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Completely bereft of real issues to run on, the PAS candidate for the Port Dickson by-election, Lieutenant-Colonel (Rtd) Mohd Nazari Mokhtar, has predictably fallen back on race to try to win votes.

At a campaign rally last week, it was reported that he called on the government to replace Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong with a senior army veteran. Claiming to speak on behalf of several veterans’ associations (which he did not identify), he demanded that government replace Liew by polling day (October 13th) or face the consequences.

He insisted that his objections were not based on ethnic considerations but on Liew’s “unsuitability” for the job.

Just another racist pitch

Of course, it’s all nonsense, just another racist politician fishing for votes by inferring that a non-Malay is not suitable for a senior position in the defence ministry.

The argument that a veteran should be appointed deputy defence minister makes no sense; how many veterans have held that position during UMNO’s long years in power? And if veterans feel they have been neglected and need a voice at the ministry why not ask for someone to be specifically put in charge of veterans’ affairs instead of calling for Liew to be replaced. As well, if only a senior veteran is qualified to serve in the defence ministry, why not call for the defence minister, Mat Sabu, to be replaced instead of Liew?

Nazari can deny it all he wants but his call to have Liew replaced smacks of racism and is intended to appeal to the Ketuanan-types who cannot abide a non-Malay in the defence ministry.

Nazari’s statement is, in fact, quite typical of PAS politicians who have a long history of racial and religious bigotry. PAS president Hadi Awang, for example, is on record as saying that non-Muslims should not be allowed to hold senior positions in government. Nazari is simply using the veteran angle as cover to push this racist agenda.

PAS said nothing when scandal and corruption engulfed the defence ministry. They said nothing when reports of irregularities surfaced in Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera. But when a non-Malay is appointed deputy defence minister, they are suddenly concerned about veterans’ affairs and the running of the defence ministry.

An inspired appointment

Liew’s appointment by Dr. Mahathir was, in fact, an inspired one. He has one of the sharpest minds in government, is a brilliant strategist and, like his boss Mat Sabu, is a man of unimpeachable integrity.

He is exactly what the ministry of defence needs to help clean up the mess that UMNO left behind and introduce much needed reforms to make our armed forces a more professional, less political force with the right equipment to do the job of defending our nation.

He will undoubtedly be an invaluable asset to Mat Sabu in crafting a new defence strategy for the nation in the light of the rapidly evolving regional and international situation. And our veterans will surely fare much better with him fighting for their cause than they have under previous holders of the office.

Disappointing silence

Such racism coming from PAS is, of course, unsurprising; what is disappointing is the silence of Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders in the face of such egregious racism directed at a member of the government.

Anwar Ibrahim, the PKR leader, who is busy campaigning in PD, for example, has said nothing on the matter though he has been campaigning on a platform of inclusiveness and national unity. It is encouraging that he has been unafraid of visiting temples and other places of worship and mixing freely with all the voters of Port Dickson irrespective of their racial or religious background. That is how it should be in a multicultural nation like Malaysia. Hopefully, he will also see fit to take on PAS on this matter and defend Liew’s appointment.

Leadership needed

PH must differentiate itself from UMNO and PAS by consistently and persistently taking a clear and unequivocal position against racism, bigotry and intolerance. It must have the courage to stand up to the Ketuanan-types and fight for a more inclusive and tolerant society. Absent such leadership and courage, we will never escape from the straightjacket of race and religion that has hobbled our nation for so long.

 

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 9th October 2018]

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