KUALA LUMPUR, April 24 — When National Unity Minister P. Waytha Moorthy was told by a reporter today that he was among the most unpopular Pakatan Harapan leaders close to a year after the coalition took power, he smiled.
“When you do things that is [sic] controversial, things that other people don’t do, you don’t become famous,” he told a group interview at his office here on Wednesday.
As the minister tasked to unite a nation still reeling from political division, Waytha Moorthy acknowledged that he is nowhere near achieving what he had set out to do nearly a year after he took office.
And in the course of doing his job, he has been vilified by both sides of the political divide.
But he said this was a necessary sacrifice.
To bring together a society torn asunder by partisan and racial schism meant making tough decisions, but Waytha Moorthy is confident that one day the people will appreciate his effort.
“Probably I am in that position where I did things which is good for the country at large, but there are some people who don’t like it,” the senator said.
“Like ICERD, it is good for the country but it is not understood. And when it is not understood it’s easy to mislead the people and when people are misled, naturally I become a target and I don’t become a favourite, (but) eventually people will know.”
Critics accused Waytha Moorthy of conspiring to dismantle Bumiputera privileges after the Pakatan Harapan administration said it would ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
Detractors claimed the United Nations treaty was a back door to subverting Malay political and economic power by giving minorities access to key institutions otherwise reserved for them.
The anti-ICERD movement drew huge support among Malays that cut across party lines, which moderate politicians like prime minister in waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Umno’s Khairy Jamaluddin said reflected “genuine” grouses that the PH government should heed.
The PH administration eventually postponed signing the treaty.
But Waytha Moorthy did not view the delay as a setback for his ministership.
The senator said many of his policies have been well-received at the community level, who welcomed his unity-themed programmes even as the Opposition continues to accuse him of sowing racial tension by wanting to ratify ICERD
Waytha Moorthy claimed residents associations and neighbourhood groups have volunteered in droves to become “agents” of PH’s unity-themed programmes, a sign that his policies have resonated well with the people.
He was also responsible for organising the first Orang Asli Convention, which took place on April 20.
As many as 133 resolutions were passed at the meeting, most of them to empower the indigenous community with more political and economic rights, as well as more autonomy.
Officiated by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Waytha Moorthy said the meeting gave the indigenous community something it never had under Barisan Nasional rule: a voice.
He called this his “biggest achievements” to date.
Yet the minister was hesitant when asked to rate his performance ahead of PH’s one year anniversary in power.
“How can I rate myself?” he said smilingly.