PHOTO: NSTP/LUQMAN HAKIM ZUBIR.
THE Universti Malaya Malay Excellence Studies Centre is organising a mammoth gathering of Malays on October 6 ― this time a non-political — for those who are non-partisan to have their voices heard by leaders in both the ruling parties and the Opposition.
To be held at Axiata Arena, the closed-door stadium in Bukit Jalil, the gathering is called Kongres Maruah Melayu or Malay Pride Congress and aims to chart the community’s course in all aspects including economy and politics.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been invited to give his amanat or mandate to an expected crowd of 20,000 including members and supporters of Malay non-governmental organisations (NGOs) around the country.
The gathering follows the just concluded Umno-PAS Himpunan Perpaduan Ummah attended by some 30,000 members and supporters of both parties at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) and which pledged to champion a Malay and Islamic course that was inclusive to non-Malays.
In short, the two parties will not only champion the Malays and Islam but also Malaysians in general.
Leaders of both parties have charted their course and are now working on the finer details such as divisions of seats and states.
But for the coming non-partisan gathering, the organiser expects about five resolutions to be endorsed by the participants before these are handed over to Dr Mahathir for the government to implement.
The resolutions expected include for a unified school system for racial integration; listing Islam as the official religion of the federation; and clarification of the racial and religious characteristics of candidates to be prime minister.
Whether the gathering is a success or not, the fact is the Umno-PAS political co-operation has given birth to a countermovement to unite the Malays rather than divide them.
It is unclear if the event has political backing.
The Umno-PAS cooperation has, in a way, “threatened” the existence of Malay-based party in the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH).
It is not so much whether the co-operation is able to unite the Malays but that it highlights unfulfilled PH pledges and the coalition’s alleged dismantling of Malay and Islamic institutions.
PH has only one Malay-based party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu). The others — Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) — are multi-racial.
Bersatu with its chairman, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is expanding its influence and on a big membership drive to strengthen its position in the ruling coalition as well as in the country’s political arena.
The party has achieved its second objective but the first is still a distance away and the Umno-PAS co-operation is an obstacle.
The Malays are cautious as they feel the Malay parties in the ruling coalition lack the political will and power to address problems faced by the community as well as focus on their economic development.
They feel the only Malay party they could bank on was Bersatu but it seems to have lost their trust and they are now looking for platforms that can champion their cause.
Now they have an option: the Umno-PAS cooperation that is a mix of moderation and fundamentalism that appeals to both lower and middle-income Malays who make up the majority of voters.