KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 — Despite repeated fears by Malay rights groups that Malaysia’s largest race group is losing its dominance in politics and in business, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim believes otherwise.
To the former Umno minister, Malay power has increased over the years and is now at its zenith under the present Barisan Nasional (BN) leadership, insisting the potency has “gone to their heads”.
“I think the Malays have too much power and it’s gone to their heads,” the minister in charge of law during the Abdullah administration said in an email statement to The Malay Mail Online.
“Only people who have too much power will conduct themselves in the way Umno and Utusan have,” he said, referring to the BN’s main party and the Malay broadsheet it controls, adding: “To them, the idea of being sensible and reasonable is unreasonable and weak.”
Zaid also counted Malay rights group Perkasa among the group propagating what he said were “self-created” fears among Malays that their race were losing influence in politics and in the economic area to the country’s minorities, in particular the Chinese.
He recalled Utusan Malaysia and some in Umno had questioned the loyalty of Chinese Malaysians and suggested the latter group emigrate, after the results of the May 5 general election showed a sizeable number had supported the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) bloc.
In his statement, Zaid highlighted Utusan had carried one incendiary front page report under the headline: “Apa lagi Cina Mahu? [What more do the Chinese want?]”
“The problem is that we know the fears are just imaginary,” he continued.
“This is why, besides the rhetoric, none of these ‘champions’ has ever bothered to spell out the accusations or to give hard evidence of what terrible things the Chinese/Christians/Jews/Liberals and so forth are actually doing.”
To back his arguments that Malay power had risen recently, the Kelantan-born latched onto the protracted tussle between Christians and Muslims here to call their respective god “Allah”.
An appellate court had recently overturned a landmark 2009 High Court decision that the Catholic Church could publish the Arabic word to also refer to the Christian god in the Malay section of its weekly, Herald.
Zaid claimed Malaysia to be the only Muslim country in the world where a certain group could stake ownership to the divine being’s name.
The continuing court dispute over the “Allah” word, the Kelantan-born said, was something that could only happen when Muslims have “too much power for their own good”.
“Malay power is actually reaching its zenith under the present Prime Minister. We will have to wait and see what this new power will do to Malays in general,” Zaid said.
“Even for weekend rest days we keep changing them; because no one can questioned [sic] us,” Zaid said, likely referring to the recent order from the Johor sultan for the southern state to formally shift its weekend from Saturday and Sunday back to its 1994 practice of Friday and Saturday, to make it easier for Muslims to attend the obligatory Friday prayers in the mosques.
Another sign Malays had more clout today, Zaid said, were the additional positions created in the Education Ministry to accommodate two ministers, two secretaries-general, two directors-general and over 50 separate departments.
“Only a group with too much power will organise things this way—and it is this same group that sends its children to private international schools or public schools in England but asks the rest of their people to learn Arabic and Bahasa Melayu,” he said.
Bahasa Melayu, or Bahasa Malaysia, is the national language and the medium of instruction in national schools, while the number of Arabic classes have grown as more religious boarding schools sprout nationwide.
The 62-year-old politician, who was once the chief coordinator for the three-party PR secretariat, also weighed in on the resurgence of calls for another get-together between the nation’s two biggest Malay-Muslim political organisations.
Zaid said he was certain if the meeting between PR’s Islamist partner PAS and BN’s Umno were to proceed, the discussion would centre not on improving the economy or the education development for the people but rather on hudud, religion and the threat of liberal Muslims against their faith.
He cast doubt that either side would dare implement the controversial Islamic criminal code.
“That’s what too much power does to you,” Zaid said.