I was talking to a young Malay GrabCar driver in his 30s.
The price of RON95 has just been increased to RM2.31 per liter; a simple mamak dinner is more than RM10 now; his fresh graduate brother has yet to land a job, and his family — spanning across three generations — has to squeeze into a modest PPR flat.
“We are not a poor country, but the wealth gap is large. Look! There are luxury cars and big houses everywhere. What they pay for a single meal is enough to cover my whole week’s expenses.”
I think I can understand his feelings.
I asked sort of purposely, “I thought the government is doing everything it can to help the Malays?”
He replied, “Only a small group of people will benefit. Most people don’t get a thing!”
“What should the government do then?”
“It has to be clean and fair, guided by religion. But, they can’t do it! If they are principled and have aspirations, at least there is hope for change.”
I put it forthright, “Which party do you support?”
“Of course PAS. Other than my father who supports BN, the rest in the family are like me.”
More than 100,000 supporters thronged Pantai Tok Jembal during PAS’ Fastaqim 2.0 rally in Terengganu over a month ago, turning the otherwise hushed east coast beach into some kind of Rio’s Copacabana on the eve of World Cup.
You might think soccer is the only thing that can turn on the heat. The religious forces mobilized by PAS can do the same magic too.
Fastaqim 2.0 was not wholly a political rally. It was more of a religious campaign striving to put through PAS’ political agenda by way of religious influences.
During the rally, PAS leaders did not go tough at the ruling party nor 1MDB, conveying instead the message of the party’s religious roadmap and Hadi Awang’s RUU355 amendment bill.
No elated emotion among the participants who were listening quietly and attentively.
From the voices of a young KL driver to the massive rally at Pantai Tok Jembal, one thing that is common is the emergence of a new force that ties religion to politics which the Malays hope can reshape their future.
And PAS provides such a promise!
The local Chinese community has assumed that PAS will lose more ground following the party’s exit from the opposition pact
But the real-life scenario could be very different.
In the absence of PAS, Pakatan hardly managed to get 10,000 to attend its anti-kleptocracy rally, but a Fastaqim 2.0 without Pakatan drew over 100,000!
PAS’ exit from Pakatan might disappoint many forward-thinking Muslims, but the party has concurrently reaffirmed its hold of conservative Muslim support base, while more and more young Malays disenchanted with BN begin to lean towards it.
Anyway, conservatives make up a substantial part of Malaysia’s Muslim population, and Hadi’s fundamentalist policy goes well with these people’s aspiration.
Some say GE14 will see a “Malay tsunami” that will bring down BN in favor of Pakatan Harapan.
This argument is only partially right.
To be more precise, it could be a “green tsunami” or “Muslim tsunami” or “PAS tsunami” born out of gross frustration at BN and distrust of PH, that sees votes channeled instead to PAS, especially in three-cornered fights against BN and PH.
PAS’ seats may increase significantly at the expense of both BN and PH. This situation could very likely materialize in Kedah, Terengganu, Kelantan, Perlis and even Perak, Selangor and Pahang!
It is because of this that Umno is prepared to forge a strategic cooperation with PAS. Pakatan Harapan will suffer the brunt of such relationship, in particular PKR, Amanah and PPBM.
Of course, this is only a likelihood yet to become a reality. And I personally hope it will not become one.
While Chinese Malaysians are alarmed by an increasing trend of Islamization and are generally resistant to PAS, the trend is fast taking form and could be hard to repel.