The silent partners of plunders


By A few days ago, a particular cartoon strip was widely shared, or in contemporary term, viralled, on social media, depicting two men, one wearing a turban and the other a songkok, standing side by side and animatedly raising their hands in protest. It was titled ICERD.

It is juxtaposed with another cartoon: The same two men but in this, both had their arms folded and it was titled ICURI. The cartoon strip was signed off by Megat.

It can’t be determined where it originated but most would decipher it to be that of two Malay men, the one with the songkok a nationalist, and the one with the turban an Islamist.

It can be further deduced that the one under the ICERD title is referring to the collaboration between Umno, the nationalist, and PAS, the Islamist, who had come together to protest against the ratification of ICERD, short for International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The one titled ICURI is obviously a play of word juxtaposing ICERD and intending to highlight the word “curi”, which simply means to rob.

And that the two men chose to fold their arms under ICURI clearly meant that they had remained silent when a robbery is being committed.

It can then be concluded that what the artist/cartoonist wanted to convey was that Umno and PAS would join hands and vehemently protest ICERD, which they insisted would compromise the position of the Malays and their privileges as well as the position of Islam as the religion of the Federation.

On the flip side, the cartoonist also wanted to point out that the very champion of Malay nationalism and the supremacy of Islam were extremely silent and chose not to protest the robberies that were committed before them.

The cartoon strip has succinctly captured the near dichotomous state of mind of the Malays, or at least those supporting Umno and PAS in its current form.

The anti-ICERD rally, planned for this Saturday, was pursued despite a Cabinet decision to reject its ratification. By any measure, the proposed rally would have been deemed irrelevant, or the least being overtaken by events.

And timing couldn’t have been so off, being held just a week or so after a clash over the relocation of a temple in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, involving criminals and thugs, but given a fair bit of racial slurs and undertones.

But such logic seems to escape the organisers, obviously not because their wits have escaped them, but more of a political opportunity to be gained.

That takes the narrative back to the ICURI or “I Rob”. The push to hold the rally also comes at a time when the personalities involved are under investigations and/ or are facing multiple record-breaking charges for plundering the nation’s wealth, mostly in relation to the scandalous 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) case.

If the Malays are unable to grasp the extent and amount involved in the 1MDB infamy, the recent police report filed by current directors of Lembaga Tabung Haji or the Pilgrimage Funds Board against their predecessors for misappropriation of its funds should have awakened them from their slumber.

Again, by any measure, champions of Malay nationalism and supremacy of Islam would have been chagrined and infuriated that Tabung Haji, the hope and pride of all Malaysian Muslims to assist and provide them the opportunity to perform the fifth and last pillar of Islam, had been plundered almost dry by Malay Muslims they had placed their trust in.

Instead, PAS information chief Nasaruddin Hassan warned Putrajaya against using the Tabung Haji expose as a distraction against the anti-ICERD rally.

Someone should have pointed out to him that as far back as in December 2015, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) had sent a warning letter to Tabung Haji that its reserves were in the red.

Another should have also pointed out to Nasaruddin that PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man had in 2016, picking up on the BNM letter, had also questioned the then Barisan Nasional government on Tabung Haji’s financial health and its assets not being able to meet its obligations.

PAS and Tuan Ibrahim then seem quite on the ball over the Tabung Haji debacle. Surprisingly, when Tuan Ibrahim’s contentions two years ago are proven to be true today, the silence from PAS and other Malays are deafening.

Ironically, the very people and those parties responsible for the plundering of Tabung Haji are being partnered by PAS in the proposed anti-ICERD rally.

By any logic, if there is any attempt to distract, it would be by those who are facing criminal charges for abuse and misappropriation of public funds, hence their resoluteness to pursue the rally no matter what. They’ve got nothing to lose anyway.

In a mind without contrite, the silence, then and now, is a requisite.

  • Shamsul Akmar is the editor at The Malaysian Reserve.