PETALING JAYA: Malay politics is at its most divided and dirtiest in decades and there is no leader who can unite them for now, says sociologist Syed Farid Alatas.
Instead, he said, the push for integrity has to come from the rakyat themselves.
Farid also disagreed with Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s claim that he would be able to attract Malay support for Pakatan Harapan in the coming general election, stating that Mahathir may have lost the opportunity to unite the Malays after the collapse of his administration after just 22 months in February.
“Mahathir played an important role in GE14, but only as the unifying factor to raise the consciousness on 1MDB. That is no longer salient, ” he said.
Farid, a professor at the National University of Singapore, said Malays have for years been hearing their leaders speak up for race and religion, but “now they know it is difficult to trust politicians”.
“The politicians are not speaking for the good of the rakyat (but for themselves). This is a rude awakening for them,” he told FMT.
He said the realisation among the Malays started in February with the collapse of PH and the political “power grab” by politicians to gain mileage under Perikatan Nasional, leading to a trust deficit.
He said Malaysians had given PH the mandate to govern for five years but the coalition had failed to unite the country. “It showed everyone that it is about self-gain and not the rakyat (as they failed to unite).”
Farid even questioned if the rakyat would come out to vote again like they did in the last elections, after losing their trust in politicians.
As for Perikatan Nasional, he said the governing coalition suffers from a major trust deficit as Umno still has its corruption baggage while PPBM lost the people’s trust when it joined hands with political parties it was dead set against during GE14.
PAS, he said, was also playing politics between Muafakat Nasional and Perikatan Nasional, having liaisons with Umno in one coalition and PPBM in the other.
Farid acknowledged that Malay politics was not disrupting the country’s operations as the civil service was still running, but it was causing an impact among medium-and long-term investors.
“They do not know if there will be a change in government that may result in a change in policies,” he said.
He hopes Malays will finally see the “ugly” side of race and religion-based politics from both the coalitions and push for better leaders for the good of the country.
The push for principled leaders, he said, needs to come from people voting for leaders based on policies and not race or religion.
“This will create unity among ethnicities” he said, adding that Malaysians needed to vote for those who will fight for all citizens and not for a particular race.
Within the governing coalition, Umno and PPBM have been at loggerheads over seat allocations and for better positions in the ministries, causing a rift between them. PAS has been trying to be friends with both sides in the hope of gaining political power nationwide.
Political analyst Zahiruddin Othman of Universiti Utara Malaysia said it could be Mahathir’s personal opinion that PH needs him to gain Malay support.
He said the fact was that all political parties are divided and needed each other to gain more seats.
“We saw the collapse of PH in just 22 months and now we see the governing coalition ruling with a three-vote majority,” said Zahiruddin.
He added the politicians had only themselves to blame for the mess they are in and should not point fingers at the rakyat of all races for their problems.