Dear Harapan, you can't win over Malays on Umno's gravy train

Zaid Ibrahim

Modified 21 Jan 2016, 9:04 am

COMMENT Rafizi Ramli and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad are two of the best in PKR and I hope they will take power one day.

Rafizi was unduly harsh towards me when I left PKR but that’s because he wanted to please his boss. I understand, but the habit of trying to please can wreak havoc on the best of plans.

Rafizi now wants to please Malays and to allay their fears. In doing so, he wants Pakatan Harapan to focus on Malays — but what will he and Pakatan Harapan tell Malays that’s not already been said countless times?

We’ve heard the assurances and pledges before: don’t worry, the Chinese are a minority; DAP is just good for Penang; the Malay Rulers will protect Islam; the Malay civil service will protect the Malay workforce; special privileges will be maintained; quotas will be preserved; Mara, Felda, and Felcra will remain exclusively Malay — and so forth.

After all the pathetic assurances, it appears that many Malays still support Umno. This should get Rafizi and co thinking: what kind of fear (if it is fear) do Malays harbour?

The truth is that Malays who are looking for a good government, honest leaders and an efficient system of administration are already voting for the Opposition.

Rafizi does not need to allay their fears. What is needed is a workable and credible plan that will translate Pakatan Harapan’s idea of good government into reality.

Now let’s assume that the majority of Malays are still not listening to the new voice of Pakatan Harapan because they still have “the fear”, and so they’re still supporting Umno or PAS.

How does Rafizi allay their fears? They are “fearful” of many things: Felda and Felcra settlers fear they might get evicted or have to pay their debts if they vote a non-Barisan Nasional party; Malays fear changes to the higher education admission system, denying them the ability to enrol with minimum qualifications; Class-F contractors fear their quota of contracts will shrink; the Malay elite, which gets concessions and infrastructure projects by donating generously to UMNO leaders, fear the largesse will end; the mediocre and the sycophants, fearful their promotion will be stunted in a more meritocratic system.

You can allay these fears only by doing and giving assurances and pledges that nothing will change. Actually, these Malays just want the good times to continue. They want the Umno gravy train and their “entitlements” to continue.

Will Pakatan Harapan do exactly what Umno is doing “to protect Malays and allay their fears”? Is that what we really want Harapan to do?

I am tired of listening to talk about Malay fear as if others have nothing to fear. Poor Indians in Ipoh have nothing to fear? Chinese hawkers and small traders have nothing to fear? Kelabit and Orang Hulu have nothing to fear? Poor Malay children on the coast and the kampongs of Sabah and Kelantan have nothing to fear?

If Pakatan Harapan wants to succeed as a progressive party that will take Malaysia out of the rut, they themselves must get out of the “fear syndrome”.

They are fearful that Malays will not comprehend what a good government can do for them. They fear that Malays do not understand what an honest government can do to improve livelihoods.

They have no confidence that Malays can trust them to take care of things without having to tell them they are “special”.

I suggest that Pakatan Harapan leaders re-evaluate their strategy: giving more assurances and pledges to Malays who really want the UMNO treatment to continue will not work, and no one gives freebies better than UMNO.

Instead, focus on good governance, good education, good teachers, good schools, how to manage cost-of-living issues, the larger economy and housing needs, how to minimise corruption and a hundred other things a new government can do to help the people of this country, Malays included.

Work on a proper plan instead of wasting time “allaying fears”.

ZAID IBRAHIM is the former de facto law minister.

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