Islamic bodies at risk? Not true, say some

Party delegates taking a photo at the Umno general assembly in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Mr Najib said yesterday that 10 bumiputera and Islamic bodies would be dismantled or weakened if the opposition takes power. But experts say most of these are form
Party delegates taking a photo at the Umno general assembly in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Mr Najib said yesterday that 10 bumiputera and Islamic bodies would be dismantled or weakened if the opposition takes power. But experts say most of these are formed from statutes passed in Parliament, and they would be much harder to eliminate than his speech implies.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Ten institutions at the forefront of Malaysia's efforts to help Malays and Muslims are in danger of folding or losing their power if the opposition, led by the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP), takes over the country, Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday.

Not so fast, said a constitutional lawyer and the opposition.

Datuk Seri Najib was trying to paint a dark picture for his core Malay-Muslim voters so that they remain loyal to him, analysts say.

Many of these government agencies are much loved by the bumiputeras - Malays and other indigenous races - and Muslims. This is because the public-funded institutions have for decades provided them with state-endorsed privileges such as scholarships, education and job quotas, and subsidies for businesses and Islamic pilgrimages.

But experts say most of these agencies are formed from statutes passed in Parliament, and it would be much harder to eliminate them than Mr Najib's speech implies.

 
 

MORE RHETORIC TO COME

It's fear-mongering at its worst, and at best, it's political rhetoric. As the elections draw closer, we'll see more of this rhetoric.

LAWYER SYAHREDZAN JOHAN , responding to Mr Najib's remarks.

"You'll need an Act to abolish these institutions and DAP doesn't have the numbers to do that," said constitutional lawyer Syahredzan Johan.

Amending laws in the federal Parliament requires a majority vote, but DAP won only 38 seats out of 222 in the 2013 General Election.

"It's fear-mongering at its worst, and at best, it's political rhetoric. As the elections draw closer, we'll see more of this rhetoric," he added.

In the past, opposition parties have questioned how some of these agencies were run, citing corruption or financial mismanagement allegations. But none has publicly called for the agencies to be dismantled.

Chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah of opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan said that as part of the coalition's agreement, DAP had signed on "to uphold the Constitution, including the provisions on Islam, Malay special rights, Malay language and Malay rulers".

"Najib is using racial rhetoric and lies to demonise DAP to divert attention from his multitude of scandals involving 1MDB and SRC International," said DAP MP Tony Pua, referring to the scandal-hit state funds.


'Under threat' if opposition wins

These are the agencies named by Prime Minister Najib Razak and their main functions:

•UiTM: university and college education body

•Mara: education and business trust

•Jakim: Islamic development department

•Tabung Haji: Islamic pilgrimage fund

Mr Najib putting the final touches to his speech to the Umno general assembly yesterday.
Mr Najib putting the final touches to his speech to the Umno general assembly yesterday. PHOTO: NAJIB RAZAK/FACEBOOK

•Felda: land development agency for farmers

•Felcra: rural land development agency

•Risda: Rubber smallholders development authority

•Jawhar: Islamic property, tithes and haj department

•Teraju: small businesses development agency

•State zakat boards: collection of annual Muslim tithes

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2016, with the headline 'Islamic bodies at risk? Not true, say some'. Print Edition | Subscribe