My simple and direct answer to this question is …no.
The fact is, clearly to me, corruption is a non-issue with the Malay electorate when it is faced off against the BN and PAS narrative of Malay-Muslim unity and total political dominance.
I will present my arguments why I have taken this conclusion and I will outline how the Malays may be turned.
When Professor Kamal Hassan launched his book “Corruption and the Hypocrisy of Malay Politics” with a forum of panelists consisting of star opposition members, there was not even a hue and cry of support from public universities with follow up discourses, talks and forums.
I also did not detect any statements of muftis or professors of Islam from two “Islamic” universities offering support.
Vice Chancellors of public universities always support ministers and prime ministers, and since no minister has supported Kamal Hassan, the VCs will remain in their luxurious nest until until a Malay solidarity call like Kongress Maruah Melayu sponsored by the prime minister is called.
More recently, Sinar Harian hosted the launching of the Malay version of the book by Kamal Hassan and a forum on the same subject was also held. I was one of the invited panelists.
When the poster for the event was circulated, the following statements and questions were posed by Malays from retired teachers, my friends who are retired GLC officers and academics to distinguished professors of public universities:
– Why is the forum targeting only Malays?
– Why are you, Tajuddin, participating in the self-flagellation exercise of the Malays?
– Is Sinar Harian trying to destroy Umno and Malay unity?
To all the questions I had tried to answer and say that firstly, the forum does not imply that only Malays are corrupt. Secondly, I explained that only the Malays should be advising other Malays on corruption. But would Malays listen to the advice of non-Malays? I don’t think so.
After the forum, the news report from many Malay news media reported what the Sultan said and not what the panelists had remarked.
After one day of a single mention in each news media (except, of course, Sinar Harian), it was back to business as usual for these newspapers.
Corruption is a non-issue or an embarrassing issue justified by the Malays to be the fault of non-Malays offering bribes to Malay politicians and civil servants.
Corruption, as I said, was a non-issue or an embarrassing issue that was justified by the Malays to be the fault of non-Malays for offering lucrative bribes to poor multi-million rich Malay politicians and civil servants.
At the height of the LCS scandal, except for Sinar Harian, other Malay news media hardly reported anything worthy of the scandal.
The apathy among the Malay media outlets and the silence from public universities was deafening.
In a recent statement, Puad Zarkashi, an Umno big gun, said that PH had failed to capitalize on the LCS scandal and therefore had no “big issue” to commandeer the narrative of the next GE15. That was why, according to him, PH is frightened of having the election this year.
I absolutely agree with him. PH was unable to play the narrative like Tun Mahathir had done with 1MDB. It was Mahathir who single-handedly carried the narrative of Najib as pencuri wang rakyat.
Even though Rafizi was working hard with his truck travel and talks, it was Mahathir who inspired the Malays and Malaysians to topple the powerful BN.
I do not think anyone else can play a political narrative as well as the old man.
How then can PH hope to turn the 30% Malays?
In the next election, that Umno will work with PAS is a foregone conclusion.
Bersatu, as I have already written, is a walking corpse. Umno and PAS will sell the Malay-Muslim dominance narrative like nobody’s business.
Of course, the other narrative is that PH is led by the de facto leader, DAP.
For all the religiosity of Anwar and Amanah, both are totally dependent on DAP and the non-Malay votes, ergo, PH is controlled and dictated by Cina DAP.
That is another narrative. We even have an MIC leader now spouting that racist narrative.
The strength of PAS is that it has all the religious ustazs to ceramah both narratives as a “war of Muslims against kafirs.” Whatever corruption amount of money or number of Malays will be drowned by the chants of Allahu Akbar.
The proposed University for Women is nothing more than another Muslim-led religious narrative and has nothing whatsoever to do with improving the positions of women in society.
In my university, women outnumber men and occupy all the powerful leadership positions.
So, for the starters, PH needs to find the religious ustazs to present a nation-building narrative that places corruption not only as a sin in Islam but would also destroy the future of the sons and daughters of Malays in this country.
These ustazs, if there are any, must combine their ceramah strength with Amanah’s professional ‘ustazs’ and carry the narrative to the young Malays at universities through WhatsApp and YouTube, since universities are closed to any political discussions and discourses.
Universities are a true embarrassment to nation-building in Malaysia!
Even though Rafizi may have great agendas on the sustainability of the environment, flood mitigation plans, professional governance and transparent management, these issues are nothing to the Malays presented with a Muslim dominance narrative.
Malays are not schooled in the concept of sharing the nation in nation-building, and think that they are the sole owners of this country with others just as pendatangs.
Now, with an added religious narrative, nothing can stop PAS and Umno sweeping the Malay votes.
The key for Harapan is to create a strong pact with Sabah and Sarawak parties, offering many concessions of cabinet posts and oil revenue.
As I have said in the past, if PH can offer premiership to the Sabah and Sarawak people, this narrative will never be countered by Umno and PAS who feel that this post is forever Melayu Semenanjung.
If PH still insist on an Anwar leadership, then the deputy prime minister as well as 50% of ministerial posts must go to Sabah and Sarawak.
The other key electoral strategy is to offer the young people a new future in housing and financial security.
I had argued that if the government can supply free housing to 1.2 million civil servants, why not to every deserving Malaysian graduate and worker?
As an architecture academic, I had suggested the building of what I call “beehive apartments” where each capsule consists of basic living needs like toilets and sleeping without any parking for cars, only motorcycles.
I had also talked about 1,000 new FELDA pockets of 100 graduates and youths allocated a 100 acres of land to farm using the latest technology to solve our food security and employment.
With hybrid education as shown by the two-year experience of the pandemic, PH can offer a much cheaper education pathway where no huge campuses will be required, and new “virtual public universities” using different salary and employment formats can be constructed.
PH must show that Muslims who do not support an extremist narrative propagated by PAS can be placed in many foreign cities around the world to provide employment and social support as open-minded Muslims in society.
The new and old opposition parties like Warisan, MUDA, MAP and PSM must work together with an open-minded PH to provide a new Malaysian and Islamic narrative for the young, or else all of them will sink like a stone in the ocean against the Malay-Muslim dominance storyline.
GE15 will be a turning point for Malaysia which is already on the most racist list in the world. It would not be long when it will be on the bankrupt list or a list of a country that has no future for the young.
(Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at a local university and his writing reflects his own personal opinion entirely.)