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Thursday, October 31, 2013

“Bad news” or not, Perkasa draws reactions from both sides of the divide

Lunatic or not, several Umno leaders have defended Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali (2nd from left). - The Malaysian Insider pic, October 31, 2013.Lunatic or not, several Umno leaders have defended Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali (2nd from left). - The Malaysian Insider pic, October 31, 2013.While Pakatan Rakyat agrees that Perkasa's narrow views have made nonsense of the Najib administration's transformation efforts, Umno leaders argue there were equally extreme non-Malay groups fighting for their communities.
The opposition noted that if Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was serious in his transformation efforts, then having Perkasa on his side was a bad mistake as the group, known for its incendiary comments, was only widening racial disunity.
Former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim agreed, and attacked Perkasa, calling the group a threat to peace and stability in the country.
"Its very existence is an embarrassment to the country, especially to the Malays,” he wrote in a hard-hitting comment published in The Malaysian Insider yesterday.
The issues this group champions are plain ridiculous, he said, adding there is nothing in Perkasa's struggle that merits serious consideration.
"It has continued to cause consternation and fear among both Malaysians and also potential investors, and the prime minister should categorically denounce Perkasa and its allies for its disruptive politics and war-mongering,” he said.
“Even if Perkasa has a prominent patron (former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) the organisation should not be allowed to run amok.
“They must not be given more leeway to peddle their lunatic ideas.”
Lunatic or not, some Umno leaders have come out in support of its president Ibrahim Ali and others of his ilk, saying Perkasa is still relevant to the cause of Malay rights.
While admitting that Perkasa tended to have extreme views, they said Putrajaya need not heed Perkasa's every call.
Perkasa was formed in the aftermath of the 2008 General Election which saw the Chinese turn their backs on the Barisan Nasional government. Its main objective is to defend the rights of the Malays, which it says have come under threat by the non-Muslims in the country.
Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Hasan Malek said Perkasa had the right to air its views.
"If we were to judge Perkasa as an extremist group, what about the non-Malay NGOs who have also been highly critical?
"As a people's government we are committed to listening to all NGOs and Perkasa cannot be exempted," added Hasan, who is also Kuala Pilah MP. He said Perkasa was merely championing the cause of Malay rights.
"It is dedicated to protecting Malay rights and that is all it is doing, but the prime minister need not listen to everything they say."
Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Aziz Kaprawi also believed Perkasa to be relevant.
"Then what about outspoken groups like Dong Zong and Hindraf? Is it fair to say their presence is justified while Perkasa's is not?" the Sri Gading MP asked.
However, he pointed out that Najib need not rely on Perkasa for a feel of the pulse of the Malay community vis a vis the other races.
"He (Najib) does not need to. We know how to care for the Malays… we are here for them."
The opposition described Perkasa as “bad news” for Najib and his transformation programme.
PKR deputy president Azmin Ali said if Najib was serious about a transformation of sorts, he should not allow right-wing extremists to be part of Umno.
He said younger Malays were more open in their outlook, and views from extremist organisations like Perkasa no longer appealed to them.
"After 56 years of independence, we cannot have a Perkasa-like mind, or endorse all its views," Azmin told The Malaysian Insider.
Azmin said while Umno aspired to be progressive, having a “sidekick” like Perkasa was akin to rocking the cradle and pinching the baby at the same time.
PAS Rantau Panjang MP Siti Zailah Mohd Yusof suggested that instead of being a "nuisance", Perkasa should act as Umno's moral conscience.
"They are widening racial disunity with their extremist viewpoints directed at non-Malays," she said.
She pointed out that Perkasa had a more relevant role as a "pressure group" to keep Umno on its toes in safeguarding Malays rights, but added that the Malay rights group's constant “tantrums” undermined the prime minister’s efforts to present himself as the leader of a moderate nation.
Ibrahim recently not only upset Christians when he urged Putrajaya to ban the Bahasa Malaysia bible following the Court of Appeal ruling which banned the use of the word Allah in the Catholic weekly, Herald.
He said that the government had been too compromising, giving in to the demands of the Christians in Malaysia. The Malays, he claimed, have been "trodden and spat on" by "ungrateful Christians" and demanded Putrajaya ban the Malay language bible as a retaliation.
Earlier this year, Ibrahim angered Christians nationwide after calling on Muslims to burn Malay-language bibles which use the term Allah in their texts.
He has also attacked the Chinese, accusing them of playing up political sentiments. Ibrahim had also claimed the Chinese community will become a national security threat which will result in racial riots similar to the May 13 incident if it grows more powerful economically and politically.
And more recently, Perkasa Youth chief Irwan Fahmi Ideris said that Deputy Education Minister II P. Kamalanathan had insulted Islam by banning the sacrificing of cattle in schools in conjunction with Hari Raya Aidiladha. He warned that the group will campaign against him in the next general election if he does not retract his statement on the ritual of slaughtering cattle in schools.
While politicians are split on the relevance of Perkasa in the country's political landscape, voters at GE13 snubbed Ibrahim and his vice-president Datuk Zulkifli Nordin, when they lost in Pasir Mas and Shah Alam respectively.
This, despite active campaigning by their patron Dr Mahathir.

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