Malaysia GE2022: Lee Kuan Yew Was Right About Malaysia’s Race-Based Politics

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A hung parliament, an impasse despite an extended deadline and unlikely alliances coming together then breaking apart – the outcome of Malaysia’s 15th General Election is not entirely unexpected.

Part of the reason for this lies in the fact that racial and religious fault lines prevent parties from working together, as foretold by Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew.

If there is one thing everyone predicted correctly, it is that this will be a fragmented election.

But what came as a surprise was the shock victory by Islamist party Parti-Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS).

PAS won 44 seats, the largest number of any party.

PAS known for hate-based talk and racist threats

The PAS leader Hadi Awang is known for making inflammatory and divisive comments on race and religion. Recently he suggested that non-Muslims and non-Bumiputera were the root of corruption in Malaysia.


Selangor PAS delegate Roslan Shahir Mohd Shahir also claimed that the Chinese-dominated DAP, a component of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, is a local-based entity of Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

He warned that if Muslims do not defend their rights, Malaysia is doomed to turn into a “second Singapore”.

This was what he said:

“Yet many were seemingly unaware that the DAP is essentially a reincarnation of late Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s party PAP.”

“If we falter in our vigilance and become complacent, the dignity of the Malays as well as the nation’s will be jeopardised, thereby hastening the day when we become a second Singapore”

What is worrying is that an increasing number of voters are drawn to PAS’ race-based narratives, indicating a growing Islamist sentiment in the country.

Concerns about PAS’ rise

Non-Malays/Muslims especially are fearful of PAS bringing their ultra-conservative agenda into the heart of government and interfering with key areas like education e.g. Islamicising the curriculum.

While many Malay Muslim voters see PAS/PN as a viable alternative to the corruption-tainted BN, some netters would rather have BN in government than PAS, owing to concerns about PAS’ extremist streak:

Other parties have also warned of the danger PAS poses because of their racist views:

Lee Kuan Yew’s words about Malaysia ring truer than ever

In his book One Man’s View of the World, Lee Kuan Yew mentioned:

“Malaysia is unlikely to change. Even if it succeeds, everything will only return to the original point, because the issue of racial conflicts cannot be resolved. Even if the opposition party is in power and wants to overthrow the original policy of favoring indigenous people and promote the new Malaysia of Malaysians, that accounts for the population, a higher proportion of Malays will be incited by the opposition to racial sentiment to teach the government with votes. In the end they will only last at most one general election, and they will have to pay a heavy political price. Moreover, I see that these various opposition parties are allied just because they want to seize power. In general, they do not have clear direction on how to lead and manage the country.”

Almost a decade on, Lee Kuan Yew’s analysis is still remarkably accurate. Malaysia has yet to untangle itself from race-based politics and corruption.

If anything, the current election only proves that race-based politics in Malaysia is here to stay and if parties practising it come into power, the implications for Singapore and the world will be dire.

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