It’s the economy, stupid!

It is appalling to read Utusan Malaysia run a frontpage article titled "Bangkitlah Melayu", urging the Malays to rise against the other races who are allegedly demanding way too much. But maybe the answer lies in the fact that the paper is linked to the ruling UMNO.

Although at first glance the verbal diarrhea by Datuk Ibrahim Ali, the Member of Parliament of Pasir Mas seems to pour cold water on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's 1Malaysia concept, the lines blur upon careful scrutiny.

If Najib is serious about getting rid of racist language that strife to divide the Malaysian society even further, then he should formally put an end to the affirmative action policies which have only lined the wallets of the ruling elite.

But, on a different note, mere rhetoric by Ibrahim, Utusan Malaysia and other UMNO members would not help achieve Najib's call to Malaysians to break away from their "ethnic prison".

Picking up on Najib's statement after chairing his first cabinet meeting, I urge the premier to act sternly on Utusan Malaysia, which practices obsequious journalism to pander to the whims and fancies of its UMNO bosses.

The country is facing enough economic problems without a whole new franchise cashing in with their bully–boy tactics. Najib's top job and concern should be about the economy, which is handicapped by rising unemployment and declining demand.

The effect of massive job loss may increase the national unemployment rate, which currently sits at 3.5 percent, to 4.5 percent. The country’s manufacturing sector recorded a 26.1 per cent decline in sales in February. The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, a government-linked think tank, has said that the country's export-driven economy would shrink 2.2 percent this year, more than the government and central bank are forecasting.

Bursa Malaysia Bhd early this week reported a net profit decline of 63 per cent from RM 42.1 million a year ago to net profit of RM 15.5 million in March of this year largely due to the decline in equities trading revenue

Malaysia's GDP grew just 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter from a year ago, as exports continue to drop due to sagging global demand.

Utusan, Ibrahim Ali and Najib should be aware that pushing the racial line when the country's economy is sliding fast would not help the people. These groups should strive instead to promote an enabling environment for every Malaysian, especially the poor.

Specifically, Najib's slogan should not be persuasive language used to hoodwink the people even further. He is after all not competing to win the best slogan title against former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad who chanted Bersih, Cekap, Amanah and his one-time blue-eyed boy Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Work With Me, Not For Me.

In short, we do not need mere political slogans, racist rhetoric and bigotry. The country needs to focus on the economy.

Charles Santiago

Member of Parliament, Klang