March 3, 2019
A commentary by Zaidi Azmi
WHAT the Malays in Semenyih did yesterday was bold. They ignored promises of prosperity and chose to stage a protest vote.
It was a gambit that could backfire as the outcome of the Semenyih by-election is, in the grand scheme of things, of little significance.
Had they heeded the call by Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to think about the future and vote for PH, it is likely that their lives would have been better.
But they did not. So what gives?
Evidently, the present weighs more and Barisan Nasional’s (BN) victory, which overturned PH’s 8,964 majority in last year’s May 9 general election (GE14), proved that the Malays in Semenyih do not like the present.
A number of factors weighed in. Some say PH picked the wrong candidate. Others blame the coalition’s poor campaign strategy. Many cite its inability to fulfil the bulk of its 100-day promises.
However, the palpable voters’ remorse that was smoldering among the Malays there pointed to a more simple issue. They feel that the Malay interests are under siege and that PH is turning a blind eye to it.
It may sound absurd to some, especially to the non-Malays, but the Malays -Malaysia’s ethnic majority- do not like the supposed new-found caustic attitude of some non-Malays following the advent of New Malaysia
The way they see it, the non-Malay leaders in PH seem hell-bent in changing sensitive matters that, according to them, should be left as they are so as to avoid unwarranted discord.
And the barrage of insults that the Malays have been lampooned with for objecting these attempts, especially by DAP supporters, had reinforced the age-old adage of how big of a trouble the Malays will be if DAP comes into power.
The view among the Malays was that they were the kingmaker of PH’s victory at GE14 and this might hold water as last year’s election was the only instance in which PH had managed to make major inroads in BN’s bastions.
Now, they feel short-changed because they believe that it is the Malays who are and will be bearing the brunt of whatever negative effects that had come out of the government’s policies and decisions.
A case in point, was Primary Industries Minister, Teresa Kok, call for palm oil smallholders to switch crops as she believed that Malaysia has enough palm oil plantation fields to cater for domestic needs.
Excuse me Kok, do you know how many Malay smallholders the country has? Do you know how much time and money the country has invested in palm oil? Do you understand how big our palm oil industry is?
Next, there’s the perceived peculiar penchant of some PH Malay leaders who think that it is perfectly acceptable to mock their fellow Malays in front of the non-Malays just to bask in a multi-ethnic adulation.
Seriously, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that “Hey, Hadi!” remark of yours, even if it was true, was simply tasteless. No, fence-sitting Malays will give you a free pass for that.
They might not vote for Pas but they will probably not vote for PH too.
A clear racial polarisation has become ever so apparent following the Semenyih by-election. The Malays are switching sides to BN and the unlikely alliance that Umno had forged with Pas seemed to resonate well with them.
It is a worrying development in terms of the country’s racial harmony. A simple misstep will likely escalate into bigger trouble, but, honestly, to band together when driven into a corner is a basic human instinct.
As it is, PH seems to be in a tight spot. If the ruling coalition panders more to the Malays, it could risk losing its painstakingly earned non-Malay support.
But if it continues to ignore and upset the Malays, it is likely that no amount of donation to any Quran printing company will cool them off.