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SCMP: Ethnic Chinese targeted for votes
20/5/2001 7:28 am Sun
[Jika PAS berjaya mendekati kaum Cina, BN dijangka akan kalah teruk
dalam pilihanraya umum nanti. PAS harus lebih agresif dalam hal ini
kerana Mahathir sudahpun mula mengorak langkah untuk mendapatkan
sokongan kaum Cina melalui perlantikkan penasihat khas nanti.
The South China Morning Post, HK
Ethnic Chinese targeted for votes
Islamic opposition party leader wades through pig farm in bid to win
ASSOCIATED PRESS in Kuala Lumpur
Bearded and wearing a turban, the leader of Malaysia's powerful
fundamentalist Islamic opposition party recently visited a piggery and
chatted amiably to ethnic Chinese farmers.
Yesterday, aides to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad confirmed he will
appoint one new staff member, maybe two, to advise him directly on
ethnic Chinese concerns.
With three years to go before the next general elections, the battle
has begun for the support of one of Malaysia's most important
political constituencies - the more than 30 per cent of the country's
22 million people who are ethnic Chinese.
The community's political clout has skyrocketed since a split emerged
in the Malay Muslim community, which has eroded support for Dr
Mahathir's United Malays National Organisation (Umno) and strengthened
the fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS).
The split was triggered by Dr Mahathir's firing of his deputy Anwar
Ibrahim in 1998, and Anwar's subsequent trials for s###my and
corruption. Anwar was convicted and is serving a 15-year prison term.
He claims the charges were part of a conspiracy to stop him from
challenging Dr Mahathir, who has led Malaysia since 1981. Dr Mahathir
At general elections in 1999, Malays - more than 60 per cent of the
population and Umno's traditional power base - delivered control of
two states to PAS, which also tripled its seats in Parliament and made
inroads in several other provinces including Dr Mahathir's home state
More than 60 per cent of ethnic Chinese votes went to Dr Mahathir's
coalition Government, which includes two parties with strong ethnic
Chinese links, delivering it the two-thirds majority in Parliament it
needs to rule.
Umno has tried to paint PAS as extremists and play on fears among
ethnic Chinese about how they would be treated by a government led by
Islamic fundamentalists. Candidates from the Democratic Action Party,
PAS allies in an opposition coalition, lost heavily to government
candidates at the 1999 elections.
Since then, the DAP and PAS have worked hand in hand to soothe ethnic
Chinese concerns. While it maintains its basic tenet that Malaysia
should become an Islamic state, PAS insists it will not discriminate
against non-Muslims and has softened its ideological line in some
"We must win the hearts of the non-Muslims, especially the Chinese, if
we are truly to be an alternative to the Government," said Nasaruddin
Mat Isa, the party's secretary-general.
When leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat toured Malaysia's pork-producing
heartland in March, it signalled his party's strategic shift and set
alarm bells ringing for Dr Mahathir. Pork is taboo in Islam. "Be
careful of this party," Dr Mahathir told Umno members last week. "PAS
is willing to even wade through pig farms just to win the Chinese
In the two states where PAS governs, liquor sales are restricted to
non-Muslims and gambling and unisex pubs are banned. Muslim women are
required to cover their heads, and supermarket checkout queues are
segregated by gender. But Ronnie Liu, DAP's national spokesman, said
that non-Muslims have not been discriminated against.
"Yes, the DAP is still against an Islamic state," Mr Liu said. "But we
can work together on common interests such as justice and equality and
show the Chinese that PAS is not against non-Muslims."
The political jockeying comes amid simmering dissatisfaction among
ethnic Chinese about government policies which give special privileges
to ethnic Malays in education, government jobs and business. The
policies, instituted after race riots in 1969 triggered by Malay
resentment at the economic dominance of ethnic Chinese, are questioned
by ethnic Chinese who say advancement should be based on merit.
While Dr Mahathir earlier this year branded Chinese pressure groups
communists for demanding an end to positive discrimination, PAS
officials held unprecedented talks with Chinese community leaders.
When Dr Mahathir sought talks with PAS leaders on Malay unity, it
imposed preconditions, which scuttled the talks.