On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Stick to the voice of moderation


In other words, he is now an independent and will no longer support the Pakatan state government following the Kedah DAP’s decision to pull out of it.

As much as Pakatan Rakyat leaders want to put on a brave and united front, this is a serious blow to the coalition. The implications are enormous and the damage is highly explosive.

The Kedah state government has certainly not collapsed over the pull-out but feelings and pride have been wounded.

DAP leader Lim Kit Siang has rightly described the latest crack as the “second crisis of confidence”, with the first being PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang’s attempt to hold unity talks with Umno.

The contentious issues that led to the split in Kedah are the demolition of an illegal pig abattoir and the 50% bumi quota for houses in the state.

The DAP and PAS have had a patchy relationship for a while as the secular party is aware that it would have to deal with personalities who make erratic statements in the name of religion.

They realised the need to work together with PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim holding the glue, and the results were the extraordinary performance in the March 8 polls.

True colours

DAP leaders are also aware of the compromises they have made as a result of the alliance with PAS, who is bent on setting up an Islamic state.

Except for a few reformists who made the occasional speeches in churches, such as Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, the reality is that the men in green will never change.

Even Khalid supported a resolution calling for the banning of Sisters in Islam, but then claimed it was wrongly worded. But the point is the resolution was never retracted. It was adopted and Hadi even defended the party’s right to make that call.

Popular as Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin may be with many Malaysians, that does not stop him from calling for an end to the use of English to teach Maths and Science.

To top it all, Hadi has now opposed the Prime Minister’s announcement to abolish the 30% equity requirements for companies seeking public listing.

He has cited the same, tired argument put up by those insisting on such a policy to be maintained by claiming that bumiputras are not ready to face many economic challenges.

But Hadi, playing the racial card, has chosen to forget the fishermen and farmers in Terengganu who would certainly not be the beneficiaries of these equity rules. His statement was intended to make Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak look bad in the rural heartland.

Najib’s decision, ahead of his 100 days in office, is bold and courageous. None of his predecessors dared to take this step despite being in office much longer than him.

The result was that Malaysia lost its attractiveness as a place for investment and with few companies seeking public listing now, even before the global financial crisis, the bumiputra equity has become irrelevant.

Najib’s decision is practical but it also demonstrates the level of leadership he has commanded in the party.

His decision has made Malaysia headline news around the world. I was in London last week when the Financial Times published a prominent article on the move.

I do not think Hadi does not understand the economic impact of Najib’s liberalisation policy. He is a clever man, even if his credentials are just on theology. But he has opted for political expediency at the expense of the country’s economy, and that is hardly divine.

Hadi’s attempt to abandon his Pakatan Rakyat partners, in the name of unity talks, must have shaken his DAP and PKR partners.

In the case of Kedah, the 50% bumi quota for houses will hurt both bumi and non-bumi developers, who will end up paying more for these additional allocations, even if one claims that the state is predominantly Malay.

In the March 8 polls, there were many non-Muslims who gave their votes to PAS, not because they supported the Islamist party but because they wanted to punish Barisan Nasional.

Many voters could not accept the arrogance of some Umno leaders and the corruption in the party.

A strong message was sent – we can no longer tolerate policies and practices that are perceived to be discriminating to non-Malays. They chose the elections to punish the Barisan, particularly Umno.

But as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. It may be a case of deciding on the devil and the deep blue sea for some, but moderation and accommodation must not be ignored.

Umno leaders should not be overly worried about how the Malays feel about their policies as their concern should be the middle ground – the majority of Malaysians, regardless of their race, who will vote in the general election.

There’s little point in winning the party elections as communal champions, but then be wiped out in the general election.

It’s the voice of moderation and accommodation, as early Umno leaders like Tunku Abdul Rahman adopted and which made them revered until today, that works.

At the end of the day, the wishes of Malay­sians are simple. They want fairness, transparency, justice and accountability. These values transcend all races.

The last thing they want is a patchy federal or state government that is weak or in danger of collapsing any time because of ideological differences and the inability to forge a working relationship.