August 20, 2017
The Future of Pakatan Harapan Post GE-14–Dr. M and Politics of Betrayal
by S. Thayaparan
“A crazy country, choking air, polluted hearts, treachery. Treachery and treason.”
– Naguib Mahfouz
COMMENT | Amanah Communications Director Khalid Samad is mistaken. If Dr Mahathir Mohamad returns to the UMNO-BN fold for whatever reason after the next general election, it would not be a betrayal to Pakatan Harapan.
The only betrayal would be that which Harapan commits to the opposition voting public. However, there would be neither any sting nor moral condemnation to that betrayal because most Harapan supporters welcome the alliance with the former UMNO President and Prime Minister. While I have argued that this is a Hobson’s choice of the opposition’s making, any attempt to minimise such betrayal is unwarranted and honestly self-aggrandising.
Mind you, this is not a jab at Khalid whom I think is an honourable politician – a trait lacking in the current political leadership – but rather a rejoinder that “betrayal” of any kind in the current political climate is meaningless.
So what if Bersatu, Mahathir or any other politician betrays Harapan? This is a single-issue election – the wrong issue in my opinion – which means the current UMNO grand poohbah is vanquished or he is not. The best-case scenario if the opposition fails in that endeavour is that it retains Selangor and Penang.
While I have no doubt that opposition political strategists are working that angle (retaining Selangor and Penang at all cost), the real issue is whether Mahathir and Bersatu can deliver. If he cannot, and if the opposition loses support from their base, then the real question is, will Harapan cling on to the former Prime Minister?
But you ask, why are the stakes so low? Well, the stakes are low because even if Najib wins and this kleptocrat prevails, it would not be as if the sky will come tumbling down. We have endured a corrupt kleptocracy for decades and many would argue that we as a people, despite the overt systemic discrimination, have thrived.
I have argued numerous times of the futility of this strategy – “And right here is the problem for the opposition because this is really is what most voters who vote Barisan National think. Through the decades, despite all the corruption scandals, the sustained attacks against independent institutions, the slow process of dismantling our individual rights, Malaysia, in the words of Josh Hong, ‘for all its flaws, Malaysia remains a prosperous, relatively efficient and economically vibrant country.’”
Besides, the history of Harapan is littered with betrayals that most opposition supporters have accepted. Harapan has always managed to find allies – maybe except PSM – that they managed to do business with, who eventually betrayed the opposition alliance.
I would argue that the opposition is extremely comfortable with betrayals. How many political operatives, political entities and the rest of the flotsam and jetsam of establishment politics have betrayed the opposition? Honestly, I have lost count.
And let us be honest. The opposition was not fooled because they were naive. The reality is that the opposition has never met a political outfit or personality that was anti-Najib that they did not have use for, until ultimately, they were betrayed because they were outplayed.
No cohesive platform
I am not making the argument that disparate interests should not attempt to come together but rather, the opposition has never really made an attempt to work together in an honest way. There was never any attempt to form a cohesive ideology or a platform that honestly addressed the agendas that opposing interests brought to the table. There were always these piecemeal efforts to bury the political and/or ideological differences and shoe horn everything into the “save Malaysia” narrative.
Moreover, many opposition supporters were comfortable with this. I would argue that these “betrayal” narratives sustained the opposition when things fell apart because of their own ineptness. “We were betrayed” when it should be “we should never have been in this position in the first place”.
Meanwhile, the UMNO regime has its own cries of betrayal. The urban demographic has betrayed them. Former members have betrayed them. With UMNO, it goes further. Betrayals are not just against the political party. Betrayals are against race and religion. This is why I suppose Bersatu is attempting the same strategy.
I mean take a look at what Bersatu Youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman says while describing the current UMNO grand poohbah as the “Malay race’s number one enemy” – “Pawning the interests of the Malays by giving mega contracts to communist China while we have to shoulder the debts amounting to billions of ringgit.”
I made my stand on this issue of the PRC deals clear here – that pro-opposition rhetoric consists of furthering the narrative that China is taking advantage of the natives and the country is being sold piece by piece to a foreign power to settle Najib’s debts. While my disdain for Najib administration is well-documented (by me, mostly), making the argument that these China deals have no credibility merely because they come from the Najib regime is disingenuous.”
So, sit back and enjoy the show. Nobody is going to betray the opposition because nobody was loyal to the opposition in the first place. PAS will eventually engage in three-concerned fights with its former allies because they have a new sugar daddy. I am sure there will be defections on both sides in the upcoming general elections.
Betrayals will be rife and teeth gnashed, but ultimately the losers will not be the urban demographic but the “lower classes” that many politicians and analysts are banking on to save the opposition.
The only gun pointed at anyone is the one pointed at the marginalised communities here in Malaysia, and they know that that gun will be passed to anyone who claims the throne of Putrajaya.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.