As they are now the government, the people want and expect action.
Further, the opposition too must play their role constructively. The racial and religious narrative is not helpful and will alienate non-Malay support. Using PH’s own tactics in opposition against them may be politically beneficial in the short term but it will cause more harm to the country in the long term.
I believe all political forces should take a step back and focus on what is best for Malaysia. This great country is being torn apart by politicians who want to win the next election and not nurture the next generation.
Also, many have asked me, what is the solution to the problems we face?
My answer is always simple: It is for those in power to figure it out. It is time for PH to step up.
Ivanpal Singh Grewal is an Advocate & Solicitor. He was formerly Political Secretary to the Minister of Plantation Industries & Commodities.