By Paul Bellow
Both former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Pas president Hadi Awang have been whipping up sentiments that could boil over with dreadful consequences for the country.
Once political foes, they have joined forces to fight not for the wellbeing of all the people of this land but mainly for the cause of their own ‘race’.
Ever since his humiliating drubbing in last November’s general election, Mahathir, instead of bowing out of politics gracefully, went on a warpath to rally the majority ethnic Malays to his banner in what he believes is a looming showdown with ‘the other’.
The doctor is all fired up to seize the high ground in a last-ditched attempt to revive himself into a force to be reckoned with, even if it comes at a high cost to the nation. He does not seem to care whether his ill-conceived strategy will harm multi-racial Malaysia.
In all his years as prime minister, including his second stint, he had not used the weapons of race and religion for blatant political ends. But ever since voters thrust him and his party into the political wilderness, the ex-PM has gone ballistic with divisive issues.
Today, Mahathir is an embittered 98-year-old, venting all his frustration, anger and spleen on the minorities, blaming them for the malaise plaguing many Malays despite decades of government propping.
- Sign up for Aliran's free daily email updates or weekly newsletters or both
- Make a one-off donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB a/c 8004240948
- Make a regular pledge or periodic auto-donation to Aliran
- Become an Aliran member
Article of faith
Mahathir is throwing caution to the wind when he impetuously discards a long-held article of faith – that Malaysia is a multi-racial country.
The bigoted politician in him even misinterprets the sacrosanct Federal Constitution to support and advance his disturbing argument that the supreme law of the land does not have any provisions to accommodate a multi-racial society.
Based on his self-serving interest, he feels it is wrong to promote the concept of a multi-ethnic nation because it goes against the Constitution, which supposedly protects only the Malay-ness of the peninsula.
By misinterpreting the Federal Constitution, Mahathir is treading on dangerous ground. Because he believes the Federal Constitution does not envision a multi-racial Malaysia, the effect could be to turn the majority Malays in the peninsula against the minorities
This warped mentality is not doing anybody any good. Mahathir is rewriting history to pander to baser instincts at a time when the nation needs good sense, sound mind and fair play.
While the doctor is prescribing dangerous medicine to cure the country’s ills, Hadi is also prancing around the fire, whooping war cries in line with his agenda to capture more power for his Islamist party.
The religious preacher shows paltry tolerance for ethnic minorities and those of other faiths, who are also rightful citizens of the land. Instead, he seems to regard them as invited guests. He wilfully condemns them as being at the root of corruption – a charge that has inflamed passions and could create an unbridgeable social chasm.
Hadi is well aware that the tactics he is employing to bolster Malay-Muslim support will only sharpen mutual hatred and resentment. When people are fed on a daily diet of hostility towards their compatriots, they could become more aggressive until they reach the point where they cannot control their irrational feelings. Will they then seek to harm others?
While Mahathir seeks to restore political power to the Malays, Hadi is single-mindedly bent on imposing a way of life that is the antithesis of the rich and diverse cultural heritage the various communities have enjoyed for so long.
Mahathir and Hadi seem unable to accept that many among the minorities have been successful not only in the business world but also in the political arena.
To Hadi, all these achievements are apparently the fruit of corruption and not honest labour. The preacher judges human behaviour mainly through the heavily tinted lens of religion. Thus, those who acquire wealth are materialistic, even secularist – whom Hadi abhors with all his might.
In his society, such ‘secular’ conduct can find no safe place, and so these characters have no place in key leadership roles or other prominent positions.
Hadi’s mind is always in overdrive mode as he chases his dream of creating a society where ethno-religious thinking will be the sole guiding lighthouse of his government if Pas ever seizes federal power. He and like-minded politicians are all salivating at the prospect of reaching their ultimate goal from the springboard of the state elections.
Mahathir and Hadi are like all those politicians the world over who would target the minority and then heap all kinds of vituperative accusations on their helpless victims. They would tar them so hideously that the majority would grow to hate them and eventually come to believe they have no place in the land of their birth.
By constantly massaging the Malay mind, the majority – from the hinterland to the urban centres – would be sufficiently malleable to accept uncritically whatever undemocratic measures the two may conceive and plan to execute. It would only take a signal from them to unleash forces that could have unimaginable consequences.
Hadi and Mahathir are merely holding hands for the sake of expediency – one to proclaim the supremacy of divine laws and the other the primacy of Malay political power. Their joint campaign has all the trappings of a dangerous alliance.
With the Hadi-Mahathir caravan now on the road, more worrying uncertainty can be expected in the days ahead if the nation grows more polarised.
If they take the rest of the country down this dark road, Mahathir and Hadi would go down in the annals of history as unconscionable leaders who turned a beacon of hope called Malaysia into a wasteland of lost opportunities and shattered dreams.
Paul Bellow is the pseudonym of a reader of Aliran