KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 ― Some racial campaigning has started in the run up to the 14th general election, as Barisan Nasional (BN), Pakatan Harapan (PH) and PAS fight for the crucial Malay vote.
A video circulating on WhatsApp claims the Chinese-dominant DAP wants to split the Malays, mirroring the British colonialists’ divide-and-rule strategy, and to eradicate “Malay rights”, as achieving “equality” will enable “DAP Chinese” to seize all of the country’s wealth.
But Malay-Muslim parties from both the ruling coalition and the Opposition stressed the protection of “all Malaysians” in their campaigning to the majority Malay electorate.
Umno Youth exco Ibdil Ishak said unlike Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), an Umno splinter party headed by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Umno’s track record since independence has shown its sincerity in upholding the Federal Constitution and the rights of “all Malaysians, inclusive of Malay rights”.
“Umno holds the responsibility and oath of the Malay community to continuously champion and advocate the rights of Malays,” Ibdil told Malay Mail, citing Articles 181, 3, 11, and 153 of the Federal Constitution on Rulers’ sovereignty, Islam as the religion of the federation, freedom of religion, and quotas for Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak.
“PPBM on the other hand is a party who has yet to comply with RoS’ mandatory requirements ― let alone to fulfill the aspirations and desire of the Malay community,” he added, referring to the Registrar of Societies.
PPBM faces deregistration as it has not been able to furnish minutes of meetings of its divisions and branches.
Umno Youth vice-chief Senator Khairul Azwan Harun said PPBM was led by ex-Umno members who only wanted to bring down Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and were willing to say anything, including make economically unsound promises.
“We aren't willing to put the entire future in debt just so we can enjoy goods today. Combined with our track record, Malay voters will stick with us,” he said.
PPBM strategist Datuk Rais Hussin similarly said “all Malaysians” were important to his Malay-only party.
“We're not just saying we protect Malay rights fulllstop. You look at PPBM’s constitution ― Malay rights, Islam, religion, Sultans, Malays ― all that is important, but at the same time, the non-Malays are also important for us,” Rais told Malay Mail.
He claimed BN and Umno would campaign on race and religion and inculcate fear among Malays and Chinese, whereas PPBM would run a positive campaign on “re-empowering the people”.
PPBM supreme council member Tariq Ismail said state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) would feature a lot in his party’s campaign, but he would make the firm’s complex financial scandal relevant to voters.
“So far when I talk about 1MDB, I dumb it down to decay in governance and China becoming Malaysia’s saviour which is dangerous,” the Johor politician told Malay Mail.
“I think what many need to understand is at election time, we are all standing under Pakatan Harapan. Bersatu is merely the pro-Malay voice in Pakatan in which the Malays will not be left out,” he added.
PAS vice-president Datuk Iskandar Abdul Samad, who is also Selangor executive councillor, said his party “took care” of Islam more than other political parties.
“This can be seen through the governance of Kelantan,” Iskandar told Malay Mail.
“For example, the RUU355 brought by PAS to Parliament is aimed at raising the stature of the Shariah courts. We are independent from the British, but the Shariah court is seen as lower than the magistrate’s court.
“This PAS effort is not to rob the rights of the non-Muslim community as it only involves the Muslim community.”
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has been trying to push through a private member’s Bill, dubbed RUU355, to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 in order to increase Shariah courts’ sentencing limits to 30 years’ jail, RM100,000 fine and 100 lashes.
Amanah communications director Khalid Samad said his party, a PAS splinter, would campaign on good governance in line with Islamic teachings.
“There’s no reason for Muslims to accept a corrupt government purely on the basis it is a Malay-Muslim government, for fear of supposedly losing political power,” Khalid said.
In Kelantan, where Amanah will be taking the lead among PH parties, Khalid said the PAS state government has used hudud and Shariah to cover up its failure in more fundamental issues, like infrastructure and social justice.
He highlighted the problem of floods, drainage, poverty, and lack of clean water in the east coast state.
“Cost of living has gone up because of corruption and mismanagement. What we’re saying to Kelantanese is that all these issues are Islamic issues; it’s not just hudud. PAS gives the impression that Islamic politics is just hudud, fullstop,” said Khalid.
Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin said her party would campaign on PH’s pledge of introducing an Employees Provident Fund contribution scheme for housewives and the Selangor state government’s Kasih Ibu Smart Selangor (KISS) programme for women with dependents, whose household income is less than RM2,000 monthly.
KISS participants receive a card, into which RM200 is debited every month, that can be used at registered stores to buy daily necessities.
“What is key to Pakatan and Keadilan is to recognise women's unpaid job. That is very important. Selangor is the model,” Zuraida said.
“We are focusing on Malay women in rural areas. In the context of election, it's guys who can turn around and support [us] very fast.
“But women, they're too worried and scared because of Wanita Umno’s scare tactics, so we have to give them confidence to be courageous this time around,” she added, citing Wanita Umno’s so-called claims to female voters that their husbands would not get jobs if they voted for the Opposition.