News analysis

Race and religious rhetoric heats up 'New Malaysia'

Students and staff of a school in Penang during Pongal celebrations last Friday. The Tamil festival was at the centre of recent race-baiting issues in which the Malaysian Cabinet had to intervene.
Students and staff of a school in Penang during Pongal celebrations last Friday. The Tamil festival was at the centre of recent race-baiting issues in which the Malaysian Cabinet had to intervene.PHOTO: BERNAMA

When Malaysians voted the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition into government in May 2018, many hoped that the fanning of racial and religious issues would be toned down by both sides of the political divide under the Malaysia Baru (New Malaysia) idealism.

But 20 months later, things seem to have become worse, with the Malaysian Cabinet forced to intervene twice in the last two weeks over race-baiting issues.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2020, with the headline 'Race and religious rhetoric heats up 'New Malaysia''. Subscribe