Policyless ‘Pakatun’ parties

July 20, 2016

Policyless ‘Pakatun’ parties

by Dr. Kua Kia Soong


In Bolehland (Malaysia), Dr Mahathir Mohamad has announced the possibility of a formation of a new political party without having to lay out the policies or at least the political colour of this new party.

It suffices that he is anti-Najib Razak. That seems to be all you need to join the Pakatan Harapan coalition. From the fuss that was accorded to him in the recent “Citizens’ Declaration” by the Pakatan leaders, it does look as if he might take over the mantle of “de facto” Opposition leader of the new “Pakatun” coalition.

For a former Prime Minister who ruled this country with an iron fist for more than 20 years and who set up the trappings of economic and political power that the current Prime Minister now lords over, what are the policies of Mahathir’s new (proposed) party that are so different from the other parties in Malaysia? That is the question all discerning Malaysians want to know.

Does his new party address all the issues surrounding human rights and democracy and neo-liberal economic policies that he implemented in the 1980s and 1990s?

Mahathir has to this day still not apologised to all the victims of Operation Lalang or to the former Lord President whom he sacked in 1988, together with other Supreme Court judges. This plunged the Malaysian Judiciary into its gravest crisis that the country has still not recovered from until today.

He has also not compared all the financial scandals during his rule to that of the present Prime Minister’s. According to the late social scientist Barry Wain, these financial scandals during Mahathir’s rule cost the rakyat close to RM100 billion.

So Tun, It is not enough just to be anti-Najib to try and gain electoral support. Malaysians are wise to this attempt by politicians to ride on the anti-Najib wave without telling us their policies.

Superman’s policies

Recently, we were treated to the spectacle of DAP’s erstwhile “Superman” declaring his views on the China-ASEAN spat over the South China Sea, soon after the judgment by the International Tribunal at the Hague. It was only after the outcry from the public that DAP’s Superman finally met his kryptonite.

For such an important foreign policy statement, one would have expected the top DAP leadership to release a press statement on the issue. Instead, they relied on their “Superman” to take on the mantle of foreign policy spokesperson.

For years, “Superman” played the convenient role of the DAP’s “loose cannon” to be set against the party’s political opponents. He provided ceramah amusement and was feted at party functions. Then Superman began to take off by expanding his portfolio.

When he unleashed his homophobic aside against a columnist in the online press, the DAP kept a discreet silence although in another situation, the DAP Secretary-General expressed the party’s position vis-a-vis the LGBT community: “When did the state government recognise LGBT rights?” he pouted.

Again, as a party committed to human rights, one would have expected an unequivocal policy stand by the DAP on the rights of the oppressed LGBT community instead of such a passive and negative denial.

Never Ending (Bumiputera) Policy

On the polarising issues dividing Malaysians, we don’t hear very much these days from Pakatan politicians regarding the Barisan Nasional’s New Economic Policy any more.

It is as if Pakatan will continue with this racially discriminatory policy if they ever come into power. Will the Tun’s new party continue with this “Bumiputera Agenda”? If so, how will this square with Pakatan Harapan’s stand on this?

The “Pakatun” coalition should spell out in no uncertain terms well before GE-14 whether they intend to have a Non-Racial Economic Policy committed to equality and affirmative action, based on need, sector and class.

The Malaysian people have put up with this blatantly racial discriminatory policy since 1971 at great cost to the nation’s development and unity.

What progressive fiscal and social policies?

Will the “Pakatun” coalition impose a higher marginal tax rate on high-income earners and other taxes on wealth, luxury goods and speculative capital in order to close the income inequality gap?

Is Mahathir also committed to scrapping the regressive goods and services tax (GST)? Will the new Opposition coalition have concrete housing, health and transport policies for the lower-income earners that are an alternative to BN’s policies?

Has Mahathir been rehabilitated?

In other words, has Mahathir undergone a dramatic transformation in his conscientisation to people-centred philosophies or is he simply stuck in his anti-Najib groove? Do the other parties in the Opposition coalition even care if he has become a born-again democrat with a new commitment to human rights and social justice?

And last but not least, can he even be admitted into the Opposition coalition – never mind lead it – if he still clings on to his prejudice that Anwar Ibrahim is morally unqualified to be the Prime Minister-in-waiting?

Dr. Kua Kia Soong is the Adviser for Suaram (Suara Rakyat Malaysia).

6 thoughts on “Policyless ‘Pakatun’ parties

  1. Yes but WHY? Why is the opposition so lost? The simple answer is Najib has succeeded in divide and rule. First with the jailing of Anwar and then with his partnership with Hadi’s PAS. Even DAP is a struggling despite its fundamental strength. Najib suceeded in dividing the Malays and then ruling them with a combination of mass corruption and authoritharianism combined with a cover of Malay ultraism.

    The point is this is a largely a Malay problem. The non-Malays can only make their intellectual arguments. What makes the problem really big is that the ones that truly has the seed for change is Amanah – it begins there, the reformation of their religion itself. A long road for them..

  2. A family of five went on a vacation on a nice hotel located on a hill top and at the end of it, as the vacation was over, they all decided to go home so the the father dutifully drove the car – with his wife and three children in it – down the road from the hilltop but as the car was descending down the hill unfortunately the brake fails because the father did not care enough to check the car’s condition before going for that vacation. So, the car with all its passengers began to slide downhill gaining speed so fast and with it, the real possibility of them all plunging down into the ravine and facing near certain death. But, lo and behold, guess what, instead of being concerned with the danger, the wife and children decided that that they are all going to commence debating the one issue nagging them all this while, and that issue is to what extent has the man driving the car performed his responsibility as a husband and father all this while, has he been a good husband and father all this while, and whether he has a set of plans (policies?) to become a better husband and father to them in the future – not only that, they demand that it be a broad and well defined plans (policies?) so that they can judge and decide whether it is worth the while for each of them to jump “on board” and help the man in his hour of need to save the car with his family in it from plunging down into the deep and steep ravine down below. I fear that there is something wrong here with these demands by the wife and children placed upon the husband (and father) during that hour of need. In the circumstance that the family is in, the wife (and children) should be concerned first and foremost with the question of how to save the car from plunging down the ravine, not with questioning the poor fellow about his plans on becoming a more responsible, caring and loving husband (and father), and demanding plans (policies?) from him in that regard. Jump “on board” and work with the poor man to save the car from plunging down the ravine – put first things first and last things last. Shouldn’t that be the policy? Just a thought.

  3. Are there any redeeming suggestions put up by Dr Kua, which we don’t already know? If not whether it’s Pakatun or Pakatoon, he’s living in Toonland. Waste of Suara.

    The problems facing Bolehland are so intractable, it needs solid political will and spine to undo the damage. It’s like a metabolic disease that eats away the soul of a nation. To undo it requires genomic manipulation and strict adherence to dieting. I would agree that the only way is to have a strong, incorruptible, honest, just, yet benign dictator. Where to find on this earth lah?

  4. MF Muhammed,

    There is a fundamental difference between your “story” and what is happening to Malaysia.

    The fundamental difference is in your allegorical story, the father may be at most guilty of negligence, carelessness, may be even stupidity; he never intended that his family may all perish as a result thereof.

    But in the case of Mahathir there were premeditated, consciously planned actions to deliberately usurp and destroy the institutionalized safety systems to prevent precisely the scenarios we see now of Malaysia plunging headlong into possible socio-politico-economic disintegration if not destruction just so that he could amass almost dictatorial powers which a follow-on PM, with a character flaw would inherit and exploit. What is happening now in the country are no accidents, negligent acts or just stupidity.

    What Mahathir did politically was equivalent to the father in your story for whatever stupid reasons consciously tampering with the braking system of his car.

    So if the citizenry of Malaysia, (or allegorically the wife and children in your story), do not expose and debate the wrongs of the Mahahtir era which have direct bearings on events of the day, then, as the saying goes, Malaysia’s black history is doomed to repeat itself.

    Finally your allegorical example implies that Mahathir’s actions to remove Najib have no support and that we are fighting him rather than helping him. This is not true. What right-minded people are saying and impressing upon Mahathir is that just removing Najib alone is not enough because the fundamental issues of destroyed governance are not addressed and all the problems of poor governance will return to haunt us again even if Najib is removed and a new PM, even if one from the opposition, is installed.

    As a doctor Mahathir must know that the whole cancerous tumour must be removed.

    This is as good a time as any to have a full, uninhibited national discourse on what really ails Malaysia because Najib is only a symptom not the cause.

  5. I understand Kua Kia Soong (KKS) is a sociologist by training, and if I’m not mistaken considers himself a socialist. That is all fine, but he seems to have a rather twisted view of Malaysia’s dominant political economic system. He claims Mahathir established “neo-liberal economic policies…in the 1980s and 1990s?” I find this incredible.

    I understand that he has a visceral aversion to “neo-liberalism”, but that is not the dominant system in Malaysia by any stretch of the definition. Neo-liberalism basically refers to a laissez-faire capitalist system where government plays a limited and impartial role in the economy and society. It is associated with the writings of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

    Mahathir did pursue privatisation but much of it was not done on open tender, and went to favoured cronies. Mahathir also pursued state-led industrialisation with the likes of Perwaja, Proton, MSC and Bakun among others. Mahathir promoted Islamisation. Mahathir strengthened the power of the PM (Executive) by neutering the powers of the Rulers and the Courts, and used authoritarian means such as ISA. None of these policies are “neo-liberal”. In fact, a more apt description of them is “statism” where the state should take a prominent role in the economy and society, which is the opposite of liberalism either old or new.

    KKS’ problem is that he conflates the negative outcomes that we see today in Malaysia – economic inequality, institutionalised racism, authoritarianism, centralisation of power – with what he thinks (erroneously in my view) can only be the fruits of neo-liberalism. He then takes a leap of logic and asserts that the Malaysian government has long been pursuing neo-liberal policies. On the contrary, the example of Malaysia shows (as does Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Burma/Myanmar, pre-1980 China etc.) that statist policies can result in highly negative outcomes too. In Malaysia frankly, the government should interfere less in the economy and society, and not more. There would be no NEP or JAKIM or 1MDB in a truly neo-liberal country.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s