Focus on economy instead of obsessing over race and religion, Patriot tells Putrajaya

Jerry Choong
Arshad Raji slammed Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali for the latter's dismissal of the UN's figure on poverty in the country. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 25 — National Patriots Association has urged the Pakatan Harapan government to focus on economic issues, including eradicating both rural and urban poverty, rather than bickering on ethno-religious issues.

Its president Brigadier General (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji said Cabinet members should take note of Malaysia’s poverty rate, as highlighted on Friday by United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston.

“Alston had disputed our official 0.4 per cent poverty rate, or the threshold of RM980 monthly household income, and suggested the figure was way too low. The correct poverty rate, according to him, should be around 15 per cent,” he said in a statement.

Taking Alston’s remarks at face value, Arshad said the 14.6 per cent difference represents a very serious omission, with ramifications on the nation’s socio-economic policies and various five-year economic plans.

“It also means that our government policies have not been effective. Patriot is disappointed with Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s quick dismissal of Alston’s suggested figure, saying that it was a baseless claim.

“Azmin should rightfully ask his officers to reassess the statistics and the basis of the poverty line calculation. This denial syndrome of our government officials when suddenly caught with a blunder has to stop,” he said, adding it is common sense to know that a meager monthly income of RM980 for a family of four in the Klang Valley is impossible to survive on.

Likewise, Arshad expressed his relief at the cancellation of the planned rally protesting against Dr Zakir Naik, in light of the fugitive televangelist’s so-called apology to Malaysians.

“We hope that his apology is sincere and he has learnt his lesson not to thread on sensitive issues. Malaysians have long learnt that comparing religions to cast aspersion and labeling others as pendatang are taboo subjects, and already buried them in the Jurassic Park.

“Let us now move on, as we have for the past fifteen months wasted too much time bickering on the race-religion issues instigated by opposition parties, and the power struggle for domination within the Pakatan coalition. This has hampered efforts that could have been better used to put into works for the promised reforms,” he said.

Arshad also added Opposition parties should play their rightful role to check on the PH government’s performance, instead of harping on ethno-religious issues.

“Unity among the various ethnic groups is nowhere better. Inter-ethnic distrust remains high, and so is inter-religion. The level of trust from among Sabahans and Sarawakians towards the federal government has not improved.

“There is a saying in the military that there are no bad soldiers, only bad officers. Applying the analogy to political leadership, if the people are in disarray, disunited, un-driven for a common cause, then it reflects on the poor leadership of politicians,” he said, adding that we must all think as Malaysians and what is good for our country, without forgetting that our destiny is shared.

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