By Amar Shah Mohsen
SHAH ALAM, Aug 31 — When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim unveiled the Malaysia Madani concept in January, it created as much confusion as it did buzz.
While some were quick to jump in support of the values promoted under the policy framework, others found it too convoluted, particularly when comparing it to some of the simpler slogans of Anwar’s predecessors.
Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s Keluarga Malaysia and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Malaysia Prihatin are just but a couple of examples that many found easier to connect with and comprehend.
However, despite some “bad press”, Anwar’s decision to opt for the Malaysia Madani slogan was, in hindsight, apt.
He can, after all, be seen as the embodiment of the concept, something many close to him would attest to.
‘Anwar is Madani, Madani is Anwar’
According to its official website, Malaysia Madani (or loosely translated as “Civil Malaysia”) is a holistic, integrated framework to ensure that implementation of government policies are more humane, based on six thrusts — sustainability, prosperity, innovation, respect, trust and compassion.
But more than that, Anwar has stressed the importance of the concept in promoting the values of fairness and justice.
“Malaysia must be known as a Madani nation that is prosperous, fair and rejects any form of cruelty towards any individual or race,” the prime minister had said when launching the slogan earlier this year.
National Council of Professors senior fellow Prof Jeniri Amir said this perfectly illustrates Anwar’s individuality, both as a leader and common citizen.
“Anwar is Madani, Madani is Anwar. That is his identity, no one else comes close,” he told Selangor Journal.
Jeniri noted that from the earlier days of Anwar’s political struggle, he has always taken a keen interest in the wellbeing of all Malaysians and been promoting inclusivity.
This, the political analyst said, makes up the “crux” of Malaysia Madani, where the rights and welfare of every single citizen, regardless of race and religion, are taken care of to ensure a better, moderate Malaysia.
Fair bite of economic pie
Anwar’s personification of the term Madani is evidenced in his fair treatment of all individuals, parties and states in the country, irrespective of their political leanings.
One example of this was the Pakatan Harapan (Harapan) chairman’s willingness to extend an olive branch to Perikatan Nasional (PN) and invite the party to join the Unity Government following the conclusion of the 15th general election last November, as per the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s advice.
This is despite the flaring animosity between leaders of the two coalitions during and after the election period.
On the other hand, PN chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was quick to dismiss the king’s suggestion for the parties to work together at the federal level, stressing his reluctance to cooperate.
Anwar has also played a pivotal role in ensuring that a bigger share of Malaysia’s economic pie is enjoyed by minority groups.
For instance, policies introduced under the Unity Government thus far, including the national budget and Madani Economy framework, cut across racial and religious lines, something that many of his predecessors had failed to do.
Emphasis, instead, is given to help less privileged groups via the implementation of more targeted subsidies, cash aid and grants, among other things.
Similarly, Anwar has splashed millions of ringgit to assist states under opposition hold despite their leaders and supporters constantly attacking and hurling accusations against the prime minister and his Unity Government.
Multi-pronged approach needed
Yet, over eight months after its unveiling, the Malaysia Madani concept has not taken off as quickly as Anwar would have hoped for. If anything, the recently-concluded state elections should serve as an indication that much more needs to be done.
In the August 12 polls, PN won all the seats in Terengganu and almost wiped out the Unity Government parties from Kelantan and Kedah, while also making inroads in Harapan-led Selangor, Penang and Negeri Sembilan.
Racial and religious sentiments, meanwhile, continue to divide the masses.
For some, this is a sign that the efforts taken by Anwar to promote the values of Madani have failed to placate Malaysians, particularly the Malays, who fear that their rights are being threatened under the Harapan coalition.
Anwar himself acknowledged the complexity of the concept and said it would require more time for the public to fully grasp it.
As for Jeniri, the solution to the problem is simple— more effective communications and marketing strategies at all levels.
“This is an issue of perception that supposedly, the Malays are at threat. But what I think voters, Malays in particular, need to do is really understand what Anwar is doing for the country,” he said.
Jeniri pointed out that although more attention is now given to minority races compared to previously, the rights and privileges of the Malays continue to be upheld under the Unity Government.
In this regard, he said it is incumbent on Anwar’s administration to better explain the Malaysia Madani concept to the grassroots, and that this must be done via various platforms and approaches.
“The promotion of Malaysia Madani should not be done just through the publication of a book, but also via more creative means, like TikTok videos and interviews with experts.
“Focus also shouldn’t only be in the Klang Valley, but should be expanded to other states and districts like in rural Sabah and Sarawak. Conduct small gatherings to explain to villagers, get the involvement of NGOs and village heads and people from all levels of the community.
“Other ministers should also consistently talk about it, not just Anwar. If all these can be done, then I don’t see why, by the next general election, most, if not all, Malaysians will better accept the Malaysia Madani framework.”