SHAH ALAM, March 18 — PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has directed the authorities to arrest any quarters that use religion and race to incite against the government, even as he urged party members at the party’s special congress today to counter the nativist narrative peddled by the Opposition with “facts and argument”.
The directive marks the first time the prime minister has indicated a willingness to use the law against his political rivals, something he had until today avoided likely for fear of being accused of wanting to stifle dissent.
“If you want to criticise, show examples that things should be done better I can accept. If you want to give suggestions on how to improve the Islamic code or the well-being of the Malays, the poor like many in the ethnic Indian community or even Chinese businesses, go ahead,” he said as he delivered the winding-up speech.
“But if you keep using politics that sow dissension, especially using the race card, as I said before, I will not compromise.
“So believe me. I am instructing the authorities, including the home minister who is present, and the inspector-general of police to listen carefully. If you want to criticise go ahead, but if you use race to instigate and disrupt peace, I will make sure to have them arrested,” he added.
The warning comes as Anwar’s coalition government has been the subject of escalating attacks by leaders from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) bloc, which continues to harp on racial and religiously-tinged allegations that the Pakatan Harapan-led government promotes liberalism and wants to undermine Muslim rule.
Pundits have rated PN’s chances for the upcoming state elections highly, after a strong showing at the 15th general election last year when they garnered the second largest share of seats as a single bloc.
These attacks have put the prime minister in a defensive spot, a sign that he may be concerned about them.
Last month, PKR’s Selangor menteri besar Datuk Seri Amiruddin Shari was previously quoted saying that the chief ministers and menteris besar of the six states that must hold elections this year have tentatively agreed to call these simultaneously in June.
The six states are: Selangor, Penang, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.
The coalitions in the government have so far closed ranks for the state elections, but have yet to decide whether they would unite a united front to face PN.
Earlier this morning, the PKR president delivered a fiery speech that his party has never compromised on its idealism and struggle for social equitability including the rights of poor Bumiputera, which it has used to guide many of the unity government policies four months since taking office.
Anwar had vowed to break the monopoly on government contracts by politically-connected elite Malays. He told the party the people will continue to support PH if they continue to weed out corruption and help improve living standards of the low and middle class.
"Our next test will be the state elections but I pray that Allah will give us all the strength," he said to conclude the congress.