Perikatan’s appeal of ‘Allah’ ruling could cost Sabah, Sarawak partners, say analysts

The Perikatan Nasional government’s move to appeal a High Court ruling that effectively allows Christians to use the word “Allah” may have lasting repercussions despite the obvious benefits of shoring up its Malay-based support. 

(MMO) – While political analysts believe the appeal was predictable in order to get more majority Malay-Muslim support, it may alienate Sabah and Sarawak voters ahead of an expected early general election.

“Such a move will only affect the non-Muslims Kadazandusun and Dayak support for the Sabah and Sarawak state government,” said University Malaysia Sabah political analyst Romzi Ationg.

“Rumours are spreading which suggests that the Bumiputera non-Muslim are increasingly interested in supporting other parties if GRS and GPS are unable to ensure such decision does not further hurt them… this certainly makes them uneasy, thus may make the necessary effort to systematically dealt with the issue,” he said.

GRS is an abbreviation for Gabungan Rakyat Sabah while GPS is Gabungan Parti Sarawak. Both are the ruling coalitions in their respective states and aligned with PN.

Romzi said that aside from trying to get the federal government to withdraw the appeal, the state governments have also sought to distract from it by putting the focus on the issue of undocumented migrants and to continue on-going discussion with federal leaders to deal with the issue “systematically.”

Despite the possible consequences to PN’s allies in Sabah and Sarawak, Singapore Institute of International Affairs Senior Fellow Oh Ei Sun said it was not surprising given how it was received among the country’s Muslim majority.

“All three Malay parties in the coalition are calling for the appeal. In East Malaysia, the decision to appeal would likely further alienate the non-Muslims. But the Muslim in East Malaysia appear to be at least tacitly approving of the decision to appeal.

“This could be gleaned from the fact that a recent open letter applauding the High Court decision was signed only by the non-Muslim MPs,” Oh said

He said that in Sabah at least, most of the seats and constituencies were becoming Muslim majority, or at least hold significant number of Muslim voters, and this made appealing the decision a “safe” move for PN.

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