Malaya fiasco: Muhyiddin cleans up for Najib but faces 'distrust' roadblock
Unlike his boss, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin seems to be pressing all the right buttons. Instead of foolishly trying to rely on a technicality to subvert what is a long-standing fact and well-accepted by the people in the country, Muhyiddin finally admitted Malaya was to all and intents and purposes a colony of the British prior to receiving Independence in 1957.
His response immediately won him points, and he is already being perceived as the more steady and reliable statesman compared to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Instead of common sense, Najib had reverted to dark threats and the long arm of the law to charge PAS deputy president Mat Sabu for criminal defamation over the Bukit Kepong incident, which harks back to how and who were the heros who had helped Malaya gain independence from the British.
Many have accused Najib of unscrupulous 'blowing with the wind' polemics, taking lines of action not because they were right but because he thought it was what would please the Malay community and make them support him.
However, it has been obvious the PM has miscalculated, and Muhyiddin is now cleaning up for Umno and BN over the incident that has turned many Malaysians including the Malays against BN.
"Have we been colonised? Yes, we have been celebrating our independence every year. It can't be for nothing. They received advice from the British residents, but the advice must be accepted. The sultans were not free to rule," ," Muhiddin admitted to Parliament on Wednesday.
He was replying to a supplementary question from Azmin Ali, the PKR MP for Gombak. The DPM also said that, while some have argued the Malay sultans only received 'advice' from the British, he is of the opinion that they were under the indirect, if not direct control, of the British Ruler.
But if Muhyiddin and his supporters think that they can coast to victory from here onwards, they are likely to be wrong.
Not all the Malays accept Muhyiddin because of his serious and seemingly unimaginative demeanour. He is widely regarded as little better than the late Ghaffar Baba, the former DPM, who failed to shine or show any vision in taking Malaysia forward.
As for the non-Malays, the majority of Chinese dislike him because of his infamous 'Malay-first, Malaysian-second' comment. They perceive him as caring only for the Malays and someone who can be counted on to sell out the interest of the other races when the political going got tough.
As for Najib, his minders have over-relied on his UK accent and urbane looks to sell him.
But perhaps it is time for the Umno leaders to accept that despite the Malays forming 55% of the population, to lead the nation they have to be a prime minister for all Malaysians.
They cannot just depend on the Malay vote which is already split, with PAS and PKR holding a sizeable proportion. And no amount of Malay championing can sway these votes away because they are due to deep-seated beliefs such as aversion to corruption or that Umno was not practising Islam properly.
"Problem for Najib is he may have taken too shallow a line with the people. He thinks that by looking the role and waving his 1Malaysia finger in the air, that is enough to be PM for all Malaysians. But we have tested him for nearly 3 years now and he has definitely failed, so he is out. But for Muhyiddin, I am very sure he will be president of Umno very soon but I doubt if he will make it as Prime Minister," PKR vice president Chua Jui Meng, who also hails from Muhyiddin's Johor homestate, told Malaysia Chronicle.
Distrust his main barrier
Another sore point that will be very tough for Muhyiddin to get past is his lacklustre performance as Education minister. Basically, and across the racial groups, he is seen as having done little better than Najib's cousin, Hishammuddin Hussein, who is now Home Minister.
As Education minister, Muhyiddin made several calls that will permanently scar him with the non-Malays. For example, his defense of several school principals who had hurled racial slurs against Chinese and Indian pupils, his gunning down of popular rap star Namewee over his 'Nah' video, the Interlok novel that he refused to remove from the list of school literature despite the novel containing phrases like pariah and other derogatory terms that were unacceptable to the Indians and Chinese.
Perhaps if the 64-year-old Muhyiddin and his supporters wished to know how good are his future prospects, they should assess the wariness felt by all the racial groups at the way he is handling the 'history' of the country.
Indeed, the fear is high that Muhyiddin in his role as Education minister will sanction without the blink of an eye a ruthless rewriting of historical facts to boost the position of Umno, and consolidate his own hold on power. This fear actually reflects the high distrust Malaysians feel for him.
Meanwhile, PKR's Azmin asked Muhyiddin if there were any plans to include the "philosophy of history" as a subject in schools, as opposed to just educating students on the historical facts.
Muhyiddin had earlier admitted a committee was in place to ensure that the subject encompasses both facts and interpretation of the events. This was to enhance the students’ understanding of history, he had said in reply toShamsul Anwar Nasarah, the BN MP for Lenggong.
To Azmin, the DPM admitted that the interpretation of the facts including the philosophy and understanding of history could differ from person to person, and this could lead to misunderstanding.
As such, the interpretation of history should be done by experts and not by laymen and politicians, Muhyiddin elaborated. Words that pundits said he himself must heed. But will he?