BARISAN Nasional under Prime Minister Najib Razak has taken the tactic of exploiting ethnic differences to new heights, said a political analyst.
Bridget Welsh, a visiting professor of political science at John Cabot University in Rome, said the resulting perception that emerged was that democracy was about displacement, and that allowing democracy gave power to the Chinese.
“The tactic is to exploit ethnic differences, particularly to pit Chinese against Malays, to use Malay nationalism in a way that’s not necessarily benefiting the Malay community. But of course, it is being employed as part of a trend that uses identity or emotional politics.
“This is about weakness. It’s not about bringing Malaysia together. It’s about using ethnic relations to their own advantage, in a way that is about division.
“The tactic has always been there, but it has been taken to new heights under the Najib administration,” she told reporters after a forum in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the newly launched book Regime Resilience in Malaysia and Singapore.
She said the BN government was using the tactic to ensure it remained in power, and that it wanted the country to be polarised.
“They want ethnic relations to be polarised and they want to perpetuate that this is zero-sum politics, you versus me, and that also has its own costs.
“There is so much resentment being fuelled very ruthlessly and calculatingly, in a way that is destroying part of the fabric of society.”
Welsh added that the book, which features 18 authors and 17 essays, focused on the strategies that Umno and Singapore’s People’s Action Party used to remain in power.
“What we get is the fact that there is a set of tools that the government uses to stay in power.
“It’s not just about how the party adapts, or economic policies, but also the manipulation of political culture, the use of education, the lack of education. That helps us understand the underlying reasons why these parties have successfully remained in power.”