The coming months under Perikatan Nasional will be uncomfortable for non-Muslims despite the coalition’s official assurance it is a government for all Malaysians, said political analysts.
And this, they said, is due to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s dependence on support from Umno and PAS – Malay and Muslim nationalist parties whose vote base is rural, conservative Malays.
This was seen in how a PAS lawmaker, Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh, was able to offend non-Muslims by saying “the Christian Bible is distorted” and not get a rebuke from Muhyiddin’s ministers.
Muhyiddin has to be careful not to irritate the Islamist party. Even Umno has been able to get away with rude comments about the prime minister and his party, Bersatu, analysts said.
What is worse is how Muhyiddin deems Zawawi’s remarks to be acceptable to majority Muslims, said political scientist Assoc Prof Tunku Mohar Tunku Mokhtar.
“If he scolds Zawawi for the remarks, he would appear to be less religious,” said Tunku Mohar of the International Islamic University Malaysia.
“It is also possible Muhyiddin is not firm enough to take action, hoping the public would accept excuses or explanations from the PAS leadership.
“Muhyiddin is in a weak position and he needs all the support he can get, even at the expense of being perceived as weak.”
PAS contributes 18 parliamentary seats to the PN government in the Dewan Rakyat, allowing the coalition to hold on with a slim majority of 113.
PAS is also the second largest party to join the coalition, after Muhyiddin’s Bersatu, which has 39 MPs.
Despite supporting the government, Umno has an acrimonious relationship with Bersatu, seeing the latter as a splinter party, and this was shown when the former refused to join PN.
Instead, Umno wants to focus on building up its Muafakat Nasional pact with PAS and Barisan Nasional, which includes MCA and MIC.
“Muhyiddin needs PAS but PAS also needs Muhyiddin because they want to remain in government,” said another political scientist Dr Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
“It is a mutually beneficial relationship because PAS is also not eyeing Bersatu seats.”
Umno, on the other hand, has made it clear they do not want to give up their seats to Bersatu as the two were rivals in the 14th general election.
Accusations that PAS is abusing its positions of power started when Plantations and Commodities Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali violated a 14-day self-quarantine order after returning from an official trip to Turkey.
The authorities’ lax attitude towards Khairuddin is in contrast to the hefty fines and jail terms meted out to ordinary Malaysians for the same offence.
Khairuddin paid the RM1,000 fine and claimed to have donated four months of his salary to the national Covid-19 fund.
After days of public criticism towards Khairudddin, Muhyiddin said no one is above the law.
However, authorities have yet to act against Zawawi, the Pasir Puteh MP, despite calls for him to be investigated for sedition over his Bible comments.
Political scientist Prof James Chin sees Zawawi’s remarks as part of a wider pattern of PN leaders portraying themselves as Malay-centric and Malay-first.
“They tend to racialise issues and blame everything that goes wrong on non-Malays, non-Muslims – especially the Chinese,” said the Asia Institute director of the University of Tasmania.
At the same time, because Muhyiddin is unsure of his support levels in PN, he does not want to offend PAS and Umno, even if they behave badly, Chin said.
“So, this means PN leaders can act like however they want until the next general election.
“The immediate future will be very unpalatable and uncomfortable for non-Malays and non-Muslims. When things go wrong, they attack the Chinese.” – TMI