Who are Perkasa?
Dr Lim Teck Ghee
Dr Farish Noor’s assessment of Perkasa as “a class issue… reflecting the anxieties of poor Malays who are scared of the globalization process” is off the mark.
There is presently little or no data on Perkasa’s membership or ideology to support his assertion.
- we do not know how large its membership is,
- the demographic and socio-economic profile of members,
- the reasons for participation in the group’s activities,
- the number of poor, middle or upper class Malays that are members,
- the attitudes of these members and other supporters towards the globalization process, etc.
The facts known about it are clear and unambiguous evidence of what the organization stands for and aims to achieve.
They are a far cry from the class-based, nebulous and even heroic concerns that Farish draws attention to in his assessment.
Profile of Perkasa
Perkasa is an organization registered with the Registrar of Societies on Sept 12, 2008. It traces its origins to the aftermath of the momentous March 8 general elections with the early discussion on forming the organization publicly announced in June 2008.
Its OBJECTIVES clearly prioritize the defence of “Malay special RIGHTS” (rather than the “special position” of the Malays) as well as the position of Islam, Bahasa Melayu and Malay rulers.
There is nothing in its objectives (or its subsequent activities) to make it out as being concerned with or wanting to take up the plight of POOR Malays.
Instead PERKASA's positions are based on the anxieties of “Ketuanan Melayu” and “Ketuanan Islam”.
|Article 4 of Perkasa charter|
• Memperkasakan Islam sebagai agama persekutuan
• Memperkasakan Bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa kebangsaan
• Memperkasakan kedaulatan Raja-Raja Melayu
• Mempertahankan hak-hak keistimewaan orang Melayu
• Memperkasakan kaum pribumi
• Menyatupadukan kaum pribumi dan perpaduan rakyat Malaysia
• Mempertahankan kedaulatan Negara.
The names and positions of Perkasa’s office bearers are just as instructive in pointing to the racial supremacy orientation of the organization.
|Perkasa: Main office holders as at Oct 2008|
• Datuk Ibrahim Ali (President)
Note: When he was Usno MP for Kota Belud, Yahya Lampong was alleged to have played a major role in the demonstrations that led to the Kota Kinabalu riots of March 19, 1986
- Its “frog king” President is Ibrahim Ali who is notorious for his party hopping (“The frog under the coconut shell hops from padi-field to padi-field, it does not hop …far, just nearby” ) and racist and sexist outbursts (“… there would be fewer marital problems and a lower divorce rate if Muslim women were taught to accept polygamy”).
- Most if not all of Perkasa leaders are professional politicians or businessmen, mainly from or closely associated with Umno and fitting in or flirting with the opposition camp when it suits their interests.
- NONE have had any track record in the espousal of the socio-economic problems of the Malay working class.
- All have been beneficiaries of the Umno system of patronage and profited enormously from the power and wealth distributed by the party to its members, especially those at the top.
- All unashamedly make use of the propaganda depicting Malays as the hapless victims of the colonial and post-colonial development process and greedy non-Malays as standing in the way of legitimate Malay concerns and interests.
The mentor and ideological godfather of Perkasa is the former PM, Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In his welcome note to their March 2009 Assembly meeting which was telecast live by Astro Awani and contained in the programme booklet, Dr Mahathir argued that the emergence of Malay NGOs was rooted in Islamic and Malay causes and showed that the Malays now have less confidence in the political parties that are supposed to represent them.
He endorsed Ibrahim Ali as “(someone) who is neutral, who is concerned only with good governance, who will criticise whoever, whether the government or the opposition.”
Dr Mahathir and Ibrahim not only have a common interest in publicly massaging each other’s ego and respective causes but also in being perceived as comrades in the frontline of fighting for Malay rights in the face of rising non-Malay challenge. But are other Malays buying this line?
Poorer Malays in Perkasa?
Are Malays from the poorer and lower classes flocking to this and similar or clone Malay ‘NGO’ movements taking up the cudgels on behalf of ‘oppressed’ and ‘long suffering’ Malays whose rights are being trampled on by non-Malays?
The evidence to date is NEGATIVE.
On Feb 5, a Penang-based Malay NGO ‘Sedaq’ or ‘Aware’ claiming to represent 50 members, organized a demonstration after Friday prayers at Komtar to protest against the state’s alleged discrimination and oppression of Malays, especially Malay traders.
Although the demonstrators succeeded in setting fire to an effigy of the Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, it could only mobilize a much smaller crowd of supporters than the 10,000 the organizers were targeting for.
Various media estimated the numbers attending to range from 300 to 2,000.
In response, the MPPP has refuted the claim of Sedaq that Malay traders are being singled out for harassment and discriminatory action.
The data provided by the city council showed that Malays comprised 38% and 29% respectively of the 2,063 and 2,789 cases in the years 2008/09 against taken by the MPPP against illegal traders.
The claims of racial discrimination made by the Malay NGOs were groundless.
Although Perkasa and Sedaq were given much prominence in the Malay vernacular papers and official media, there has been little critical analysis of the actions and activities of such groups in these media outlets and counter arguments such as those put out by the Penang state government and others against the Sedaq group have not been given the coverage they deserve.
Perkasa and the Radical Fringe
It is as if the present Umno leadership which controls the mass media and the spin given to these new forces sees it as in its interests to coddle and legitimize Malay racist organizations, however extreme their message and opportunistic their agenda may be.
The convergence of interests between the Umno leadership and the various manifestations of these ‘grassroots’ movements is NOT surprising.Also not surprising is the apparent rapport between the Deputy Prime Minister and these groups.
For example, on Feb 2, Perkasa spent two hours privately discussing its myopic socio-economic and political agenda with Muhyiddin Yassin. The group’s position on key policy issues is known to be contradictory to that held by the 1Malaysia ideology and New Economic Model espoused by the Prime Minister.
- What message did the Deputy Prime Minister intend to send to other Malaysians and Umno members by being so deferential to Perkasa?
- Was the event staged to strengthen Muhyiddin’s Malay ‘nationalist’ credentials further and to undermine the Prime Minister’s vision of transformation and change for the country?
- Or is there some tacit agreement between the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister with one acting as the liberal and progressive face of Umno and the other as its unchanging and non-negotiable Malay nationalist face, thus enabling it to cynically exploit both wider public and hardline Malay support?
Having an attack hound bare its fangs in defence of exaggerated Malay insecurities on economy, religion, language or culture has been a key weapon in the Umno arsenal to remind the non-Malay communities of their real – that is, subordinate – place in Malaysia.
The harder the line these groups take, the more liberal and progressive Umno’s leadership appears to be.
However, this strategy no longer works with a more enlightened Malaysian electorate refusing to be intimidated or browbeaten by distorted or propagandistic versions of history bandied by BTN types and the logic of Malay dominance.
It is also a dangerous game as Perkasa, Sedaq and other fringe extremist groups may turn around to bite Umno and weaken the country’s social fabric in other ways such as the church fire-bombings have already proven.
Perkasa is one big joke
Read here for more in Malaysia Insider
Malay rights group Perkasa is growing in popularity among the community with its rhetoric but analysts and politicians differ about its actual purpose in a country where Malays dominate the government.
Its founder, seasoned grassroots politician Datuk Ibrahim Ali claimed that Perkasa has been seen by the Malay grassroots as the substitute platform to champion what they feel as eroding Malay rights despite being the dominant race in the country.
Critics however slam the newly-minted right-wing group of being “ultras” pushing their own agenda to ensure that the long-standing practice of communal-based political hierarchy remains. Ibrahim has dismissed the critics as “liberals” threatened and jealous of Perkasa’s surging popularity. “Perkasa is now a brand every Malays talk about but many have attacked us, calling us a racist group and conservative hardliners because of what we fight for,” said Ibrahim.
But analysts say otherwise.
Professor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari, a constitutional law expert with the International Islamic University (IIU) in Kuala Lumpur conceded the law does not prohibit Ibrahim from setting up or recruiting more members for Perkasa’s cause but his main concern is the reasoning behind Perkasa’s “struggle.”
Professor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari said,
“I don’t know what he (Ibrahim) is fighting for. This guy is confused, what he is doing right now is trying to fan racial sentiments, although we cannot argue that he has a fundamental right to organise a group.According to the law academic, Malays have never been in danger of losing their rights or position as the legal provision for that cannot be amended.
The thing is, Malay rights have always been outlined, stated and guaranteed clearly by the Federal Constitution. I don’t see any logic in Perkasa’s rhetoric about protecting the Malays. The constitution has already provided a space for Malay rights, and it is never challenged.
If there’s still dissatisfaction or unhappiness after all these years, then Perkasa’s target should be the government, where Umno, those in power have failed. Ibrahim should set his guns on Umno then.
Frankly, I think this is an opportunity to keep Ibrahm afloat or politically relevant. I’m not sure whether he can retain his seat in the next general elections.
It is unfortunate to bring the Ruler in this situation. The Monarchy is retained to accomplish certain purposes and for all races. The Monarchy has to be above politics."
He also noted that many people are unaware or ignorant of these issues, therefore giving Perkasa the ammunition it needs to propel support for its agenda.
Abdul Aziz believed that Perkasa’s frontline stand on racial issues have made things very political, citing involving the Sultan of Selangor in officiating the group a bad move on its part.
PAS chief strategist Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad firmly believes that Perkasa is a vehicle for the extremist Umno members and is undermining Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia concept.
“Najib has to take on Umno if he does not want Malaysia to be destabilised, he has to take on this hardline Malay issue. His silence on Perkasa’s role is not good because if Najib identifies with Perkasa’s political initiatives, his 1 Malaysia is finished.He also criticised Perkasa’s mission, dismissing it as having nothing to do with the concept of nation-building and merely “championing the rights of one race.’
This is a false perception that Perkasa is trying to paint, that they are somehow mobilising support. You are only talking to your own people, your supporters who are a minute minority within the Malay population who do not agree to Perkasa’s aims.
The Umno members in Perkasa, they are still caught in the backward Umno politics of the past. The system has now shifted, it rejects racist politics.
However, credit must be given when its due. Politicians within Umno like Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, and yes even Khairy Jamaluddin have spoken out against these kind of racist elements.”
When asked about Perkasa’s growing popularity, Dzulkefly argued that Perkasa is giving people a false perception that it was gaining support when in truth it was only preaching to the converted.
Selangor opposition leader and former state Umno chief Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo however maintained that Perkasa is relevant as it “has its own role to play,” but at the same time stated that it cannot be compared to Umno’s struggles.
“I think Perkasa is doing its job well, but you cannot compare it with Umno, Umno has its own principle. In Barisan National we need to learn how to give and take, how to take care of our component parties,” said the former Selangor Mentri Besar.
According to the politician, Perkasa, like many Chinese and Indian NGOs, is only pushing for Malay rights, and there no should be no cause for alarm because of that.
“There is nothing wrong with Perkasa. They are fighting for their own community needs, like so many other race-based NGOs. If there are no NGOs championing for the rights of the races, then we would have a real problem,” the Umno leader said. Khir was the only one warm to Perkasa’s aims.
Professor Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, a political analyst with UKM said that there are no real figures to verify Perkasa’s supposed growth in popularity, and refuted that anyone should even take its president seriously. He also claims that Ibrahim has also confused the meanings of “liberal” and “traditional” in reference to the Independent MP’s recent outburst against critics of Perkasa.
Professor Shamsul said,
“Who listens to Ibrahim Ali outside his family, friends and supporters in his constituency? Maybe, just maybe, there are sympathisers to his opinions, but they are just listeners.
Those who take him seriously and feel threatened by him, who is just a court jester in Malay politics, must be themselves seriously very insecure personalities”
In the past, Ibrahim Ali usually used terms, such as ‘liberal’ and ‘traditional’ in his rather simplistic literal sense to mean “liberal=not loyal” and “traditional=loyal.
I don’t know why I am spending so much my valuable time on this ‘accidental politician’”