Flip-flops & Malaysian politics go together
Thursday, January 10, 2008 03:59 IST
HONG KONG: Tuesday was just a normal day at the office for Malaysia’s muddled rulers and ministers.
First, a home ministry official in Kuala Lumpur revealed sensationally that the government had frozen recruitment of unskilled and semi-skilled workers from India and Bangladesh. In far-off New Delhi, the only ethnic Indian Minister in Malaysia’s Cabinet, Samy Vellu, defended the decision, saying “we don’t want to recruit any more because we have enough workers… Is it wrong?” But within an hour, sensing that he had a political hot potato on his hands, Samy Vellu backtracked and denied the report. ‘Peace’ was momentarily restored in the Kafka-esque world of Malaysian politics.
The policy flip-flops and slip-ups on this issue are symptomatic of the ruling National Front coalition’s inept political manoeuvres as it seeks to consolidate its Malay Muslim support base ahead of parliamentary elections, which may be held in March.
In recent months, the ruling coalition has faced a succession of political embarrassments — from an unprecedented demonstration by ethnic Indians protesting racial discrimination to corruption and sex scandals — that have shown up the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as muddled in the extreme.
The ethnic Indians’ protest — spearheaded by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) — tarnished Malaysia’s image abroad, and induced an element of strain in relations with India.
At home, it also seriously undermined the ethnic Indian support base of Samy Vellu’s Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). The ethnic Indian community in Malaysia is seething with rage against the MIC, which they say has failed to protect their interests and works only as a “power broker”.
On the other hand, the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), the primary constituent of the National Front, finds itself scrambling to assure its Malay Muslim support base that it is protecting their interests.
The announcement of a freeze was intended to assure Malay Muslims that the government was earnest about cracking down on “foreign workers”, particularly from India, and protecting jobs at home. But not enough consideration was given to the ramifications of such an announcement on relations with India, and the political calculations of the MIC. Which is why it was left to Samy Vellu to fight the fire and protect his base.
May I add on?
A****h ban? No A***h ban?
Cannot fly Singland? Can fly Singland?
Bedol is a lady? Bedol is not a lady?