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Flap over Quranic verses

BETWEEN 6 and 12 April 2009, the Malay-language media focused on three main topics: Perak DAP secretary Nga Kor Ming’s use of Quranic verses during the Bukit Gantang by-election; the results of the three by-elections; and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s newly minted cabinet.

On 9 April, Utusan Malaysia ran the word Shameful! in red on its front page (Memalukan!). It was a report of the soccer-hooligan riot in Kota Baru, which saw 10 vehicles, including a police truck, damaged or set on fire. This surge of passion followed Kelantan’s 1-0 loss to Negeri Sembilan. According to Kelantan police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi, violence broke out following the police’s detention of Kelantan goalkeeper Mohd Halim Napi after he assaulted a Negeri Sembilan player.

(Pic by Rodolfo Clix /
Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat expressed great regret at the incident, styling it as “very shameful”.

Nik Aziz, who is also PAS spiritual leader, weighed in positively on another issue last week: Perak DAP secretary Nga Kor Ming’s recitation of Quranic verses.

Nga first came under fire by certain groups for citing the Al-A’raf passage wrongly in a rally on the evening of 5 April (GPMS, BBPM kutuk Kor Ming persenda al-Quran, Utusan Malaysia, 6 April); later, Nga’s intentions themselves were questioned. In Niat petik ayat al-Quran diragui, Utusan Malaysia quoted Universiti Malaya’s Academy of Islamic Studies director Prof Dr Ahmad Hidayat Buang as saying that the use of Quranic verses in any political campaign was potentially questionable.

On 10 April, Malaysiakini quoted Nik Aziz as saying that he was touched by Nga’s complaint that “when the Chinese [Malaysian] community tries to understand Islam and the Quran with that holy book, they are stopped.”

“Hopefully, with the ‘Umno-styled unfriendliness’ and Umno leaders’ resistance to this healthy inclination by the Chinese and Indian [Malaysian] community, it will raise awareness among non-Muslims to continue to study, delve into, and hold forums about Islam in a more widespread way,” Nik Aziz said in Nik Aziz suka Nga kenali Islam.

He expressed hope that more non-Malay Malaysians would come forward to become Islamic leaders.

By-elections brouhaha

In its 8 April edition, Utusan Malaysia ran BN 1, PAS 1, PKR 1 as its headline. The by-elections in Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai saw the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) take the peninsula seats, while the Barisan Nasional (BN) won in Sarawak. The Malay-language daily’s subheading was Status quo retained in by-elections, emphasising the fact that there was no change in the number of parliamentarians or state assemblypersons either faction controlled.

In Bukan Melayu undi pembangkang, Utusan Malaysia editor Marhaini Kamaruddin pointed at the “last-minute scattershot tactics of the opposition” that took the form of “personal attacks aimed at [BN candidate Ismail Saffian] on the night before polling … more-or-less affected the fence-sitting Malay [Malaysian] voters in this parliamentary seat.”

The writer also fingered the fact that PAS candidate Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin had been the DAP’s choice candidate from the beginning. “Evidently, the populist approach of Mohammad Nizar during his tenure as the head of the state garnered support of the Chinese [Malaysian] voters,” Marhaini wrote, a subtle dig that echoed Najib’s response to critics of his decision to release 13 Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees on 5 April.

Nizar supporters in Bukit Gantang

In considering the idea that an independent body be formed to conduct a post-mortem of the election results (Badan bebas kaji punca kekalahan, Utusan Malaysia, 8 April), the writer wondered, “What more do non-Malay [Malaysian] voters want from the BN?”

Awang Selamat, in his Bisik-Bisik column on the opposite page, summarised the argument: “An issue that the BN government has to face is its continued rejection by non-Malay [Malaysian] voters.

“The BN component parties that represent them, namely MCA, MIC and Gerakan, need to answer for this, and cannot let go of responsibility! They have to be able to capture the hearts of the non-Malay [Malaysians], and not just point fingers at Umno whenever the BN loses an election,” Awang argued.

Berita Harian advised a little more contrition in its analyses of the by-elections on 9 April.

In Masih banyak perlu dibuat pikat hati rakyat, news editor Ahmad Zaini Kamaruzzaman mulled over the possibility that Nizar’s win in Bukit Gantang was a referendum on the Perak takeover.

“If it is true that the results reflect the peoples’ wishes for the Perak state assembly to be dissolved, this means that the Mohon Restu Rakyat slogans accompanied by [Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir]’s photo on BN posters … did not succeed. Does this mean that [the takeover] is without the people’s blessing? If so, the issue will continue if not solved through polls or the court.”

The writer pointed out that besides the “Perak political crisis”, there was no other significant local issue that affected the BN’s loss.

People’s cabinet

On 10 April 2009, Najib’s new “people’s cabinet” was hailed by both Berita Harian (Kabinet rakyat) and Utusan Malaysia (Kabinet rakyat) as stellar.

In Wanita lebih wajar dapat jawatan, Wan Norazah Wan Chik compared the fortunes of Umno Wanita chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin. The writer argued that the former was much more deserving of a ministership than the latter.

Shahrizat (Pic courtesy of theSun)
“Compared to Shahrizat, Khairy has only been a parliamentarian for 13 months. There is still a lot that he must do to prove his abilities. Without a cabinet post, Khairy will have a lot of time and opportunity to work at reinforcing the Youth front,” Wan Norazah asserted.

The analyst did not touch on the ability levels of Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, who was appointed as Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry in a move seen by many to be designed to keep Umno patriarch Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad happy.

Earlier, in Kewajaran dua TPM (Utusan Malaysia, 8 April), editor Aznan Bakar took the MCA to task for petitioning Najib that a second deputy prime minister be appointed from the Chinese Malaysian community.

“This issue, which smells of demand or pressure, should have been brought up in a closed forum between top BN leaders, and not made public just to gain popularity,” Aznan wrote.

“It shows the MCA to be a component party that is greedy and cannot wait to demand for this or that, even though they know that the transition of power has only just happened.”

Aznan pointed out that the MCA has had four full ministerships, retaining that number even when their contributions to the victory of the BN declined.

“When the Chinese [Malaysians] are still seen to be inclined to support or sympathise with the opposition, especially the DAP, the MCA’s focus should be to reverse that perception. ‘Work first, position later’,” said Aznan.

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