Dr M’s racial politics outdated, says Pakatan’s young leaders
Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers lambasted former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for frustrating the nation’s efforts to move forward, calling his remarks stale and irrelevant to the needs of younger Malaysians.
They said the country should do well focusing on bread and butter issues rather than harp on issues from the 1960s, such as the circumstances surrounding Singapore’s expulsion from Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir, in his latest blog post, had claimed that “Racism in Malaysia is clearly the result of Singapore’s membership of the country for just three years.”
He was responding to the island republic’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, who remarked in his New York Times interview that Malaysia’s inter-racial relations would have been if Singapore were not expulsed from the federation.
PKR’s Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, one of a clutch of rising young political stars in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) stable, sent out this message on his Twitter site earlier this week: “Let’s focus on the future. They’re fighting the cultural wars from the 1960s. We have more urgent battles to fight.”
The first-term Seri Setia assemblyman’s views were echoed by PR colleagues Nurul Izzah Anwar, the DAP’s Liew Chin Tong and Dzulkefly Ahmad from PAS.
The trio observed that Dr Mahathir’s arguments were growing increasingly stale among the younger generation of voters who are more concerned with how Putrajaya handles bread-and-butter issues in an increasingly competitive global landscape.
“Harping on the events of August 9, 1965 won’t resolve anything,” said Nurul Izzah, the eldest daughter of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, referring to the date Singapore was booted out of Malaysia.
The Lembah Pantai MP observed that the long-standing battle between the two former prime ministers had nothing constructive to work on in the way of nation-building today.
“We have to learn the past, but focus on the current if we want solutions.
“What we decide to do today will shape Malaysia’s future; and the current tit-for-tat shouldn’t distract us from managing issues such as the need for Malaysia to implement economic reforms, improve quality of education in the country and continue to address alleviation of poverty,” she stressed.
Liew, who is Bukit Bendera MP, subscribed to Nik Nazmi’s observation likening the verbal jousts between Dr Mahathir and Lee as an outdated “cultural war from the 1960s” that had no place in the present day society.
“That cultural war has nothing to do with us. I think we have moved beyond the question of if Singapore should be out or in,” said the DAP international secretary.
“I think we should not be distracted by Dr Mahathir. Let him do whatever he wants. He was a racist, and then he was inclusive…he’s changing colours every decade. He should not concern Malaysians pondering their future,” he added.
Liew observed that Dr Mahathir had been racist in his approach in the first half of his term in office in the 1980s but had switched to preaching inclusiveness after he nearly lost to Kelantan prince Tengku Razaleigh in the 1990 general elections.
Political scientist Agus Yusoff echoed the two first-term legislators and called Dr Mahathir’s argument “irrelevant”.
“I disagree with Dr Mahathir’s argument that Singapore is to blame for racism in Malaysia. It’s irrelevant. Why should we care what Lee Kuan Yew says in Singapore or in New York for that matter?” the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) lecturer said.
“What we have to concern ourselves with is what’s happening in our own country. Racism is a problem in Malaysia because there are organisations like Perkasa,” he stressed.
“We don’t have many politicians who support the prime minister’s concept of 1 Malaysia. They don’t even understand what the concept is all about,” he added.
Agus warned that Malaysia would not be able to go far in fighting racism as long as there are political groups championing the rights of a single ethnicity.
“We can’t go far if even in the BN, if there are political groups that fight for only the rights of one racial group, Malay rights, Chinese rights… That’s why racism keeps happening in this country,” he insisted.
PAS lawmaker Dzulkefly Ahmad said Dr Mahathir is the nation’s biggest obstacle to racial harmony and pegged him the “Father of All Racists”, paraphrasing minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz’s criticism against the ex-premier in a rare show of support across the political lines.
The Kuala Selangor MP slammed the elder statesman for not owning up to his failure to stop the rift from widening during the latter’s 22 years in office.
“He had 22 years and the longest premiership. What was he doing all those years? He can’t blame an event in history or attribute the problems to another country,” Dzulkefly told The Malaysian Insider.
The PAS central working committee member pointed out that Dr Mahathir’s argument was flawed and only served to highlight the gravity of Malaysia’s inter-racial rift.
“He himself is admitting there is a serious racial divide in no uncertain terms. His only denial is that he is the catalyst for that,” Dzulkefly said.
He pointed out that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was at least “trying to enhance racial relations by taking an inclusive, market-friendly approach”.
He contends the 85-year-old’s patronage of hawkish Malay rights group Perkasa had further fanned racial conflicts here.
“He is now calling for racially-biased politics and reminding the current PM, in fact, coercing the PM not to ever debate those politics and not to marginalise Perkasa for fear of losing the Malay vote,” Dzulkefly said.
The PAS man warned that Umno was at a most crucial political crossroads and its survival to stay relevant with the Malay community depended on whether it would choose Najib’s reform-minded inclusiveness or continue to parade itself as the “most supreme Malay party on Earth”.