The open warfare between UMNO Deputy President, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and MCA President, Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek on the simple issue of respecting an individual’s religious sensitivity proves that the BN coalition is a 50-year marriage of convenience which is cracking at the seams.
Muhyiddin had to openly chastise Dr Chua to respect the choices of an individual, particularly one’s religious beliefs, specifically with regard to the issue of Muslim women “shaking hands” with men. As the Pakatan Rakyat parties have all pointed out, and agreed by Muhyiddin, there are many other issues of importance to discuss in an election, than about whether a Muslim woman should shake men’s hands.
Dr Chua in return, rebuked Muhyiddin for bringing the issue into the open instead of “communicating through internal channels”. He told reporters yesterday that they could go and tell Muhyiddin what he just said. Instead of putting the issue to a close, he persisted by repeating his claim that “shaking hands” is “good manners”, implying that the PAS candidate, Cikgu Normala Sudirman had bad manners for sticking to her religious beliefs.
The strain between the two race-based parties is completely understandable given that UMNO and MCA seeks only to draw the votes of Malays and Chinese respectively and do not care about the sentiments of the other communities. MCA for example, isn’t bother about the impact of its comments on Malay Muslims because it will do all that is necessary, including playing on the fear of Islam to gain the votes of the Chinese. On the other hand, UMNO will not hesitate to play on the Malay’s fear of losing political power to the Chinese to frighten the Malays into voting for UMNO.
The strategy is failing today because of a more instantaneous and open media catalysed by the online newspapers which transformed the media landscape which was previously controlled with an iron fist by BN.
On the other hand, it is the Pakatan Rakyat parties which have proven itself in slowly but surely disintegrating the racial barriers and silos with its leaders endorsing a Common Policy Platform, and criss-crosses all party ceramahs demonstrating on our ability to speak with a common voice. It is ironical that while the bonds of the 3 parties in Pakatan Rakyat, which is accused of being a marriage of convenience is only getting stronger by the day with increased understanding and cooperation, the Barisan Nasional is tearing at the seams with its leaders unable to see eye-to-eye with each other.