Mind Economy and Shrug Off Umno-PAS Rhetoric

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PH told not to be dictated by the opposition’s rhetoric.  

Pakatan Harapan cannot dance to the tune of racial disharmony played by opposition parties seeking to reclaim Putrajaya in the 15th general election, said Daim Zainuddin.

PH, which champions an inclusive and pluralistic vision of ethnic relations, should show what good and fair governance is all about, said the former Council of Eminent Persons chairman.

Daim, who is a close associate of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and formerly held the finance portfolio, added that PH need not fear racial and religious rhetoric as long as it resolves bread-and-butter issues, gives Malaysians a decent standard of living and provides affordable housing and good schools.

A wave of Malay-Muslim nationalism against the pact, fuelled by perceived PH threats to religion and race, is being exploited by Umno and PAS. This has led to concerns that the government is losing support among Malays, causing it to backtrack on ratifying global human rights treaties.

The Rome Statute and the International Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) were among those that PH had pledged to sign, to show Malaysia’s commitment to upholding human rights.

But, fear of losing Malay support has caused some PH leaders to be more Malay-centric, to appease conservatives in the community.

Daim, who advises the government on an ad hoc basis, disagreed with this approach.

“Why does PH need to dance to the opposition’s tune? They should be setting the agenda. They should be setting an example of good and fair governance to all communities,” he told The Malaysian Insight.

“Show that you are fighting for all Malaysians, that your governance is all about universal values that are accepted by all religions. Stop being dictated by the opposition’s rhetoric.  

“Sit down, discuss, think and come up with some very good inclusive programmes that will touch the lives of all Malaysians.

“Show that you are a caring government. You are a government of the people.”

In December last year, Putrajaya reversed its decision to ratify ICERD after protests led by Umno and PAS, the country’s two biggest political parties. They draw their support from Malays, who make up more than 60% of voters.

Umno, PAS and their Malay nationalist allies had campaigned against the treaty, claiming that it would remove the constitutional provisions for Malays, Islam and the royals.

Putrajaya had insisted that ICERD would not threaten those provisions, but it backed down anyway.

Last month, the government made a U-turn on ratifying the Rome Statute, which would make Malaysia a party to the International Criminal Court.

This was after Umno, PAS and the Johor sultan whipped up the Malay ground by accusing the convention of threatening the country’s constitutional monarchy.

It was later revealed that while in power, Umno and the Barisan Nasional coalition it leads had also wanted to sign the treaty.

Constitutional experts have argued that Malay nationalist arguments against the Rome Statute are baseless.

Dr Mahathir has described the resulting groundswell of Malay nationalism as vehicles for Umno and PAS to win support and return to power.

Daim echoed the prime minister’s sentiments, saying playing the race and religion card is the biggest threat to stability in Malaysia.

However, he said, the government need not fear such communal politics as long as it can “put food in people’s stomachs, and give them good jobs, affordable homes and good education for their kids”.

“Solve these issues first, and then, you will have stability with which to plan your economy.” – TMI­