The days of living weirdly

Pic by TMR GRAPHIC

THE manner the Tanjung Piai by-election is progressing, it is getting weirder and weirder by the day.

How can it not be weird when PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang — still fresh from several conventions seeking to restore Malay dignity and Islamic influence — is urging the Malays to vote in MCA’s Datuk Seri Wee Jeck Seng (picture; left) on grounds that the party’s collaboration with Umno is too Malay-centric.

The collaboration which started as a united Malay force had since evolved to be a National Consultative Unity, a fact Abdul Hadi used to justify the new-found affection for MCA.

He further explained that PAS does not place all non-Malays in one basket — there are extremists and non-extremists — and it had chosen to back the MCA in the by-election because the MCA candidate is not extreme.

However, his attempt to downplay Wee’s role in opposing PAS’s 2014 bid to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965, also known as Act 355, that would allow the partial implementation of hudud, was also quite weird.

It was Wee, then still part of the Barisan Nasional government, who called out DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng for not fighting enough against the law.

For context, Lim and the DAP were still partners with PAS under the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat which was dissolved in 2015.

Interestingly too, the DAP is said to be backpedalling in the Tanjung Piai as the non-Malays — the Chinese in particular — are said to be disappointed with it for not standing up for their interest when dealing with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

In short, the DAP is viewed as being diluted in protecting the interest of the non-Malays since it became the government.

On the flip side, the Malays are attacking DAP and accusing it of pursuing the non-Malay agenda at the expense of the Malay. MCA in campaigning in the Malay enclaves in Tanjung Piai seems to also allude to the accusations that DAP is a racist party.

And interestingly, if not weird, the Malays are also unhappy with the Malay MPs in the government whom they viewed as incapable of standing up to DAP and its agenda which they accuse were meant to deprive the Malays.

Before Tanjung Piai, the play of race and religion among the Malays culminated with the call for the boycott of non-Muslim products. But after much criticism, the initiators adopted a seemingly less aggressive approach and rebranded the campaign as Buy Muslim First or simply BMF.

Even though it was pointed out that such a campaign like BMF in Malaysia is quite complicated as a product need not necessarily be a wholly one-race affair as at some stage or another, the involvement of another race is inadvertent, the promoters were adamant and some had even proudly claimed that it had impacted some non-Muslims products and closed down some outlets.

While such claims had no empirical evidence, the sentiments were indeed upbeat.

Pointed out that some of the non-Muslim products had sourced basic ingredients from Muslim farmers and such, and that Muslim products, in turn, had utilised non-Muslim add-ons to their pro-ducts, the promoters insisted that they had a database of where to obtain products fully produced by Muslims.

Any Malay leaders who were not supportive of the campaign were ostracised on social media. Some Umno and PAS leaders openly supported the BMF and criticised those who opposed it. In short, those promoting BMF choose to ignore the complexities of boycotting or supporting the production of a particular race in a multiracial society.

Nevertheless, the upbeat mood for the BMF which is equated to Malay-Muslim unity and solidarity was quite all-encompassing without exception.

There was no caveat that in buying Muslim products first, they need to buy it from Umno or PAS Muslims and not from Bersatu, PKR or Amanah’s.

In short, if there had been any true Malay unity move that did not make exception to partisan politics, the BMF was one, regardless whether it was an anathema to nation-building or otherwise.

The propagators of the BMF were probably hoping that such sentiments will be further pursued and politically sealed by Voting Muslim First and that sentiment, like the BMF cuts across party lines.

After all, it is more straightforward than the BMF and it should be easier for supporters of the campaign to decide when voting — they will only vote for a Malay/ Muslim candidate and only be partisan if PAS/Umno decides to place a candidate against Bersatu, the incumbent party.

Since PAS/Umno is not contesting and the other Malay candidate is from Berjasa, a non-starter party, the obvious choice for the Malay parties and their supporters would be the candidate from Bersatu.

The candidate, Karmaine Sardini (picture; right), is, after all, a practising imam who leads prayers and a respected local elder.

Furthermore, he is from Bersatu, the party led by Dr Mahathir, whom PAS leaders, Abdul Hadi included, and several Umno leaders had openly expressed support for his continued leadership.

Instead, Abdul Hadi and Umno worked extra hard to justify to their supporters on the need to support Wee. They do make curiouser and curiouser good in any language.


Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.