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In the aftermath of GE14, many Malaysians were hoping that UMNO would quickly reconstitute itself into the kind of credible opposition that our nation desperately needs if it is to function as a true democracy. There was hope that the grand old party of Malaysian politics would take stock of where it went wrong, learn from its mistakes and chart a new more responsible course.

UMNO’s decision to forge an alliance with PAS has now put paid to such hopes. Instead of charting a new course, UMNO has opted to dig the trenches of racism and extremism even deeper by working with an irreparably extremist party that has consistently rejected democracy, inclusiveness and religious tolerance.

UMNO and PAS leaders are now going into overdrive to stress that their agenda is an inclusive one that will take into account the interests of all Malaysians.  With impressive Orwellian skills, they are describing their union as “a new deal” for Malaysia, “a new beginning” for all Malaysians, the start of “a new national discourse,” “an alliance of hope” to save Malaysia from Pakatan Harapan.

Clearly, they must think Malaysians are stupid, naïve and utterly gullible.

For one thing, UMNO leaders have yet to acknowledge their horrible record of corruption, incompetence and abuse of power while in office, leave alone apologise for their misdeeds. That they would even find it acceptable to be led by a man who is himself facing corruption charges is an indication that nothing has really changed within UMNO.

As well, they have done nothing to indicate that they have repented of their own long sleazy history of racism. Are we expected to pretend that the racist taunts, the dismissal of non-Malays as “pendatang, as an existential threat to Islam and the Malays, the persistent belittling and harassment of other faiths, etc. never happened or was merely an aberration?

All the talk about building a more progressive and tolerant society is empty rhetoric until and unless they forsake their racist approach to politics; and there’s no sign of that at all.

Indeed, even as they try to project a new image of tolerance, their dark side shows. Witness the remarks by UMNO vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob that the DAP has now taken control of halal certification. Of course, he knows it’s all fake news but that doesn’t seem to matter to him; it serves to rile up UMNO-PAS supporters and give credence to the patently false posit that Islam and the Malays are under threat from the DAP and, by extension, the Chinese.

As well, they talk about building a more inclusive society but complain that Pakatan Harapan “is not a Malay-centric government.” How much more “Malay-centric” do these Ketuanan Melayu ideologues want it to be? Is even one non-Malay AG in a sea of senior positions held by Malays too much for them?

And what did they do when they were in power, when they ruled with their so-called “Malay-centric” government? Instead of uplifting all economically disadvantaged Malaysians, they plundered the nation to enrich themselves all in the name of defending race and religion.

PAS is no better. PAS president Hadi Awang insists that “Non-Malays and non-Muslims should not be overly concerned as their rights are protected in the Quran and the Federal Constitution.”  It means nothing, of course, coming from a man with zero credibility, a man who has made no secret of wanting to amend the Constitution and turn Malaysia into a theocratic Islamic state. Surely, he speaks through both sides of his mouth when he argues that “Islam protects the rights of others” but insists that “this is a Malay land” that should be governed exclusively by Muslims.

If further proof of their duplicity is needed, look no further than recent speeches by Hadi and  vice-president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man. One makes the absolutely outrageous and reprehensible statement that the Chinese are after Sarawak’s wealth while the other duplicitously twists the remarks of a Christian deputy-minister to suggest that the DAP is out to “Christianize” Malaysia. I confess that when it comes to describing PAS leaders, I’m simply at a loss for words because all the usual negative adjectives are not quite enough.

That they can even think for one moment that non-Malays are dim-witted enough to embrace their vision of Malaysia – a Malaysia in which non-Malays would be reduced to dhimmitude and second-class citizenship – just shows how delusional they have become. And shame on the MCA and MIC for going along with it; if GE14 didn’t seal their fate, this surely will!

At the end of the day, whatever else may be said about the UMNO-PAS alliance, there’s no escaping the fact that it is simply a devious scheme to regain power by weaponizing hate, bigotry and fear against Malaysia’s ethnic and religious minorities. What is worse, it is premised upon a philosophy that demonizes non-Malays to legitimize their marginalization and exclusion from national life.

Let me put it bluntly: when UMNO-PAS leaders ask non-Malays to support their “new deal,” they are asking us to participate in the destruction of what’s left of the dream of a nation founded on the idea of unity in diversity. That we should be so obtuse.

Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 20th September 2019]