KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 26 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has never agreed with Perkasa’s extremist politics although his administration never openly admonished the Malay rights group, Gerakan interim president Datuk Chang Ko Youn said today.
He said in all of the party’s “dealings” with Najib, the prime minister has repeatedly expressed his opposition to Perkasa’s communal agenda despite not making the stand public.
“I’m not sure about criticising but in all of our dealings with the PM, he definitely doesn’t share their (Perkasa) wills,” Chang told a press conference after opening Gerakan’s congress here when asked what he felt about the government’s muted response to some of Perkasa’s extreme actions.
Earlier today, Chang in his opening speech called on the Najib administration to reject all forms of extremist politics and named Perkasa, specifically, as an enemy of multi-racial Malaysia.
Present at the congress was Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who, in his opening speech, echoed Chang’s view that Barisan Nasional (BN) should reject racist politics.
But critics have questioned Najib’s seriousness for reforms as his government was seen flip-flopping on several pledges including backtracking on his vow to open up the economy to more non-Malay participation and improve civil liberties.
Recently the prime minister announced the return of race-based affirmative action policy in the New Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Agenda and also introduced laws that would restore the state’s preventive powers in a move seen as pandering to conservative demands.
Analysts said Najib’s sudden hardline stand was merely aimed at averting a potential challenge to his position at the party polls but this reflected weak leadership and indecisiveness on his part, especially when forced to confront issues concerning Malaysia’s growing polarisation.
Chong said BN has deviated from its original ideology of inclusiveness and that it must now fight towards restoring the “Spirit of Independence” in charting policies that would benefit not only one race, but for all.
He claimed this co-operative spirit was embodied in the politics of Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Malaysian prime minister, who was also known to reject the politics of race.
“Tunku never backed down when facing extremism and communalism, because he felt that the only way for a country to move forward is for each rakyat to feel belonged.
“Everytime we disagree, it is unfortunate that extremist groups like Perkasa will challenge other non-bumiputera races and ask them to ‘return to their country of origin’ or migrate. This taunt is not only hurtful, but is detrimental to unity and social harmony,” he said.
Despite growing calls for action, including from his own non-Malay allies in BN, Najib
has never openly censured Perkasa or other similar groups despite some of its provocative actions.
And while Chong urged all parties to reject Perkasa’s extremism, the Gerakan leader appeared to have backed Najib when he said that it was important to engage the group in a dialogue in the spirit of freedom of speech.
“The PM has made it known that he is against extremism..we should condemn them (Perkasa) definitely, but we must also respect their freedom of speech. And that is why we believe we should instead dialogue with them,” he said.
Gerakan, and other non-Malay component parties in BN had previously blamed Najib’s party Umno for the minority vote swing. They claimed Umno’s Malay-centric politics have alienated non-Malay support for the coalition.
The party which once dominated the politics in Penang, Malaysia’s second most industrialised city, is now facing party elections amid growing calls for a firm leadership, claiming the present lineup pandered too much to Umno’s will.
Chong said today Gerakan will stay committed to BN as Najib has proved his mettle as a moderate and progressive leader.