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Malay tsunami: Will it happen?

  • The Malay community is said to be very angry with alleged corruption which they see as the cause of the many scandals faced by the nation.

By Mohsin Abdullah

It has been asked before, but since Pakatan Harapan has got their PM candidate issue sorted out (despite rumblings within the coalition and outside), it's time to ask it again.

The term, Malay tsunami, was first coined by DAP strategist Lim Chin Tong back in 2015.

Suggesting or rather predicting a change in the Malay voting "pattern" in Umno-held seats come GE14, a tidal wave of support for the opposition.

Umno was quick to dismiss it.

Naturally. Some analysts also felt it would not happen, citing "subsidy mentality" and "politics of patronage" in rural areas as reasons.

This despite conceding inroads made by the opposition into rural areas, home to majority of Malay voters, as well as impact of former PM Tun Mahathir who is now leading the opposition onslaught.

And they had held on to that belief as late as last September. But, do they feel the same now, with situation overtaking events and taking into account the notion even a week is a long time in politics?

First, a quick look at the definition of tsunami, the actual or real tsunami and not the political one as being discussed.

To put it briefly, tsunamis are giant waves caused by earthquakes or volcanic eruptions under the sea, meaning there must be an earthquake first, or an earthquake needs to take place before a tsunami is triggered.
The same applies to the so-called political tsunami or in this case, a Malay tsunami. There must be a volcanic eruption of sorts for it to happen.

Pro-opposition folks would say or see the Felda scandal as one of the volcanic eruptions to trigger a Malay tsunami that will sweep Umno and the BN away in GE14.

Felda settlers are predominantly Malay. As we know, most of them have all along voted for Umno, but this time they are said to be ready to turn their backs on Umno feeling betrayed by Felda which has become, in the words of Chef Wan, "failed dah".

But it's not only Felda. Pro-opposition folks also point to Felcra, which according to an old journalist friend of mine Terence Fernandez in his column in Malay Mail Online, "has been queried over a series of questionable investments", including spending RM687 million to bail out its headquarters construction project.

Fernandez also pointed to Mara which "overpaid some RM60 million to an offshore company for property in Australia", a transaction facilitated by Mara officials.

All the above agencies have a moral duty towards the Malays. Needless to say they were set up to help the Malays, particularly those in rural areas.

And now they are said to be angry with the powers that be (read Umno).

Then there's the unhappiness over rice prices. As we know, majority of padi growers are Malays.

On top of that, we have the high cost of living, retrenchment etc. In a nutshell, economic woes. And Malays, rural or urban, are the ones most affected.

The community is also said to be angry with alleged corruption which they see as the cause of the scandals faced by the nation. Be it 1MDB,Felda and what have you.

All that say opposition supporters will trigger off a Malay tsunami.

No, say Umno. All the issues which are incurring the wrath of the Malays are "being looked into". They say actions will be or have been taken, citing the investigations into the Jalan Semarak Felda fiasco as example.

And then there is BR1M for the poor and special payments to civil servants and pensioners to ease their economic burden. And we know who make up the most number of civil servants and pensioners.

So, are all that enough to prevent a Malay tsunami?

Not really. If one is to talk to many a member of the Malay community.

Still, Umno has another card up their sleeves, the race and religion's which they have been using time and again. But, will it work again?

Maybe not in the urban areas, but whether it will happen in the rural areas is hard to tell.

However, many an Umno operative would silently agree that Mahathir is "allowing himself to become a puppet of DAP" is something hard to sell to the Malays, rural or urban.

Obviously, Umno is banking on PAS to help them win Malay support.

Najib might be keen on an Umno-PAS cooperation; so might Hadi Awang, but not everyone in their parties!

Take Kelantan for instance. It is a different story. Kelantan Umno is seeing itself in the best position to wrest the state which they lost to PAS since 1990. So, a cooperation with PAS in Kelantan at this junction is not enticing.

Incidentally, political observers say there are factions in PAS not in favor of a cooperation with Umno despite Hadi's willingness.

Come to think about it. Perhaps it is Umno itself that needs a Malay tsunami in its favor? Hence the cooperation with PAS, considering that Umno is said to have resigned to the fact non-Malay voters are not with them.

Back to the big question: Will a Malay tsunami happen? As the term was first thought by a strategist from DAP, it is only fair to ask whether the Malay tsunami will happen in favor of the opposition.

But with all the intrigues in the current political scenario, it is best for the opposition to talk about getting a major swing instead of the word tsunami.

(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist who writes about this, that and everything else.)


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