Muhyiddin: Umno will not be apologetic on Malay rights

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid, Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin told delegates at the party’s annual general assembly today that there is no need for his party to be apologetic when defending Malay and Bumiputera rights but insisted such posturing is not racist.

The rallying call was made amid strong words by party president Najib Tun Razak earlier today that the party must strive to reclaim its “centrist roots” as it struggles to fend off accusations that Umno, which has helmed power since independence in 1957, thrives on communal politicking.

Calling it “inclusive Malay politics”, Muhyiddin said facts have shown that the country and non-Bumiputeras have prospered under Umno’s leadership which he claimed is based on the principle of fairness and justice.

“We don’t have to be apologetic when we fight for the rights and interests of the Malays and the Bumiputeras,” he said when opening the assemblies of Wanita, Youth and Puteri wings simultaneously .

“History has shown that when Umno leads, not only the Malays prosper, but all races too. It is also not necessary for us to be apologetic to defend the identity of the Malays, to be proud as Malays… as long as we are fair to all races,” he added.

Extremism and 1Malaysia

Umno is currently forced to work hard in regaining the non-Malay votes after its dismal electoral performance in the 2008 general election when the Barisan Nasional, the ruling coalition with the Malay party as its lynchpin, lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time in decades while four states fell into the opposition’s hands.

A major outcome of the historic election two years ago was the exodus of non-Malay votes towards the opposition. It also witnessed the crash in investor confidence in the economy. Shoddy fiscal discipline and Umno-encouraged Malay patronage have been blamed for the slow erosion of Malaysia’s once competitive edge in the global economy.

Najib has been on the offensive charm ever since he took office in April 2009, crafting themes to appease the non-Malay votes like 1Malaysia and vowed to play fair by opening up the economy for more non-Malay participation.

But observers say the stumbling block to his reform efforts — for Umno and the government — remains within his own camp. Hawks within his own party and right-wing groups like Perkasa have raised doubts if Najib can see through the implementation of his reform efforts.

Muhyiddin blamed Umno’s difficulty to regain lost non-Malay support on the extremism of “certain quarters” who are growing louder in questioning the special position and rights of the Malays. The swipe is believed to be targeted towards not just the opposition, but right-wing groups like Perkasa.

“Even though generally the race relations in this country remains good, there are still some voices who question the special rights of the Malays, the Bumiputeras and the rights of other races. If this is not managed well, it will create a situation in a multi-racial society that their rights which are protected by the Federal Constitution are corroding”.

He then blamed the ongoing open debate on race as the reason behind the difficulty in achieving national unity.

“The distrust between the races must be contained immediately. The racial debate must be stopped, not tomorrow, not the day after but now. No one should question the special rights of the Malays and Bumiputeras or the rights of other races,” he said.

Protecting the rights of other races will not in anyway affect Umno’s struggle for the Malays, Muhyiddin said.

In a move seemingly aimed at appeasing the delegates, he reiterated that Umno will not abandon its clarion call to protect and defend the special rights of the Malays.