KOTA KINABALU: Former de facto law minister Nazri Aziz’s alleged racial remarks may negatively affect Umno’s popularity in Sabah, say political analysts here.
Tony Paridi Bagang, a lecturer at Sabah Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), said the remarks made during the run-up to the Semenyih by-election can backfire as Sabah is a diverse and tolerant society.
He said Nazri’s statement will not endear him or Umno to Sabahans.
“Whether directly or indirectly, his statement might hamper the efforts of the party to regain a good image,” he told FMT.
The Barisan Nasional secretary-general came under criticism, especially from by MCA and Gerakan, for alleged remarks involving vernacular schools and appointment of non-Muslims as the attorney-general, chief justice and finance minister.
However, the Umno leader said the reports were an attempt to paint an inaccurate picture of what he had said.
“When I gave that speech, I was aware it was being recorded. As a lawyer and former minister, I realise what I said cannot be racist and should just be based on facts,” he said later at a press conference.
The Padang Rengas MP urged all quarters to look at his record of defending the rights of minorities, including the vernacular school system.
He said he was of the view that the rights of the minorities in Malaysia must be defended, and that vernacular schools must continue to exist.
Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Sabah’s Lee Kuok Tiung said Nazri’s remarks demonstrated the concerns raised by former Sabah Umno leaders who left the party last December.
“It was the right move by former Sabah Umno chief Hajiji Md Noor and company. As he had said before, Sabah Umno is a multi-ethnic party.
“You have Muslim Bumiputeras and non-Muslim Bumiputeras,” he said, adding it was hard for them to digest the party’s shift towards an Islamist ideology.
He further said leaders like Nazri shouldn’t get arrogant after the recent by-election victories.
“You see, when Umno started collaborating with PAS, it was against BN’s understanding.
“Pakatan Harapan is a copycat of the BN model. Malaysia is a multiracial country and, like it or not, you must work together with all ethnicities,” Lee said.