KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 — Malaysia’s One Malaysia concept could end up worsening the country’s fractured race relations unless Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak moves quickly to define what he means by it.
Not only have different interpretations sprouted up like mushrooms after rain but the concept seems to have brought to the surface Umno concerns over the real motives of non-Malays, even those belonging to the Barisan Nasional coalition.
Najib chairs his first Cabinet meeting as prime minister today and is expected to tell his ministers to be inclusive in their actions and words.
This caution comes three days after his deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, was quoted as saying that by supporting the Opposition in the recent by-election in Perak and Kedah, Chinese appeared unappreciative of the efforts of the government to bring development and fund Chinese schools. He also said the recent trend in voting suggested that Chinese wanted to play the role of kingmakers in Malaysian politics.
Muhyiddin’s comments invited a torrent of criticisms from non-Malays and from Umno’s partners in the MCA and Gerakan. The critics not only assailed the DPM but also aimed some of the invective at the One Malaysia concept, noting that Malay politicians and the media were already pitching narrow markers around it.
Malay groups say that the concept will not alter the affirmative action programme and is only meant to bring up the level of economic development of under privileged groups, regardless of race.
The Opposition and non-Malays believe that it is not possible to speak about One Malaysia if Chinese, Indians and Ibans continue to be accorded second class status here.
The backlash from the non-Malays as well as unhappiness by the Malaysian Indian Congress over their representation in Cabinet has stirred anger in Umno circles.
Today, Utusan Malaysia, the Umno-owned daily had a front-paged reported titled: “Arise Malays’’. The report called on the Malays to unite and fend off what appeared to be unreasonable demands by other races.
Pasir Mas MP Datuk Ibrahim Ali warned non-Malay leaders that the government could ignore all their demands because Malays held sufficient seats in Parliament to set up a government of only Malay lawmakers.
‘‘The Malay party will be strong when the interests of Malays are looked after. So Umno should focus on Malays. So Umno does not have to feel any fear because I believe that when Umno is strong, the non-Malays will automatically support BN, ‘’ he said.
Ironically whenever Umno feels threatened, ruling party politicians dredge up the idea of Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (Pas) coming together.
Backbencher Datuk Mohamad Aziz said that Umno and Pas should sit down and resolve their differences and work to defend the rights of the Malays.
The Malaysian Insider has learnt that Najib has not fleshed out the One Malaysia concept yet. But events and rhetoric since he took over as PM should be a clear indication that it will take more than a few nice sounding words or gestures to bring down the mercury in Malaysia.
There is deep suspicion among the races and this will not be resolved by proclaiming to be the PM of all Malaysians and tossing a few chapatis.
Malays, Chinese, Indians and others have high expectations of anyone who says he is the leader of all Malaysians. Just ask Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.