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As UMNO and PAS prepare to launch their new partnership, one thing is becoming clear – racism will continue to be the central pillar of their political strategy.

For years they have sought to demonize and discredit the DAP as Israeli agents, Christian evangelists, communists, conspirators with a secret agenda to split the country, overthrow the monarchy, weaken Malay rights, divide the Malays, and undermine the position of Islam. Like most racists, they hide behind innuendos, deceit and lies instead of facts. When challenged in court, they quickly backtrack but often the damage is done.

The demonization of the DAP is, of course, part of the thinly-veiled campaign against non-Malays that has been going on for years.  Most of the accusations that have been hurled against the DAP have also been levelled against various non-Malay groups in general. In this sense, the DAP has become code for non-Malays, enabling Ketuanan Melayu ideologues to attack non-Malays without appearing to be racist. It serves to remind their base that the non-Malays are a threat without actually saying so.

Avoiding the issues

Make no mistake, this is simply racial prejudice, not disagreement over policy. Many Malaysians disagree with some of the policies promoted by DAP politicians – the Penang land reclamation project is a good example – and would welcome serious debate on the issue. Other critical issues like the economic upliftment of the B40 group, national unity, human rights, the environment, etc. would also benefit from serious deliberation.

UMNO-PAS, however, has generally gone out of its way to avoid serious discussion of critical issues. Instead, perhaps bereft of real ideas and solutions, they have chosen to hide behind bigotry, turning every issue that the DAP raises and everything it does into a racial one.

Even now, as both parties prepare to sign their so-called charter, they have avoided serious discussion of how they intend to rule Putrajaya the next time around should they recapture it. Will there be a commitment to good governance, transparency and accountability, justice, human rights and democracy? Will they pursue a national agenda that is inclusive and beneficial to all Malaysians? Will they forswear the culture of entitlement and self-aggrandizement that became the hallmark of their long years in office?

Not only have they avoided serious policy discussions, they have failed to demonstrate even the slightest remorse for their long years of misrule, for the billions that were lost to corruption, for clamping down on civil liberties and for undermining our national institutions. Indeed, one has to wonder if they are even capable of understanding the magnitude of the damage they inflicted on our nation.

As for PAS, it is worth noting that Malaysians have consistently refused to entrust them with power at the federal level, and with good reason too. For one thing they have a well-deserved reputation for unscrupulousness, even making dishonesty a virtue when it suits them. Furthermore, whenever they are given the mandate to rule (at the state level) they have proven to be incompetent administrators. Kelantan, for example, the jewel in the PAS crown, remains a backwater despite decades of PAS rule.

Little wonder then that both parties have sought to distract attention from their own failures, their misdeeds, their lack of leadership, by turning up the racist invective against the DAP.

Their latest fabrication – that the DAP masterminded the split of UMNO and PAS in order to control Putrajaya and that Dr Mahathir is a DAP puppet – is a case in point. If PAS president Hadi Awang truly believes that Mahathir is but a DAP puppet, why on earth would he repeatedly pledge his support for Mahathir unless, of course, Hadi himself is also a DAP puppet? None of their allegations make any sense but then bigots never feel they need to justify themselves. 

Out of touch with reality

While the antics of UMNO and PAS are unsurprising, the support of MCA and MIC for the UMNO-PAS alliance is shocking. How any non-Malay political party can think that it’s acceptable to collaborate with a party like PAS which is so prejudiced against non-Malays that it even rejects the idea of non-Malays holding senior positions in government, is simply astonishing. MIC president Vigneswaran is obviously out of touch with reality when he insists, as he did recently, that there is no truth that “PAS is an extreme party that holds radical views.”

Zahid, the UMNO president, boasted recently that “people disappointed with the Pakatan Harapan government now have an alternative in UMNO and PAS.” What planet is he living on? Malaysians may be disappointed with the performance of Pakatan Harapan (PH) thus far but there can be no doubt that PH is infinitely better than UMNO-PAS. The majority of Malaysians don’t want PH out; they just want them to be more diligent in cleaning up the mess that Zahid and his colleagues in UMNO-BN left behind. Whatever it is, one thing is certain: no one wants to return to the dark days of UMNO rule and neither do they want to see Malaysia end up as the region’s backwater!

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 31st July 2019]