By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — Two ethnic Chinese Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders have openly snubbed Perkasa Youth’s demand for an apology, continuing instead to criticise the Malay rights group by saying that its struggles were not in line with the prime minister’s 1 Malaysia concept.
Penang Gerakan chief Datuk Teng Hock Nan and MCA deputy secretary Loh Chew June, who locked horns with the right-wing group when they labelled them “racists”, told The Malaysian Insider today that they refused to apologise for their statements.
Perkasa Youth chief Arman Azha Abu Hanifah had called on the duo to apologise within 48 hours from Friday, following their criticisms on the non-governmental organisation’s inaugural congress last Saturday.
Arman had claimed that failure to do so meant the two were in total disrespect of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has granted his patronage of the group, as well as the Federal Constitution, which Perkasa claims to uphold.
“That is nonsense. I will not apologise. I do not want people to misuse the Constitution at their whims and fancies.
“They (Perkasa) are not here to unite the races, they are here to segregate everyone,” said Loh, when contacted.
He insisted on sticking to his stand that Perkasa was just hampering Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1 Malaysia concept, which calls for equal opportunity for all.
“In this concept, we need more open-minded leaders; not leaders who emphasise on one race. We should emphasise on having fair and square policies for all the races... it should not be about Malay, Chinese or Indian, it should be about Malaysians,” he said.
Loh also lambasted Perkasa leader Ibrahim Ali for flashing the “keris” (traditional Malay dagger) during the group’s congress, saying that the act did not carry a positive connotation.
“All this waving of the keris is not a good thing. Even Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s similar act had a negative impact on the community,” he said.
Loh also claimed that Najib himself was not supportive of the movement’s imbalanced views, as they failed to reflect the premier’s wish to promote racial unity and harmony.
“I don’t think the prime minister wants this. In fact, this is very disrespectful to Najib’s 1 Malaysia concept. Perkasa should apologise to Najib because they are destroying his good concept,” he said.
Teng concurred with Low, saying that when Perkasa emphasised so extensively on fears felt by the Malays that the Chinese would soon take over, it proved that they were not in full comprehension of what 1 Malaysia stood for.
“As a senior politician, I would like to advise everyone to work towards the commonality of all, rather than to focus on conflicts. We must work in line with what the BN and the government is trying so hard to do — to promote the 1 Malaysia platform.
“Once they (Perkasa) can understand the true meaning of 1 Malaysia, the question of asking me or whomever to apologise and threatening to pressure my party to sack me, does not arise.
“My sacking would merely become a drop of blue ink in the ocean,” Teng told The Malaysian Insider this morning.
He added that by embarking on the stand that the Malays were threatened by the Chinese, Perkasa was merely creating mistrust and suspicion between the races and Gerakan would never accept that.
“Perkasa is campaigning for the rights of the Malays, the rights of the Bumiputeras, the special position of the Malay rulers and Islam as the official religion, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
“I believe no one has ever questioned those rights. But the statements that they made during their congress can easily be perceived by the non-Malay Malaysians as subjects that are banking on extremely divisive racial lines.
“Gerakan, as a multiracial party, believes in moderation, and we abhor any form of extremism, whether or not it is coming from a political party or an NGO or an individual,” said Teng.
He reminded Perkasa that while Article 153 of the Federal Constitution spoke of Malay’s special rights and the social contract, subsections 7 and 8 also stipulates that all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion are protected by the Constitution.
“Furthermore, Article 8 (2) speaks on how no Malaysian can be discriminated on, based on race or religion. Hence, this means that all Malaysians who love the country must put aside their personal or vested agendas and work towards the commonalities they can find in our diversity — promote similarities rather than conflict.
“Anyone who says that one race is threatening the other or one race is more superior to the other, is promoting extremism,” he said.
The present verbal sparring between the non-Malay parties of the BN and Perkasa indicates the mounting pressure on the prime minister to quickly choose the path he wants to follow or face a backlash in the near future.
On the one hand, Najib had already openly accepted the group when he claimed in an interview that Perkasa was “not so extreme” and pointed out that the group still believed in Umno’s abilities to run the country.
On the other, Najib’s defence of Perkasa would likely also face heavy criticism from his non-Muslim counterparts in the BN.
Opposition leaders yesterday pointed out that Najib had fallen into a Catch-22 situation and would very soon have to find a way out of the dilemma.
“The question that all Malaysians want answered now is whether Najib plans to stick by his concept and take middle ground or succumb to the pressures of Perkasa,” DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang had said.