No fear of race riots, but be alert, says Anwar

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.

KUALA LUMPUR: Anwar Ibrahim has sought to play down concerns voiced by an academic and an antique book dealer over the alleged resurfacing of racially charged rhetoric reminiscent of speeches that sparked the May 1969 race riots.

The PKR president said he did not believe the situation had deteriorated to the extent of inspiring a riot.

“There is still a voice of reason,” he said. “People are saying the problems are not race but poverty, inequality and a disconnect of narratives between the urban elite and the general society.”

He was speaking to reporters after chairing a meeting of the parliamentary caucus on reform and governance here.

He said he had not, in recent times, heard debates so contentious that they would lead to rioting, but he added that the government should nevertheless be alert to attempts to stir up racial strife.

Yesterday, FMT quoted book dealer Muhammad Nazreen Jaafar and academic Teo Kok Seong as saying that recent political speeches and writings that could be seen as communally charged revolved around the position of the Malay language and education.

Nazreen, a former researcher at a local think tank, said he had acquired a document produced internally by the Alliance, the precursor to Barisan Nasional, which described the political climate prior to the riots of May 13, 1969. He indicated that the current political debates were of a similar vein.

Teo, the principal fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies, said some political parties appeared to be challenging the constitution and Malay rights, and he cited the debate over the matriculation quota issue.

DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang has said that race baiting had worsened in recent times and he blamed the “extremist politics” of PAS and Umno.

He said the two parties were playing a dangerous game in an attempt to hold their ground, but added that he was sure the public would see through their intentions.

“This is why Pakatan Harapan must be able to deliver and show results,” he said.