Top three blogs

English blogs


Umno, BN

Techs, guide, templates

MPs and Aduns

Latest from Beras Terpilih

News blogs

2008 list

Videos and Photos

Videos courtesy of Hanief

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

M'sia's PM under pressure at volatile annual meet

Straits Times Singapore (5/11/2007): Malaysia's premier is under pressure at his party assembly this week to reach out to ethnic Chinese following cracks in his ruling coalition that could undermine the government in the coming general elections.

Mr Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's coalition is set to return to power but a humiliating protest vote by the Chinese could embolden the opposition, weaken his pro-Malay policies and compromise his administration.

Malays, who are Muslim by definition, form just over half of Malaysia's 26 million people.

Non-Malays such as Chinese and Indians have long resented an affirmative action programme created after deadly racial riots in 1969.

The policy favours Malays in state contracts, education and jobs.

The annual assembly of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) - the backbone of the 14-party Barisan Nasional - is known for fiery and racially charged speeches.

But with snap polls widely expected by March 2008 and the nation split over race and religion issues, the 67-year-old Mr Abdullah is walking on a political tightrope in dealing with his Malay nationalists and the wealthy Chinese electorate.

'The PM will try to give a multi-ethnic speech - which he has done in the past,' said Bridget Welsh, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

'Yet, this will not be enough. He needs to show that he has control over his party and that Umno delegates follow his line.'

The main Umno meeting begins on Wednesday.

Dubbed 'Mr Nice Guy', Mr Abdullah succeeded combative leader Mahathir Mohamad in late 2003 and led the coalition to a record victory in 2004 polls on a ticket of good governance.

But more and more people, including the economically powerful Chinese, are unhappy with his often indecisive leadership and lack of political will to push ahead with his reform agenda.

Brandishing daggers
Umno assemblies have lately been dominated by calls to push the Malay agenda harder, with Umno Youth leader Hishammuddin Hussein last year leading the pack by unsheathing, brandishing and kissing a keris, or a traditional Malay dagger.

That strained ties with Chinese allies in the coalition.

The keris, named 'Panca Warisan' (Malay heritage), is seen as a symbol of unity or struggle for Umno but to non-Malays, it's a symbol of aggression.

Mr Hishammuddin said the use of keris as a ritual would continue. 'God willing, people will understand that there is no personal, sensitive and ulterior motives for doing it,' he said.

Umno's main concern this time around is to ensure delegates keep to the script and tone down their racial and religious rhetoric that dominated last year's assembly.

But critics say that remains to be seen.

Last year's debate was carried live for the first time but that failed to curb racist comments from being heard. There will be no live telecast this year.

'The Umno general assembly is the time of the year when party members, especially of middle rank, get to play one-upmanship in being champions of the Malay race and of Islam,' said Ooi Kee Beng of Singapore's Institute of South East Asian Studies.

'Let's see if the fear of a bad election will succeed where fear of public outrage did not,' he said.

The sizeable Chinese and Indian minorities, who practice either Buddhism, Christianity or Hinduism, are increasingly worried about their eroding religious and racial rights.

In May, the country's best-known Christian convert, Lina Joy, lost a battle in the highest court to have the word 'Islam' removed from her identity card.

A list of issues
'The PM's challenge this time around is to answer the growing criticism of his ineffectiveness in addressing issues such as corruption, police, judicial scandals, rising crime and growing communal tensions,' said John Funston, an expert on Malaysian studies at the Australian National University.

Umno itself has delayed internal polls, due this year, until after the general elections.

With the prospect of twin elections, Abdullah needs to show he has control over his party and the country.

'This did not happen last year,' said Welsh of Johns Hopkins University.

'This has created frustration within the coalition and undermined perceptions of Abdullah's effectiveness as a leader.'- REUTERS


Top three blogs

Listed by The Wayang Party Club of Singapore Malaysia Today
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Lim Kit Siang

English blogs


MPs, Aduns

2008 list

  © Blogger template 'Perfection' by 2008

Back to TOP