Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Monday, 3rd November 2008:

Shahidan Kassim owes Zaid Ibrahim, Malays and all Malaysians an apology

We have seen the brandishing of the keris, racial remarks that are disrespectful of the non-Malays and UMNO leaders play on racial sentiments. Now we have Perlis UMNO liaison chief Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim asking former Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim to leave the Malay race over his remarks on 'Ketuanan Melayu'.

World leaders and heads of states are hammering out ideas to ward off an impending economic disaster. We read reports of daily meetings by key policy makers on ways to counter the global economic downturn.

But in Malaysia, we have a senior UMNO politician asking a Malay to stop being a Malay. That too because Zaid questioned the policies of the government and said "Ketuanan Melayu" is detrimental to the Malay race and had caused wastage to resources that could have been used to address real issues.

Since when does the Malay spirit not allow people to question the policies of the government and UMNO? Does embracing the Malay spirit involve keeping silent when injustice and misrule happens? Is keeping silent in the face of wrongdoing part of the Malay spirit? Is promoting the rights of all Malaysians un- Malay? Is providing hard criticisms against Malay by another Malay considered anti Malay?

The list could go on.

In reality, Shahidan is an embarrassment to the nation. His unthinking remarks show he is not interested in independent progressive views, race-relations, fundamentals of democracy, transparency and accountability. Shahidan clearly wants others to zip up and play sycophant.

In fact he wants more of the same and this clearly suggests that there is no room for change in UMNO.

The Malays are acutely aware that the 'Ketuanan Malay', special privileges and affirmative-action had only benefitted those close to UMNO elite. The so-called government policies to uplift the status of the Malays did not reach the poor and vulnerable people.

It is this very realisation which created a backlash for the government and UMNO at the March 8 general election. The Malays rejected UMNO and voted for the opposition, denying the government its two third- majority in Parliament.

UMNO was dealt with a severe blow which forced the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to hastily announce he would step down before UMNO internal election in March.

UMNO leaders took an unprecedented whack but unfortunately no one learnt their lesson. They still skirt around racial issues in the hope of creating a smoke screen and regaining the confidence of the public and primarily Malays, who once formed the grass root support for UMNO.

It is high time that UMNO leaders try to read the pulse of the people and especially Malays. Malaysians, in the wake of the electoral victory, are pushing for greater rights, transparency and accountability.

No one would be taken in with flowery words, false promises and public show of support for the Malay community which does not translate into better living standards, job security and distribution of wealth and opportunities without the need for crony connections.

Zaid has commanded the respect of the people for throwing in the towel over arbitrary arrests under the Internal Security Act, which negates due process.

Shahidan, on the other hand, must apologise to Zaid for his ludicrous suggestion and to the Malays and Malaysians for treating them like they are an ignorant lot.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang