October 10, 2019.
Recollections & Reflections
IT was declared publicly as an event organised by four public universities and the proceedings managed by academics but with one exception – the keynote address was by a politician, who with fellow politicians rounded up the day with a photo opportunity.
Questions were raised before the Malay Dignity Congress was convened if there was anything political behind it, after which one of the universities issued a statement to flatly deny this, a denial most in the know did not buy. On the contrary, the insider information was that the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chaired by Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was very much behind it, backed by the PM’s Office.
What raised the suspicion was a session held to brainstorm ideas for the congress, at which three former Umno members turned Pribumi Bersatu frogs were prominently present. One of them, Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin, took centrestage by chairing the session. On his left was another former Umno minister, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamad, and slightly behind in a corner was Mersing MP Datuk Abdul Latiff Ahmad.
The congress’ chairman Datuk Dr. Zainal Kling was on Hamzah’s right, as can be seen in the photograph accompanying this commentary.
One other point that got the more curious amongst us asking was the backdrop at the session chaired by Hamzah. Notice the words “Gerbang Perdana” and the logo? That’s a company owned by Johor businessman Datuk Yahya Jalil of the crooked bridge fame, who until last year was an Umno politician with a position at the divisional level but whether he too has switched camps is something I’m not sure at this moment.
Before the event in Shah Alam on October 6 dispersed, politicians again hogged the limelight by holding and raising their hands on stage, maybe to show unity of purpose.
Over the years the Malays have organised many similar events, with the Bumiputera Economic Congress receiving prominent press coverage in those days but honestly, it was difficult trying to understand what the organisers for this latest gathering had hoped to achieve.
What jolted the non-Malays were the five resolutions presented to Mahathir at the conclusion, which clearly carried a hardline racial overtone.
A better way would be to keep all discussions and resolutions private – and the lobby too
Those on the outside, whether Malay or otherwise, would surely want to know what a congress like this, held in the open to discuss what are generally considered as racially sensitive issues, hopes to achieve. Or specifically, the effectiveness of having one.
A better way, and one that may be more effective, would be for prominent Malays in every discipline to brainstorm in private and the conclusions submitted on the quiet to the Malays in the federal administration. This kind of lobbying keeps everything under wraps, even up to the point that some of the requests are accepted and implemented. Why the people behind the congress would want the world to know about their demands is definitely most unusual, unless they see this as a fierce ego trip to score points with the wider Malay community.
There was a bit of theatrics too in the run-to the congress when PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim told everyone that he had not been invited but it was only a day before his statement that a journalist told me how an Anwar aide had asked him if the boss should attend. You usually ponder over this if you have received an invitation. But never mind that.
Zainal was also to confirm with two journalists separately that indeed invites had been sent to all the senior Malay leaders in PKR but in response to a query by another news outlet he spoke in riddles, giving what was an ambiguous explanation. Anwar’s party deputy Datuk Seri Azmin Ali was at the congress, which led to some taking a dig at Anwar on social media. By the way Anwar used an all too familiar reason to explain his absence – that the invite came too late for him to reschedule his presence at another function. Sounds familiar? Almost like what Azmin and faction say to explain their absence at the PKR leadership meetings in the last few months!
But all in all, the congress was ill-conceived and not an event put together by men of wisdom.