News that Perkasa chief Ibrahim Ali was out of danger and could already speak following a two-hour bypass surgery earlier this week was welcomed by his fellow lawmakers, although they also took pains to remind him to control himself and avoid any booming rhetoric until he was stronger.
“Congratulations to Ibrahim and his family. It is good news and we are sure that he must be raring to get going again especially with the Umno annual assembly ongoing and such a hotbed for Malay issues this year,” PKR vice president Dr Lee Boon Chye told Malaysia Chronicle.
The short but tubby 57-year old MP for Pasir Mas has been one of the most vocal personalities this year. Since founding ultra-Malay rights group Perkasa in January, he has stubbed a finger in almost every national issue that has cropped up.
But each time, he left a trail of unhappiness in his wake because of his extreme and often racist remarks that have angered and alienated the non-Malay groups in the country.
“I am a jaguh kampung (village champion) who is brave like a bull. Anything that crosses my path, I will fight it to the end,” Malaysian Insider reported Ibrahim as saying in a June article.
The original jaguh kampung and the closet racists
Of late, his chase for the limelight and flamboyance has threatened his health, prompting him to publicly complain of an array of ill-health including diabetes, numbness and even flatulence. Doctors eventually found three blocked arteries in his heart and promptly scheduled him for surgery.
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His surgery will be good for him in that it cleans up his arterial system and provides him with a stronger grip on life. The enforced slowdown will also be good for the nation.
Love him or hate him, Ibrahim’s constant series of demonstrations including a high-profile protest to the U.S. embassy has seriously dented Malaysia's image as a moderate nation, adding to the uncertainty that clouds its economic and political future.
“The brief respite is welcome to all. But I’m sure it won’t last for long. Whether Ibrahim retires or not, Malaysian politics will always be color-based so long as Umno-BN rules. If it is not him, they will find someone else. Racism and racial politics weren’t invented by Ibrahim Ali although he has made himself synonymous with these qualities,” Batu MP Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
"The original jaguh kampong actually came from Umno and in the current Umno assembly, Prime Minister Najib Razak has already exposed himself to be one of the biggest closet racists ever.”
Time enough for politics
Tian was referring to Najib’s controversial speech to party delegates on Thursday that shocked the nation. Najib had vowed to defend his party’s five-decade stranglehold on the federal government even if it necessitated ‘crushed bodies’ and ‘lost lives’.
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He looks set to lose further ground in the next general election that is widely expected to be called in the first half of next year.
Even if Najib manages to cling on, chances are high that the simple majority his predecessor Abdullah Badawi managed to snatch from Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim will be further chopped down – paving the way for greater turmoil within Umno.
Already, it is clear Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin plans to challenge him for the Umno presidency next year. Chances are Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa will throw their support behind him rather than Najib.
Although Ibrahim and his group have been accused of being clowns - albeit dangerous ones - they can pack enough power to sway an internal Umno decision. Without Ibrahim Ali though, Perkasa is likely to fade and became another non-performing NGO despite its connections.
“Ibrahim is an independent MP but to deny that he is connected to Umno is a bit unbelievable,” PAS leader Dr Hatta Ramli told Malaysia Chronicle.
“He is aligned to Mahathir and Muhyiddin so for sure he will be in the thick of action. But before he jumps in, we say to him - have a good recovery first and remember - avoid overeating, smoking or cigarette smoke!”