Malay rights drowning out Najib’s reforms

By The Malaysian Insider 

ANALYSIS, Sept 13 — As the Najib administration struggles to sell its economic reforms to a sceptical public, the process continues to be made complicated by political curve balls thrown by Perkasa, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and other Malay rights groups.

Using a tried and tested play book, these groups are using Malay special rights as a red herring to stop any discussion on reviewing New Economic Policy style policies or keeping Malaysia competitive.

Dr Mahathir added to this illusion when he said that Perkasa was born because non-Malays were questioning Malay rights.

Datuk Seri Najib also has his work cut out because he is not getting full support from Umno-owned media such as Utusan Malaysia.

Yesterday, an Utusan Malaysia editorial openly defied Najib’s instructions for Umno to begin distancing itself from Perkasa.

The editorial in Mingguan Malaysia, the Sunday edition of Utusan Malaysia, backed Perkasa and raised questions about whether the daily was still in support of the party president.

The Umno-daily came out batting for Perkasa and pointedly echoed the views of the Malay rights group in response to Umno’s decision to distance itself from them.

Perkasa has already warned Umno not to be complacent about its vote base, claiming that only three in 10 Umno members were sure to vote for them in the next general elections.

The noise surrounding Malay special rights and Perkasa’s role in fighting for the Malays is beginning to drown out Najib’s reforms.

On Saturday, Najib spoke on regional satellite station CNBC arguing that “if we don’t make change, we don’t make reforms, Malaysia will slide backwards.”

Asked about Dr Mahathir and Perkasa, Najib said: “They are talking more about Bumiputera rights. But actually we are not taking anything away from the Bumiputera, but we are saying that let us do it differently. Let us get better results. Let us achieve a more equitable society. But at the same time, being fair to the non-Bumiputeras as well. Because we want to build a One Malaysia.”

But the PM’s words received little coverage in national dailies.

Perkasa, Dr Mahathir, and other Malay rights groups has already succeeded in throwing in the red herring of dismantling special rights in every discussion on race relations and making Malaysia competitive.

Reason: they want to stigmatise the discussion, the same way some people have stigmatised words like meritocracy and liberal.