Race card played over Teoh’s death shows Umno’s desperation

KUALA LUMPUR, July 24 — Umno is not above playing the racial card when it comes to getting what it wants. Take the case of Teoh Beng Hock and the article written by New Straits Times Group managing editor Zainul Ariffin in the Berita Harian.

Zainul likened the criticism levelled at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) as an attempt by certain quarters to weaken a Malay institution. It's no mystery or secret who these "certain quarters" he was referring to are and the question many opposition leaders and the public have been asking is this: since when did the MACC become a Malay institution?

"This is typical of Umno, it's a die-hard habit in the party," political analyst Khoo Kay Peng told The Malaysian Insider.

"To prevent the issue from reaching the Malay community, Umno and its machinery are trying hard to make the issue only a Chinese one," he said.

Khoo said in a political climate where Malaysians of various ethnic backgrounds can overlook their skin colour and see in Teoh's death the loss of a human being, support for political leaders hung up on the divide and rule tactic will wither away.

"Hence using race as a defensive shield, to rally Malay support to try and cling on to power," said Khoo.

PAS lawmaker Dr Dzukelfley Ahmad, however, gave a startling analysis to the issue, claiming that his observation indicated the effectiveness of such a "well-calculated tactic."

The Kuala Selangor MP said the race card may be a calculated attempt to regain lost Malay ground prompted by the many racial quota abolition policies introduced by Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Issues such as the dominance of non-Malay leaders in opposition governed states have also been played up to much effect, claimed the PAS leader.

"And I can see that it is gaining the sympathy of the Malays," he said, adding that the move can be translated as Umno's confidence, despite heavy risks, in weathering Chinese outrage.

"It's a complex matter. But take it from me, Umno would not be taking this path if they know it’s detrimental to their existence," he reasoned further.

For Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, the director of think-tank Centre for Public Policies Studies, he does not believe that Umno in general is racist. He feels much of the racial game comes from only the extremist elements of the party.

"I've known them long enough to know that racism is not their philosophy and tradition so the challenge for Najib now is to rid of the party of these elements," he told The Malaysian Insider.

Whether or not there will be a response to such calls remains to be seen.

But as all of them agree, Najib and Umno are playing with fire and time will tell, perhaps in three years’ time, if the tables would or would not be turned against them.

MI
24/07/09

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