March 1, 2019
A commentary by Zaidi Azmi
THERE is one tune that almost all Malay leaders of Pakatan Harapan have been singing during their campaign for the Semenyih by-election and that is the ruling coalition will always protect Malay interests.
While those in the lower rung of the leadership have been claiming so since the start of campaign period, the first from Pakatan’s upper echelon to voice the assurance was Pribumi Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin three days ago. Next was PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Unlike Muhyiddin, who casually denied the accusation that Pakatan had put Malay interests in jeopardy, Anwar’s assurance was rather dramatic. He used himself as the centerpiece of his don’t-worry-Malays-PH-will-protect-your-interests pledge.
“You non-Muslims… if you mock our prophet, we will arrest you. You will be charged and sent to jail,” bellowed Anwar during a rally at Semenyih Sentral.
He was referring to the recent arrest of one Wai Foo Sing for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad at Facebook. Wai was charged just hours before Anwar’s speech.
It is however not clear yet how the Malays will vote tomorrow because of Pakatan’s lacklustre track record in staying true to its promises.
In fact, there is a palpable sense of voters’ remorse among many Malays in Semenyih, who make-up 67.71 per cent of voters.
“They promised that things would get better but to me it hasn’t. The abolishment of the GST (goods and services tax) didn’t lower the cost of living at all,” said 59-year-old Siti Nur Aminah Hassan of Bandar Sri Kesuma, “And now they’re stirring up a ruckus in Tabung Haji.”
Younger Malays, who were on the same page with Siti, also claim to observe what they describe as a surge of brazenness among non-Malays while commenting on racial issues in social media.
A case in point, said 35-year-old durian seller Abdul Sani Muhammad Amirul of Kampung Rinching Tengah, were insults thrown at Malays for objecting the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Racial Discrimination.
“It was a major red flag for me. I voted for PH in the last election because I wanted to get rid of Najib (former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak) but I’m not sure I want to vote for PH anymore. I feel as if I helped emboldened them,” he said.
Such sentiment may not be reflective of the feelings of the entire Semenyih Malay community but it is indeed something that is being widely talked about and whispered.
“It has only been nine months [since PH formed the government] but the people can already feel worsening racial relations. They got too carried away with their victory,” said Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan after a rally at Bandar Bukit Mahkota last night.
But a recent poll by the University of Malaya pointed out that Pakatan was still the more popular choice in the by-election and the overwhelming majority of 8,964 votes it secured in last May’s elections seemed to suggest the coalition has nothing to worry about.
“Not true. It’s going to be a tough battle for us, not a walk in the park. I’d give both sides a 50/50 chance of winning,” said Hanafi Jalalludin, a member of Pakatan’s election committee for the by-election. “Semenyih has always been a stronghold of Umno.”
He has a valid point. Since the first general elections in 1959, Umno candidates had never lost Semenyih until last year. That despite Barisan having lost Selangor since the 2008 elections.
“To be honest, the only reason why we won Semenyih was because of the anti-Najib groundswell. Today you can tell that the animosity towards Najib has subsided, especially among the Malays’,” added Hanafi.
At a rally last night, Pribumi Bersatu chairman Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad made the same election promises as he did during his first time as prime minister and that is a Pakatan victory in Semenyih will bring about development for the people.
“Umno is a gone case. BN is dead. Stop thinking about them and think about the future. We want to enrich the people of Semenyih and we can fulfill this promise because we are the government,” proclaimed Mahathir.
What Mahathir said may hold water for some but for Pakatan to suffer a second defeat after winning four of the first five by-elections since last May would suggest that something is fundamentally wrong with the coalition.