The crisis we are confronted with has nothing to do with race and religion. It is poor governance that is threatening our people and the entire nation, says W H Cheng.
Recently, many moderates have made their voices heard. After 25 prominent Malays came forward in their quest to curb the out-of-control racial and religious extremism, others boldly came forward to speak out against the rising tide of extremism in the country.
But the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has not yet acknowledged the fact that moderation is the way forward if we want to see our nation progress. Umno in particular has refused to accept the reality of our multi-ethnic and multi-religious environment, in which the interaction among people of various ethnic groups and religions cannot be avoided.
If we have national unity, the interaction among the various ethnic groups and religions reflects the harmony among our communities.
Unfortunately, many Umno leaders have chosen to continue the same old stories, alleging that threat are coming from the ideas of liberalism, pluralism and secularism. They claim there have been attacks against the Malays, Islam, the Rulers, the Malay language and the outdated New Economic Policy (NEP).
Apart from that, these Umno leaders demand that more cash handouts and many kinds of economic assistance should be dished out – the same old demands they have been making every year.
But did all this so-called assistance raise the living standards and the economic standing of the vast majority of the Malays?
Can Umno leaders explain this: the poverty rate in our nation is still high until today; about 75 per cent of the bottom 40 per cent of Malaysian households that earn below RM1850 per month are Malays.
Despite billions of ringgit poured into bumiputera-based education institutions and resources, why is 65 per cent of the Malay workforce only with an SPM certificate? About RM54bn worth of bumiputera shares has been awarded to individuals and companies from 1984 to 2005; so how is it that today shares worth only RM2bn remain in their hands? Where did the large portion of these shares go?
Many Malaysians, including the majority Malays, are deeply worried over the state of the nation and the direction this nation is heading towards. One thing most Malaysians fear today is that Malaysia would end up like Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan if extremism is allowed to take its course.
What about Umno’s coalition partners in BN – the MCA, the MIC, Gerakan, PPP, the SUPP, the PBS, the PBRS, the LDP, Upko, the SPDP and the PRS? Why are all these non-Muslim BN component parties not speaking up and questioning Umno’s domination of governance and policymaking?
Are the BN component parties really equal partners within the coalition as claimed before? Or do these BN component parties serve as mere window dressing to give the ruling coalition a multi-ethnic complexion.
The racial and religious extremism has damaged our nation’s growth. The economy is deteriorating. The socio-economic standing of our people is imbalanced; inflation is running high, real household income has dropped, our people are getting poorer daily and the ringgit has been growing weaker.
The assurance and figures given by BN leaders are no longer convincing because they do not seem to connect with the actual market sentiment and the reality on the ground anymore.
Moreover, Putrajaya has not come up with concrete and effective measures to combat widespread corruption, abuse of power and mismanagement within the administration which has resulted in annual losses running into in billions of ringgit.
So, Umno, are all these also threats to the Malays and Islam?
These negative elements threaten all Malaysians regardless of race or religion and pulling our nation into bankruptcy.
These are the realities that Umno and the other BN component parties must accept – all Malaysians are moderates and our coffers are depleting. But those responsible have buried their heads in the sand despite many calling out for our nation to be rescued.
The crisis we are confronted with has nothing to do with race and religion. It is poor governance that is threatening our people and the entire nation.
And of course, since the BN is afraid of losing Putrajaya, denying reality and continue to playing the racial and religious cards seem to be the only options it has to stay in power.
W H Cheng, an Aliran member, is director of Inter-Research And Studies (IRAS), a Penang-based mini-research outfit and pressure group.