PETALING JAYA: Acknowledging that race relations are still a major problem as Pakatan Harapan approaches its first anniversary in government, Daim Zainuddin said Malays should “think rationally” instead of falling for the false narratives being propagated by Umno leaders.
The Council of Eminent Persons chairman said he had always expected that the Umno-led opposition would turn to fanning racial sentiment.
This was especially with allegiances among Malays divided “five ways” – to PPBM, PKR, Amanah, PAS and Umno.
“The opposition will always exploit and take advantage, and the easiest is to play up race and religion,” Daim told South China Morning Post’s (SCMP) This Week in Asia on Thursday.
He said the challenge was to press home to the Malays the decrepit state in which former prime minister Najib Razak left the economy when he was ousted from power.
“Who stole the money? You still want them (Najib’s government)? You can have them,” Daim was quoted as saying.
“Ministry of Finance buys (Tabung Haji assets) for RM19 billion You are not happy? Something wrong. Oh, (Umno says) MOF is Chinese. What Chinese? This is a Pakatan Harapan government. You have to think rationally. Only idiots believe these things, and there are too many idiots around I say.”
But according to SCMP, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Umno figures insisted that calling them names would not stop them from talking about race and politics.
It quoted former Federal Territories Umno Youth leader Razlan Rafii as saying that while he accepted that Dr Mahathir Mohamad was a revered figure among Malays, the elder statesman was “very different” in his second stint in power.
“We accept, he was the father of development … but now he is working with the DAP, they are controlling him,” Razlan told the Hong Kong-based paper.
SCMP also quoted Umno supreme council member Lokman Noor Adam as saying: “The DAP won (in the last general election) because they proved to the Chinese community that only they are willing to fight the Malays, and that they are the only ones willing to fight for equal rights, which is against the constitution.”
However, lawyer Syahredzan Johan, who is with DAP, said Umno had found itself with its back against the wall a year after its May 9 defeat.
Syahredzan said that apart from castigating Umno, PH insiders had not gone on attack mode enough.
“The narrative is there, it is alluring but it is not true … we have not done ourselves any favours by not pushing back hard enough to say this is not a DAP government, this is a consensus government,” he said.
PH leaders told SCMP the onus was on the heads of their respective parties to beef up confidence in the ruling coalition among the Malays.
“The Malay voters want to see Malay leaders protect and uphold the rights of Malays … you need to be seen to be doing it,” PKR Wanita chief Haniza Talha said.
PPBM secretary-general Marzuki Yahya said the government should not shy away from reminding Malay voters about the excesses of Najib’s administration.
“It was Barisan Nasional and Umno that gave away assets to foreign countries, engaged in corruption … that’s the worst thing.
“The Malays should band together to fight corruption with this government,” the deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying.