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.
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).