What does developing Malays and Islam mean?

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“The framers of our Constitution firmly believed that a republican government could not endure without intelligence and education generally diffused among the people. The Father of his Country, in his Farewell Address, uses this language: Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”

- Ulysses S Grant

The only reason why I am not writing about hate preacher Zakir Naik is because Stephen Ng’s excellent piece on the fugitive should be required reading for those interested in the fact that Malaysia is fast becoming a mecca for Islamists seeking shelter from the trouble they start outside Malaysia.

Two statements made by the current Umno grand poobah are worth investigating - for me at least - because those statements are true but not for the reasons the prime minister thinks they are.

The first statement is the claim that the opposition uses an “ends justify the means” stratagem when dealing with unseating Umno.

While I won’t go into the mundane details that establishment politicians from opposing sides uses to win elections and which are unfortunately part of mainstream politics the world over, what most people think of - anecdotally that is - when they read about the opposition these days is the presence of former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

No matter what opposition politicians say and even though they may take their shots at the former Umno strongman, Mahathir is the de facto opposition leader of this country. Malaysia is the house that Mahathir built and while Umno may claim to be the main tenants, they do so on the imprimatur of the former prime minister who has salvaged a stumbling opposition for his own purposes.

All of Umno’s efforts are geared towards bolstering the narrative that the former prime minister wants to destroy Umno because he cannot control it any more and the opposition is opportunistically aligning with the man they (the opposition) claim was a dictator and a ‘mahafiraun’ to usurp power from Umno and establish a new paradigm that would “destroy” the Malays.

While social activists (which in my definition include academics, journalists and grassroots level organisers), who for years have been in the trenches, have cautioned that such an alliance will bring no benefit to the forces of change in this country, they have been dismissed by opposition partisans as a necessary “evil” to vanquish Najib Abdul Razak from the Umno throne.

Indeed, the former prime minister has made it clear in statements in the press - mainstream and alternative - that dethroning Najib is paramount and the details of the alliance could be worked out later.

You have to understand one thing about Umno and the former prime minister. They are scared of him.

It is akin to Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint in the movie ‘The Usual Suspects’ who says that he believes in God but the only person he is afraid of is Keyser Soze. Similarly, many Umno operatives believe in Allah but the only person they are afraid of is Mahathir Mohamad.

This is why most Umno operatives prefer to leave the dirty work of publicly going against the former Umno president to those who are close to Najib’s inner circle and loathed to be collateral damage in Mahathir’s war to not only overthrow Najib but also redefine the political landscape once again.

Whether you believe that Mahathir is the means to justify the ends is beside the point because this late in the game, what opposition supporters are left with is a Hobson choice of their...

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