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Majority of Malays find Ahmad Ismail's remarks inappropriate

Report from Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 – More than 50 per cent of Malay voters polled recently felt Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail's controversial remarks about the Chinese community were inappropriate, according to a recent survey by the independent Merdeka Centre.

As expected, a total of 90 per cent Chinese voters and 97 per cent of Indian voters found his "immigrant" remarks inappropriate.

Overall, 68.3 per cent of all Malaysian voters surveyed thought the statement inappropriate.

The findings appear to suggest that a majority of Malaysians would have supported tougher action against Ahmad.

The high percentage of Malays who felt the statement inappropriate also appears to suggest that Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi would not have lost significant support among the Malay grassroots if he had taken stern action against Ahmad.

Ahmad was slapped with a three-year suspension from holding official party posts, in what has been considered a rap on the knuckle, especially since Seputed MP Teresa Kok, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin and journalist Tan Hoon Cheng were subsequently arrested under the Internal Security Act for alleged involvement in racially sensitive issues.

"It's a foregone conclusion," Pas research head and MP Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad replied when asked if Umno preisdent Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi should have meted out stiffer punishment.

With a 60-40 divide, he said that a firm stance by the prime minister would have been supported by the Malays.

Respondents were asked in the survey how appropriate was Ahmad's statement in the recent Permatang Pauh by-election that the Chinese were "immigrants" and did not deserve equal treatment in this country.

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said it showed how out of touch Umno had become.

"The PM must get support from all races. They are caught in their own time-warp from 20-30 years ago," he commented, adding that Abdullah's handling of the matter was a contributing factor to the impending end of his premiership.

Dzulkifli echoed this sentiment, stating that Barisan Nasional parties were continuing to relapse into their "default mode" of playing to their hardcore supporters.

"But you can't play this expedient politics of double-speak any longer. You will be left as a dinosaur trying to disentangle yourself from a contradiction."

However, Federal Territory Umno Youth chief and Datuk Norza Zakaria insisted that the time factor was why BN could not gel overnight with the pressure from people's expectations.

"We've always had extreme views across the coalition. How come for 50 years these things could be absorbed? What never used to weaken the party is now hyped up," he said, adding that such cases were a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation for Abdullah due to intra-Umno politics.

The supreme council member said that these were only isolated incidents.

"No top leader, no supreme council member will ever say such a thing," he said of Ahmad's statement.