Who’s afraid of the big Green Wave?

Recent statements by MPs in Perikatan – in which PAS is the party with the most number of seats – are examples of how the Opposition coalition is spooking voters who want a moderate Malaysia, says the writer.


Days after the Blackpink concert was held this month, a PAS MP saying it is a bigger threat than religious activities. Photo: The Star/ANN

March 20, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR -NO prizes for guessing which coalition has raised these issues recently:

1) The concert by South Korean female supergroup Blackpink poses a bigger threat than religious activities, as authorities imposed strict regulations and did not give permits for a religious ceramah in Selangor yet the concert was allowed to proceed.

2) A women’s march in Kuala Lumpur was a pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) gathering instead of an International Women’s Day event.

3) The government should not allow non-Muslim houses of worship to be built in the same vicinity as mosques.

If you’ve been focusing on the Silicon Valley Bank collapse, Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh winning Best Actress at the Academy Awards, or Liverpool crashing out of the Champions League, and don’t know, the answer is Perikatan Nasional.

Kepala Batas Member of Parlia-ment Dr Mastura Muhammad accused the government of double standards for allowing events such as the concert to go ahead despite their “deviant” nature. Kuantan MP Wan Razali Wan Nor had to retract his statement in Parliament that the women’s march was an LGBT+ gathering after admitting he was unsure when the Speaker questioned him. Kuala Langat MP Ahmad Yunus said “houses of worship should be in different areas or at a distance from a Muslim house of worship”.

They’re all with PAS.

These statements by MPs in Perikatan – in which PAS is the party with the most number of seats – are recent examples of how the Opposition coalition is spooking voters who want a moderate Malaysia.

On Friday, I had lunch at a Petaling Jaya restaurant with some Chinese businessmen who said they are disappointed with what they perceive are Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s double standards on corruption.

They were disappointed that Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, whom Pakatan Harapan previously demonised as a kleptocrat, was appointed a Deputy Prime Minister. They also complained about how swiftly Perikatan chairman and Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was charged with corruption; in contrast, they said, the corruption probe into the littoral combat ship project is still ongoing with no charges in sight.

Basically, the businessmen were unhappy that Pakatan is in bed with politicians who the coalition campaigned against as corrupt, and with Muhyiddin’s prosecution, which they perceive as selective.

But which coalition would they vote for in the upcoming six state polls?

Despite their current misgivings, the answer remains Pakatan and its allies because Perikatan spooks them. They fear the Green Wave.

The 15th General Election in November 2022 saw the rise of Gelombang Hijau (Green Wave) through which Perikatan – specifically PAS and Bersatu – won 74 seats in Malay-majority constituencies, except for two in Sabah and Sarawak. Perikatan is the second biggest coalition after Pakatan, which has 81 MPs.

During the lunch conversation, Green Wave was spoken of in the same breath as “the overthrow of the Shah in the Iranian Revolution in 1979” and “Taliban rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001”. Strong words.

The businessmen also lamented the country’s political instability, which spooks investors. They had just received news that the Prime Minister had ordered security forces to be on the alert for possible unrest stemming from irresponsible people playing up racial and religious sentiments.

Just slightly more than 100 days in power and the PM has already been forced to issue such a statement. Diplomats and security experts have contacted me to ask whether there is a real possibility of unrest in Malaysia.

Anwar did not identify who the “irresponsible quarters” are.

Was the Prime Minister referring to the death threats made against the cast and crew of controversial indie movie Mentega Terbang? Was he referring to Perikatan accusing Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh of proselytising Christianity to Muslim youth?

(Yeoh has said that she wanted it on the Hansard’s record that, according to official data, no Muslim youths are registered in the Projek Article 11 programme organised by ministry-affliated agency Impact Malaysia, which had so far visited the Federal Territory Mos-que and Gurdwara Sahib Shah Alam this month and plans to visit a church later.)

I’m more interested in the why, ie, why – to paraphrase Anwar – statements about matters “that could threaten harmony in multiracial Malaysia” have been issued.

Isn’t it deja vu?

Let’s rewind to 2018 after Pakatan formed the Federal Government, basically on its own. Umno and PAS, both in Opposition then, claimed that the government did not represent the Malay community, as most of the MPs from the Malay-majority seats were in the Opposition.

Fast forward to 2023.

Perikatan – specifically, MPs from Bersatu and PAS – are not part of the government. They claim that the government does not represent the Malay community as most of the MPs from the Malay-majority seats are in the Opposition. To be exact, 72 of them.

Remember how Umno and PAS brought down the Pakatan government back then?

At its root, it was by using the 3Rs – race, religion, and royalty – playbook.

Umno and PAS pressured the government, led by prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad then, through issues such as the death of fireman Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim that they parleyed into a racial issue, and ratifying the Rome and Icerd statutes, the former of which they claimed threatened royal hegemony. They also campaigned against supposed support for their favourite boogeyman, LGBT+.

(Icerd is the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Rome Statute of the Inter-national Criminal Court is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court; Malaysia pulled back from ratifying both in 2018 after Opposition protests.)

Perikatan is using the same 3R playbook now to attempt to bring down the current government. What is different is TikTok is now in play. Daily, I’ve been receiving TikTok videos whacking the government on 2Rs – I’ve noticed the videos are on race and religion – on my WhatsApp.

Umno, which is supposed to be Anwar’s ally representing the Malay community, can’t seem to handle this onslaught. Either party leaders are busy with internal leadership struggles or it has lost command of Malay voters.

Let’s see if Perikatan succeeds in bringing down the government, just like the Sheraton Move did in 2020 (which saw Dr Mahathir resign as PM and his then party, Bersatu, pull out of the Pakatan government causing its collapse).

If it does happen, this time it won’t be caused by individual MPs jumping parties as some PKR MPs did in 2018 when they followed Dr Mahathir out of government; because of the anti-party hopping law, this time it will be blocs of MPs moving.

We live in a divided Malaysia, politically. Those who have no issues with the Blackpink concert, women’s march and the location of houses of worship are being set against those who do.

Should we fear the Green Wave?

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