Middle East Violence: Mr. Obama, Don’t Bark at the Wrong Tree, it is not Islam


October 31, 2014

Middle East Violence: Mr. Obama, Don’t Bark at the Wrong Tree, it is not Islam

by BA Hamzah

Islam is not at risk in the Middle East. At risk are theDr BA Hamzah repressive Arab regimes under the protection of the external powers. The threat to the stability of the political regimes will come from those who have been deprived of their human rights and dignity.

The women who are not allowed to drive and those who cannot find jobs in their own countries are likely to rebel for freedom and political gains. Those who cannot be accommodated by the regimes are likely to join the ranks of alternative military and political movements like ISIL or the Muslim Brotherhood.–BA Hamzah

Terrorism has been associated with different faiths at different historical times.There is no empirical evidence to suggest that violence is embedded, ingrained or inherent in any religion, certainly not in the case of Islam.

Karen Armstrong Latest BookKaren Armstrong reminds readers in her recent book (Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, Bodley Head, 2014) that it is incorrect to blame religion as the cause of world’s many bloody conflicts.

Karen Armstrong makes a persuasive argument that is likely to enrage many neo-cons: the root cause of the “carnage” in the Muslim world (by extension the current political crisis in the Middle East) is “politics” rather than faith.

Many analysts have long pointed to the disputed colonial-drawn boundaries in the Middle East as a major political-cum-security problem. Abu Bakar Al-Bagdadi has reportedly promised his flock he would demolish the Skyes-Picot Treaty of 1916, which partitioned the Arab land into imperial enclaves. He wants to redraw the political map of the Middle East, to undo, the wrongs of the Imperial powers, presumably to restore Arabs’ dignity. Bagdadis’ promise borders retribution by Arab nationalists and not about Islam.

The Arab land is likely to implode further with Israel’s decision last week to expand its illegal settlements on Palestine land. By now, the world has come to realise that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not about religion but about territory, suppression, human right violations and the denial of a homeland for Palestine.

The fault-lines over the territorial conflict in the Middle East are blurred but hardlyObama's Mid East Policy religious in nature. It is true that the current conflict involves some radicals who call themselves Muslims but it is NOT over Islam per se. Do not confuse Islam with the angry actions of some extremists. There is a fine distinction between Islam as faith and its use as an operating ideology by extremists.

The Islam world comprises some 1.6 billion adherents, only a small number hate peace. Unfortunately, the Western media has stigmatised and stereotyped the entire Muslim community for the actions of the few hard-core extremists.

Violence often accompanies conflicts. For example, the Thirty Years War in Europe (1618-1648). Contrary to popular belief, the cause of the Thirty Years War was not religion per se; it was due to sectarian violence, nationalism and the fight for territory as well as the continuation of rivalry for political pre-eminence between the Habsburg of Bohemia and the French Bourbon aristocracies.

The Thirty Years War also saw the involvement of external major powers, (Sweden, Spain, France and Austria) waging wars on the German soil. As history reminds us, the fall-out from this quagmire led to the Peace of Westphalia (1648), a series of peace treaties between the warring factions that gave Europe its current political boundaries and the concept of State in international relations.

The US-led coalition forces and their local Arab partners in the Middle East are obama-clueless-on-middle-east-foreign-policydefending the present political boundaries that Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot drew in 1916 and their geo-political interests there. The political divisions of the Arab world resulted from politics and big powers rivalries. Islam played no role in the political division of the Middle East.

This rivalry between big powers for the control of the Middle East is being re-enacted with ISIL as the cannon fodder. The current contest for power has to do primarily with access to strategic resources and control of the strategic waterways. At the local level, the conflict is about sectarianism, Arab nationalism and the quest for territories, identity and a revolt against suppressive regimes as well as a desire to rewrite the political history of the Middle East.

Social-cultural and economic considerations are equally important in understanding the current conflict in the Middle East. Arab nationalists masquerading as radical Muslims are also rebelling against external powers propping- up unpopular regimes. The Arab  revolutionary reawakening is about politics along a historical fault-line.

Abu Bakar Al-BagdadiThe story of ISIL is also a story of proxy wars between regional powers. On one side, we have Iran jockeying for greater eminence beyond Iraq and Syria. The Saudis are teaming up with the Qataris with help from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt to expand influence in Syria and Libya. Turkey is bidding for more time before jumping into the political quagmire.

According to authority, the five Arab states in the US-led coalition against ISIL need the US as a cover their “increasingly repressive policies.” This is not about Islam. On the contrary, it is about regime preservation. The governing elites fear for their lives after what they saw in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring.

The involvement of the US, UK, France, Australia and Canada in the Middle East proxy wars is likely to embolden their internal home- grown dissidents. Read Amnesty International “Report Choice and Prejudice: Discriminations against Muslims in Europe (2012)” for a glimpse of racial profiling and discriminations against Muslims.) The solution to their citizens taking up arms in the Middle East is to provide them jobs at home and eliminate the religious stereotyping and stigma.

The current spate of the regional proxy wars commenced with the failed US policy in Iraq, followed by Sunnis frustration with a pro- Shia Al-Maliki regime. Lighting the bonfires of counter movements in the current political turmoil, apart from the US invasion of Iraq (2003), were the 2011 internal uprisings among Arabs (dubbed as the Arab Spring).

The Arab Spring has exposed the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of many Arab political regimes. The collapse of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt at the hands of their own citizens (of course, with help from some Western powers) was unprecedented in the post 1945 Arab world.

Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Iraq are on the danger list. The richer Gulf States and Saudi Arabia are also feeling the heat from the unresolved Syrian conflict. Their military intervention in the Syrian conflict will have long-term strategic impact including expediting their downfall.

The small Potentates suffer from massive internal problems like unemployment, corruption and human right abuses. Those who can no longer suppress the rising expectations of their people are turning to America for help.

The political regimes in Lebanon and Jordan may not last very long without outside help as they find it difficult to cope up with refugees inside their borders. The threat from ISIL/ISIS posed on their sovereignty and territorial integrity must be their regimes nightmare.

Repressive Arab regimes are at risk not Islam

Saudi prince announces defection from royal familySaudi Arabia’s Elite

Islam is not at risk in the Middle East. At risk are the repressive Arab regimes under the protection of the external powers. The threat to the stability of the political regimes will come from those who have been deprived of their human rights and dignity. The women who are not allowed to drive and those who cannot find jobs in their own countries are likely to rebel for freedom and political gains. Those who cannot be accommodated by the regimes are likely to join the ranks of alternative military and political movements like ISIL or the Muslim Brotherhood.

There are other political permutations, too. A strong Kurdistan with backing from Western States may rattle Turkey and Iraq. The thought of the Kurdish-Peshmerga forces controlling Kobane, a town on Turkey’s border, will not bode well for Istanbul that has been fighting the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) forces for the last thirty years.

With Turkey drawn in the conflict, the scenario will change the strategic calculations and political landscape on the ground. Iran and its allies (e.g., the Hezbollah in Lebanon) are not likely to remain quiet. So does Russia, which has a naval facility at Tartus, Syria.

Finally, bombing the ISIL is not the solution; it was proven during the strategic bombardment of Dresden, Germany during WW 11. The idea that the US could roll back the ISIL/ISIS with air strikes is just simply preposterous. On the contrary, the airstrikes will further radicalise the fence- sitters whose families and property were destroyed.

Also Read: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Obama_and_the_Middle_East_Two_Speeches_Three_Challenges.htm

Anwar Ibrahim at University of Malaya (October 27, 2014)


October 28, 2014

Anwar Ibrahim at University of Malaya

Anwar at UM

Anwar Ibrahim spoke with passion to students at the University of Malaya last night (October 27, 2014). He asked his audience, why is the government in power is so scared of a simple human being like him that they won’t allow him to speak in the campus of his alma mater. Where is academic freedom, where is academic excellence and where is our dignity as a people? He spoke of racism and disunity, corruption and abuse of power. Listen to him.–Din Merican

The Poorest Among the Poor in Kuala Lumpur


October 22,2014

The Poorest Among the Poor in Kuala Lumpur

The Poorest Among the PoorWhat is their Future?

I got this from a friend who is living abroad. I can now understand why he chose to make a living overseas. I thank him for taking the trouble to send this SABM article (below) and for reminding me that we have plenty to do to eradicate poverty.

This thread is an eye open opener for all us regardless of colour, race and religion. We have the poorest among the poor in our midst right here in Kuala Lumpur. The pictures you see tell a sad story. Our country which hopes to be a developed nation in 2020 cannot deal with the plight of our poor citizens. See how they live. Sorry to spoil the Divali party.–Din Merican

http://sayaanakbangsamalaysia.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=808&catid=40&Itemid=76

 

Haris Onn Hussein: The Chosen One?


October 15, 2o14

Haris Onn Hussein: The Chosen One?

by Din Merican

Lembah Sari Sdn. Bhd with commercial links to Dato’ Haris Onn Hussein, the son of Haris Onn Husseinformer Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Hussein Onn, brother of Minister of Defence Hishammuddin Hussein and cousin to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was recently awarded a contract for the printing of security-labels for liquor and beer from the Royal Malaysian Customs Department. The contract is worth some RM77 million.

The Edge Malaysia on September 12 reported that the contract was to design, print, store, supply and distribute banderols (tax stamps) for liquor (including beer) between 2014 and 2019. The company would also supply the department with authentication devices and necessary training. The letter of acceptance from the Customs Department was received by Lembah Sari on July 21, 2014.

With this latest award, Dato Haris who owns Duke Highway now effectively monopolises the security labels for all locally produced and imported cigarettes, as well as beer and liquor, in the country. He is very rich for life.

My initial reaction to this news was one of disbelief but upon some reflection I realise  that  the political elite in our country has been doing this sort of deals for a long time hidden from public scrutiny. You do not need special skills or knowledge to get lucrative business deals. All you have to do is to take full advantage of your connections and you are super wealthy almost overnight.

In Cambridge educated Dato Haris’ case, the fact that his grandfather was Dato Onn Jaafar, his father, Tun Hussein was Prime Minister, and so was his uncle, Tun Razak coupled with the fact that his first cousin is Prime Minister and elder brother is  Minister of Defence puts him in  a very privileged position to receive business offers, directorships  and cushy contracts.

So we can say that without powerful connections, he would not have made it in the commercial world. He is not alone, of course. Tun Mahathir’s sons,  Mirzan, Mokhzani and Mukhriz are privileged ones so are the children of UMNO elites and Cabinet Ministers.

Today, we are a divided nation in terms of rank and status, race and religion and income. Woe betide those of us who are egalitarians. The powerful and privileged will lord over us ordinary Malaysians who are condemned to lead a life of constant struggle for equity and justice.

People like Haris Onn and his kind lead a life of luxury and comfort. They are the chosen ones to whom life comes easy.  Even President John F. Kennedy  said that “[T]here is always inequity in life.  Life is unfair.” That is no comfort. But isn’t the role of government to strife for equity and equality of opportunity.

Anwar Ibrahim’s Response to Najib’s 2015 Budget Proposals


October 13, 2014

Anwar Ibrahim’s Response to Najib’s 2015 Budget Proposals

Anwar Ibrahim Ops Leader

When I said I had great difficulty in understanding our Finance Minister’s 2015 Budget Speech which he delivered to our august Parliament last Friday, I could not have been more serious. PM Najib’s slogans and acronyms left me puzzled, in particular his National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS).

This concept was borrowed from Blue Ocean Strategy, a book published in 2005 and written by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, Professors at INSEAD and Co-Directors of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute. Based on a study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than a hundred years and thirty industries, Kim & Mauborgne argue that companies can succeed not by battling competitors, but rather by creating ″blue oceans″ of uncontested market space. They assert that these strategic moves create a leap in value for the company, its buyers, and its employees, while unlocking new demand and making the competition irrelevant. The book presents analytical frameworks and tools to foster organization’s ability to systematically create and capture blue oceans. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Ocean_Strategy)

That was why I sought the help of my friends, associates and readers of this blog to explain Najib’s 2015 Budget proposals in simple layman’s terms. But judging from the number of responses I received by way of comment, the 2015 Budget was not taken seriously.

Here is a speech (below) in Parliament by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Opposition Leader and former Minister of Finance. His response to Najib’s 2015 Budget  proposals makes a lot of sense to me. Despite my occasional disagreements with the politics and antics of the Opposition leader, I acknowledge that in debating the 2015 Budget, the Opposition leader presented an excellent critique in Parliament. Please judge it for yourself and then make your comments.–Din Merican

Dr Welsh on PAS’ 60th Muktamar and the Doublespeak of Abdul Hadi Awang


October 7, 2014

Dr Welsh on PAS’ 60th Muktamar and the Doublespeak of Abdul Hadi Awang

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Hadi3The Political Comedian with Ambition to be Malaysia’s Next Prime Minister

COMMENT: With emotional outbursts, walkouts and contradictory statements, PAS’ 60th muktamar last week was more of a confrontation rather than a celebration.

With the PAS President referring to the Islamic party’s Pakatan Rakyat partners as “minor enemies” and its members who stood with ally PKR as “lackeys”, it has become evident that PAS under the leadership of Abdul Hadi Awang appears to be no longer a party that can be trusted to listen to the people and work with other parties to bring change to Malaysia.

There is a sense of betrayal among the public, whose hopes have been dashed by a reactionary faction of conservative ulama within PAS who think they are the ‘chosen ones’ – many of whom who have acted in a manner that is neither in keeping with their religious values nor reflects wisdom.

In the wake of this muktamar, where the reactionary forces have dominated the bitter discourse, the Pakatan coalition has suffered a serious blow from within. It appears that the opposition coalition is over. This conclusion is understandable but – for now – premature.

Pakatan is clearly deeply wounded, but the intensity of the battle inside PAS reveals an ongoing struggle that suggests that there are many more battles ahead and the fight to develop an alternative political narrative is not over. In fact, arguably, the PAS muktamar reveals the scope of struggles that are necessary to overcome in order to give the majority of Malaysians what they have voted for – a better Malaysia.

In this muktamar, the divide within PAS has come into the open. The skirmishes have been ongoing for many years, repeating historical tensions inside the party and paralleling struggles within Islamist parties globally.

PAS has moved from a pattern of working toward consensus – even this was fragile – to open conflict. Those that are the most insecure, the conservative religious ulama, have taken to the reactionary tactic of destruction, aiming to derail political reform within PAS itself and nationally.

Most of the focus of the discussion has centred on Abdul Hadi Awang. The underlying issues facing the party go well beyond its president. There are three interrelated crises facing the party – identity, leadership and democracy. Let me elaborate these further.

PAS identity – in UMNO’s image?

PAS’ political advantage has traditionally been that its leaders are portrayed as moral and non-corrupt. This ‘upright’ standing has allowed the party to be compared favourably to UMNO. It has underscored the profound respect for spiritual leader Niz Aziz Nik Mat, for example, whose missing moral authority was keenly felt at the Johor muktamar. But PAS’ righteous advantage is disappearing.

Rightly or wrongly, PAS’ response in the Selangor MB crisis has caused many to question the honesty and integrity of its leaders. Double-speak, contradictions and inconsistencies – in direct contrast to the theme of the muktamar – have left a mark on party’s image.

PAS has always had a trust deficit among the majority of the country; it only managed to win on average a third of support among Malaysians on its own. The actions over the last few months have deepened distrust and, for many non-Muslims and Muslims alike, shattered the perception of PAS as the ‘good’ party.

People are asking why PAS leaders have misled the public, visited certain places in the shadow of night and avoided answering questions directly. In the wake of the muktamar, PAS has come off as a party interested in its own power, not listening to the public nor apparently keeping its promises. Has PAS taken a page from UMNO, many wonder?

In fact, while scholars point to UMNO becoming like PAS in its advocacy of exclusionary Islamist policies, there has been another phenomenon, PAS – or at least some within the party – is becoming more like UMNO.

This perception is reinforced by a closer look at the backgrounds of PAS leaders. Gone are the days of humility and humbleness. Today many PAS leaders appear to be interested in securing international positions, wealth and material goods. The sins of greed and pride appear evident.

Observers are asking how religious schools led by some PAS leaders have amassed such wealth, while others secured lucrative business contracts. Questions are being raised about the ties of many PAS leaders with those from UMNO over assets and finances.

Corruption and nepotism within PAS are even being quietly discussed in the sense that some are using the party for position, their families and personal wealth rather than the ideals the party supposedly espouses. Worse yet, religion is being used to justify positions that appear to be more about self-interest rather than actual religious principles.

For decades, PAS has been wrestling with how to promote an Islamist agenda and what sort of Islam it should be advocating. As it engaged in a more inclusive manner through Pakatan, the myopic focus on implementing hudud and syariah laws has been challenged by more inclusive shared religious values of justice, good governance and stronger humanity.

A spirit of humanism and community has been fostered, where greater inclusiveness and appreciation for equality have disputed the narrow-minded thinking of many conservative ulama that see themselves a step above ordinary people.

Many conservative ulama within the party are uncomfortable moving outside of what they know, and in fact have increased their efforts to indoctrinate younger members with their interpreted religious views. They advocate an exclusionary approach that not only divides Malaysian society, but also follows the line of dictating to others.

They just don’t get that the overwhelming majority of Malaysians want to choose how they practice their own religion, and that the majority believe that the country is not ready for hudud.

Moreover, they do not realise that citizens are not willing to turn over moral authority to religious leaders that appear to be acting immorally. PAS’ conservative ulama appear to have forgotten that the means are as important as the ends, and by choosing to adopt practices that promote division and disrespect they are not acting righteously.

Sadly, of late, a path of destruction has been adopted by Hadi and his ulama camp against their professed goals. The message that stands out is not only one of further parallel to Umno in the prominence of arrogance and use of division, but it is also a signal that ironically strengthens Umno as the choice for government over the long term.

Crisis of leadership

Malaysians have been searching for leaders they can respect and put their faith in. More and more have been putting their belief in PAS. But this muktamar has not inspired any such confidence.

Rather than working together to move the country forward, PAS under Hadi appears to want to move the country and his party backward. When Hadi assumed the presidency in 2002, he had difficult shoes to fill following the death of Fadzil Noor. Not only was the former president willing to listen and work with others, he inspired support that brought new people into the party and won additional states to govern.

By any measure Hadi cannot be credited with the same gains, especially in recent months. Hadi’s decisions contributed to the loss of Kedah, Terengganu (twice), Perak and potentially Selangor, and his leadership has weakened rather than strengthened the party.

The future of Hadi’s leadership will continue to play out until the next muktamar when a party election is scheduled. The rally-around-the-leader dynamic of this muktamar was as much a reflection of weakness of Hadi’s leadership as it shows that many within his own party are alienated by his actions.

The leadership problem in PAS is broader than one person. One dimension is the role of the ulama in the party hierarchy. Many in PAS do not agree that the conservative ulama should lead the party. It is a long-standing battle in PAS, and this battle has intensified.

Until this muktamar, the conservative ulama have been losing ground. Conservative ulama have played limited roles in Pakatan, with many of them not even attending decision-making meetings. The ulama leadership in states like Kedah was rejected by the electorate.

The key PAS actors involved in successful Pakatan governance have been those with the direct skills and knowledge to address the country’s problems, the non-ulama. The party delegates and general public understand this. In last year’s muktamar, progressives were elected in the majority for positions, as the delegates opted for more non-ulama leadership.

The conservative ulama fear marginalisation and in this muktamar fought back. They defended the decisions and positions of their teammate Hadi who has increasingly taken on less reform-oriented positions.

The conservative ulama clearly are unwilling to accept a different and more advisory political role. The recent meeting shows that they are willing to do anything to stay in premier positions, even if it means dividing PAS and weakening the opposition as a whole.

Painting themselves as martyrs for the conservative cause, the current ulama are seen to be trying to assure the survival of younger conservatives, many of whom are from the same families of the current ulama leadership. At its root is a reactionary goal – to stop reforms in the party and nationally.

A second leadership problem is that PAS currently does not offer a viable prime minister candidate. This has to do in part with the competition among the more progressive leaders among themselves. It also stems for a lack of grooming and experience of many PAS leaders in government and on the national stage.

For a party that supposedly claims to seek national power, it has a deficit in giving voters an alternative that can not only lead the country but also inspire confidence. While there are many PAS leaders that have potential to fill this role, the current situation and traditional PAS party culture of accepting hierarchy has prevented them from coming to the fore.

If the progressives are to have any chance at all they will need to agree and present an alternative leader. This will require significant reform within PAS, and successful measures involving courage that thwart the reactionary turn.

Moving away from democracy towards theocracy

A third interrelated dimension of PAS’ current crises involves democracy. PAS is grappling with the conflict between different political bodies within the party, namely the syura council versus the central working committee.

It is wrestling also to respond to an increasingly demanding and diverse membership and electorate. In recent months, the PAS ulama leadership has moved in a more authoritarian direction, with decisions by fiat rather than through consultation.

In fact, minority views have prevailed, as the majority were ignored, dismissed and even ridiculed. Clearly, the mandate of the delegates and voters has been ignored. The conservative ulama appear not to understand that dictatorial practices lead to the downfall of Islamist parties, as happened in Egypt. They similarly do not understand that as an opposition party calling for more democracy, their own lack of democratic governance reveals hypocrisy.

PAS, like other parties, wrestles with engaging democratic practices. As Umno and PKR have introduced more democratic internal party elections, allowing members to select the party leadership, under Hadi PAS has resisted opening up. This has not allowed new blood to come into the leadership and different ideas to emerge. It has signaled a lack of respect for the wisdom of its members.

Another challenge has been including women in political positions within PAS. The party leadership’s recent attacks on a politician – although not everyone in PAS – because she is woman, has not conformed to democratic values of inclusion.

Equally important, members in PAS have been supporting decisions that are not in line with the public mandate on who was voted into office and why. Unlike a decade ago where PAS was leading the path toward democracy in the Malay community, the Islamist party has stagnated in expanding democracy. In this muktamar, the reactionary conservative ulama have further resisted democratic reforms.

An example is the supremacy of the syura council in party decisions. Syura members have the undemocratic power to choose their members and they are not accountable to anyone. Is this the type of body that Malaysians are willing to accept to wield ultimate decision-making power and those who assume positions not from an open election?

Who should have power and whether that power should be accountable to the delegates and ordinary voters has come to the fore.

This involves the difficult issue of legitimacy. Who should legitimately hold power? How should leaders be chosen by the people? What should be the source of legitimate power is right for PAS? Should it be the party constitution, elections from members or archaic practices of a syura council that is neither representative to the party itself or appears willing to respect and listen to the views and aspirations of ordinary voters?

Reforms to the party constitution will be necessary if the party is to move in a more democratic direction. The reactionary push-back in PAS has resisted these democratic pressures. More broadly, the party’s authoritarian turn had been damaging for democracy in Malaysia.

Difficult future for Pakatan

Anwar-Ubah

The Doublespeak of Hadi weakens Pakatan Rakyat

The reactionary elements in PAS have been there for decades. In this muktamar, they have come out into the open. The intensity of their responses reflects ongoing struggles over identity, leadership and democracy.

The fact that they have come out as they have, fighting in a no-holds-barred manner, reveals weakness not strength. They are afraid and insecure. They are willing to do everything to stay in control of PAS to maintain their reactionary position.

The use of reactionary politics is sadly increasingly common across the political spectrum in UMNO as well as PAS. Its roots however have to be seen to derive from the increasing democratic pressures and demands from the public on leaders who are neither willing nor able to accommodate them.

The fact that more of these reactionary measures are being used shows that Malaysia is changing and those in power are unwilling to change with it.

PAS is headed for further internal struggles. The more progressive forces in the party may appear to have lost ground at this muktamar, with reactionary forces dominating the discourse. They clearly were not prepared to fight openly against the reactionary forces. But they have survived to fight another day, and the party election in the next muktamar as well as the Selangor issue will be the next battlefields.

The muktamar showed that the internal battles will continue to rage, and that the fight within PAS is far from over. The important decision ahead for the progressives in PAS involve whether or not to stay within the party, the development of strategies that strengthen internal party reform and movement toward offering an alternative leader to Hadi.

What does this mean for Pakatan? Is it dead as many have claimed? No question, the working relationships of leaders and partnerships have soured, and will likely to continue. The opposition coalition may enter a period of decline. As long as the reactionaries control the party decisions in PAS, the Islamist party will not be seen as a trusted partner. This will feed distrust among the opposition parties.

Pakatan’s future will heavily depend on the outcome of the battles within PAS. It is important at this juncture not to completely dismiss PAS and the reality of the difficulty of its internal struggles. Indeed, the battle for democracy in the Malay community is taking place on many fronts.

It also needs to be acknowledged that PAS alone is not responsible for all the troubles in Pakatan and considerable responsibility lies with the folly of the ‘Kajang move’ and inflexibility of other Pakatan leaders in the handling the Selangor crisis. PAS’ Pakatan partners need to look inside themselves to appreciate why reactionary forces in PAS have become so predominant.

Pakatan now enters its most difficult phase and this will decide whether the coalition will survive and the struggle for political reform is a genuine one. It will involve courage, faith and wisdom. One decisive factor ahead will be the willingness of leaders across the opposition coalition to learn lessons from Selangor and set in place measures that offset the damaging cycle that has emerged.

Current conditions suggest this is not yet promising. People are increasingly losing confidence in Pakatan and words will not be enough. What will matter is whether the opposition remembers why it is in office in the first place – to serve the people.

Malaysians want results and solutions to problems rather than politicking that results in more problems. The time now is for reflection, not reaction or ‘reactionarism’, and a return to respecting the mandate that made the Pakatan coalition a reality in the first place.

BRIDGET WELSH is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University and can be reached at bridgetwelsh1@gmail.com.