From Ti Lian Ker
At a time when DAP and MCA were lobbying for Chinese support in the Pelangai by-election, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim dropped a bomb.
DAP, in particular, was then scaremongering the Chinese voters to vote for Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional to stop the “green wave”.
In an interview with TIME magazine, Anwar revealed that the government was prepared to make PAS a partner in the unity government.
This had taken both DAP and MCA leaders by surprise, as it was never discussed with them.
It was just a couple of months ago when Anwar denied making PAS an offer to join the coalition government.
“I don’t know who approached PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang. Maybe it was some division leaders who extended the invitation (to collaborate), I don’t know.
“What I know, the proposal to collaborate was neither raised nor discussed by the top leadership in the PH-BN unity government,” Utusan Malaysia quoted the PH chairman as saying.
Just a month ago, DAP secretary-general Loke Siew Fook reminded Hadi to stop viewing the Chinese in the country as enemies of the Malays, and prior to that DAP leaders had been slamming Hadi for his rhetoric against the Chinese in particular.
In May, DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng urged the public to lodge police reports against Hadi over the latter’s claims against non-Malays, which were said to be threatening our national unity.
Ironically, it was DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang’s blog and series of “Save Malaysia” articles that created the fear against PAS and its partners, Bersatu and Gerakan when he wrote: “Green tide phenomenon to turn Malaysia into a complete Islamic state by GE17?”
I am glad that Anwar has come out in the open to say that PAS was invited to join the unity government. I have been waiting to call out to put a stop to the “PAS shaming” of anyone associated with or engaging with them.
I have repeatedly said that ours is a nation built on consensus based on the practice of tolerance, mutual respect and accommodation.
I did not agree when PAS was singled out as “monstrous” and Taliban-like, based on Hadi’s statements alone.
PAS should not be painted as a “monster” or isolated or forced into a corner, as this will force it to be more radical and extreme.
On the contrary, we should be engaging PAS leaders and members to help them understand that our country and constitution are based on pluralism and secularism.
This has been expressly stated and asserted by our founders and past prime ministers prior to the emergence of “political Islam” in the 1980s and 90s.
I believe there are many moderates and even liberals in PAS whom we can empower to check on the radicals or conservatives.
This empowerment of the moderates was practised in BN and component parties, whereby we empowered the moderates to contain the extremists from within.
This practice must be continued in order for all parties, whether it is DAP, Umno or PAS, to walk the moderate path.
Our political culture of check and balance on extremism must be continued.
We should continue to bridge any divide through positive engagement and moderation.
Therefore, the prime minister’s extension of an olive branch in contrast to DAP’s ostracising of PAS is indeed a positive step forward and is our Malaysian way.
In fact, BN was formed in a similar spirit in 1970 after the May 13, 1969 race riots.
All parties were invited to band together to save Malaysia. However, DAP chose to be on the outside then. MCA took all the blame for race-based policies such as the New Economic Policy (NEP) to restructure society towards closing the gap between the perceived Chinese rich and the Malay poor.
Ti Lian Ker is a former deputy national unity minister and an ex-MCA vice-president
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.