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Letter from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak

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There’s something politically astute about the letter Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak wrote this week to Chinese voters in Selangor. Outwardly, the letter is aimed at younger Chinese who Najib urges to abandon the confrontational approach to solving problems.

He doesn’t mention any particular confrontations, but most readers will immediately think of Bersih, yellow T-shirts and the uncomfortable scenes of civil disorder seen on April 28.

The Prime Minister’s pitch to Chinese youth is direct, but also, it would seem, a long shot. This is a group that strongly aligns itself with DAP, and Najib has already admitted getting them on the side of Barisan Nasional is a “gargantuan” task.

So why send them a letter written in Chinese? The answer is that for every disaffected Chinese youth there are one or two older Chinese parents who are appalled by the culture of confrontation that is taking root in Malaysia.

These are the Chinese who make up the prosperous minority. Hard-working, law-abiding and horrified at seeing other Chinese families cowering behind roller shutters as rioters tear through the streets. They have done well in this country without ever having to appear militant, disaffected or separatist, and they want Malaysia to be the way it used to be – safe and harmonious.

Najib’s plea for the “politics of calm” resonates well with these Chinese, and if it might not be enough on its own to get them instantly switching to BN, it might make them think about what Pakatan Rakyat offers them.

Because if they were appalled by the Bersih 2.0 violence they must have been equally aghast at seeing Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim urging protesters over the barricades to set off the Bersih 3.0 violence – something for which Anwar and his right hand man Azmin Ali are yet to appear in court.

And the closer we get to GE 13 the more Chinese voters are being forced to rethink about the “natural” Chinese party, DAP, and its place within Pakatan. “Business as usual” says DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng as his party wages war with PAS over hudud.

Pakatan’s assurance to Chinese voters is that you won’t be asked if you are married as you enter the cinema – that’s just for Malays if PAS gets its way. Hudud of course, won’t be introduced, but if it is, it will somehow exempt the Chinese. How reassuring.

Maybe Najib’s assessment that the Chinese challenge is “gargantuan” for BN might prove to be too pessimistic. Because although he is unlikely to see Chinese voters turning up for Umno rallies or joining the party, many will certainly like his inclusive approach to governance. His way is to bring everyone together under 1Malaysia and slowly water down Bumi politics to create a fairer society for all races and religions.

He champions economic policies and good governance that reassures those who have worked hard all their lives that they won’t lose their nest egg through reckless Government actions. On this he asks voters to judge him on his “promises fulfilled” and the dynamic performance of our economy that has this year won plaudits from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Wall Street Journal to name a few.

Najib’s pitch to voters sometimes looks presidential. He is effectively reaching over Umno and MCA to say to Chinese voters: “Whatever you think of my party and coalition you know you can trust me”. It’s a bold and brave pitch that puts his reputation on the line.

We are yet to see whether Chinese will be the kingmakers at GE 13. But it’s already clear that Pakatan can’t presume to have Chinese voters in its back pocket.

Many of them will hear Najib’s pitch for a less confrontational society and decide that they like it. And that could prove decisive in GE 13. – The Choice