PETALING JAYA, Jan 22: Thinking Malays are questioning the direction the country is taking, especially where the Malay community is moving, says former MP Tawfik Ismail.
He said the doubts among thinking Malays arose from recent issues such as the cancellation of a state Thaipusam holiday by the PAS-run Kedah government, statements against the LGBT community, and the resurfacing of calls to amend shariah laws.
Tawfik, a former Umno member, agreed with a recent call by Nazir Razak, the son of second prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein, for a new script for Malaysia where a new social contract to ensure a better future for Malaysians economically, politically and socially can be formulated.
Tawfik said Malays were a tolerant people but PAS and some others were causing them to disregard this, adding that the Islamist party also sought to destroy the Malay propensity to absorb and adapt foreign cultures into its cultural practices.
“PAS and its destructive policy against culture has prompted progressive Malays to turn their backs to political posturing which uses Islam, and has caused them to question the direction the country and the Malays are taking,” he told FMT.
Tawfik said Nazir’s participation in a webinar on Malaysian social cohesion on Jan 20, and the call for a reset in social interactions reflected the thoughts of many Malays who had grown disillusioned with Malay politics.
Tawfik said certain questions needed to be raised including why the Malay community was being discriminated against in a country that it led to independence, with calls for more severe punishments in shariah courts by their own kind.
“And why extreme religious groups such as PAS can flourish in an environment nurtured in the early years of Independence ironically by liberals and moderate progressives such as Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman?” asked Tawfik who is the son of Ismail.
“Why are their heirs in Umno singing the tune of PAS? How can Malay progress be measured only in religious terms when their economic strength is still behind those of other races?” he further asked.
He said the imbalance in economic position in spite of the New Economic Policy clearly indicated a misdirection in policies and a misalignment in goal setting and implementation.
“Nazir’s call for a reset clearly is not new but nevertheless appropriate for these challenging Covid-19 ridden times,” he added.
Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, chairman of Parti Sosialis Malaysia, said certain issues needed attention in writing a new script.
The way politicians try to be more Islamic than another Muslim or Chinese and Indians trying to take on the role of defending their communities is a cause for concern.
He said racial politics was at a “toxic” point in the country.
He said any political party or politician now had to prove they were more Malay, or Chinese or Indian than the other person resulting in politicians “exaggerating and overplaying the setbacks of their communities”.
Devaraj, a former Sungai Siput MP said racial politics had to go before Malaysia could think of writing a new script.
Devaraj also spoke on the “race to the bottom” among Asean countries. He said Malaysia was unable to raise taxes for fear that investors would pack their operations and move to cheaper neighbouring countries.
“We are trapped. Unable to raise taxes on foreign direct investors to improve the welfare system of our country,” he said, adding that all Asean countries must agree to raise taxes and improve on minimal wages to prosper.
Malaysia, he said, also needed to look at its privatisation projects as it might not be benefiting the country much.
For instance, he said private colleges might be producing too many nurses causing an over supply and high unemployment among the graduates. He said private hospitals were taking away well-trained government doctors, depriving Malaysians of their services and knowledge in public hospitals.
“We also need to look into these areas in writing a new script,” he added.
Historian Teo Kok Seong said Malaysia needed to stop politicians such as the Kedah menteri besar from disuniting Malaysians.
“Politicians should not take such a racist (stand) as they are also leaders representing all races. It makes Sanusi and his party look bad,” he said, referring to Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor’s decision not to grant a state public holiday for Thaipusam this year.