Daim Zainuddin has advised the government not to take people for granted and treat them like idiots. “I have real faith in people, they are smarter than you think. If you are honest with them, they will understand. Do not take the rakyat for granted. People don’t like it if you treat them like idiots,” he said in an interview.
Even if we already know this, statements like this, coming from Daim who is close to the centre of power, do not help Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) image.
Disgruntled voters are saying in derogatory terms that the PH government is a one-term government. The honeymoon is long over and the feel-good factor is disappearing over the horizon. If people power could boot out decades of Barisan Nasional (BN) rule, it can do the same with the current government in the next general election. People now know that they can change governments by the collective power of their votes.
The BN government was good at treating people like village idiots. The blue water tanks gift is a good example. In the last two elections, thousands of blue water tanks were distributed to rural areas in Sabah and Sarawak. The blue water tanks were synonymous with BN rule.
Plastic tanks do not deteriorate and the kampung folk who were given the blue water tanks in GE-13 received the same in GE-14. What the people wanted was clean piped water and good roads, not another round of blue water tanks with a BN logo. Whenever you see huge truckloads heading for the rural areas, you know it’s election time.
While there are thousands of examples of BN’s arrogance and treating people like idiots, the same is being repeated by the PH government.
Idiocy has reached a dangerous level in Malaysian elections. Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 has called upon the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to investigate former Melaka chief minister Idris Haron for allegedly committing an election offence during the current Rantau by-election campaign.
Bersih said Idris’ promise to sponsor two goats for a feast in Taman Angsamas in the Angsamas polling district during a ceramah was tantamount to bribery.
The poor goats are now being used for election bribery. For Arians like me, it’s the greatest insult. The goat is the eighth in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese system. People born in a year of the goat are generally believed to be gentle, mild-mannered, shy, stable, sympathetic, amicable, and brimming with a strong sense of kindheartedness and justice. Being made the sacrificial lamb in a by-election is the greatest insult to the goat’s reputation.
Have we not “goat” better things to say and do? Does the constituency not have any real issues such as the need for better schools or more jobs? You are not talking about hundreds of goats for the slaughter, but two. Are we bankrupt of ideas? The voters deserve better.
If it’s not about a goat, it’s about race and religion. The goat was a short respite in an idiotic race to the finishing post.
PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has expressed hope that Rantau voters will not let Dr S Streram Sinnasamy’s race be an issue in the coming by-election and that they will see him for the work he has done.
“Why are we shunning him just because he is an Indian?” asked Anwar before reminding voters of all the good work he had done for the people.
So now the election boils down to an Indian and two goats. In an idiot’s narrative, the story ends when humans devour the goat in a celebratory feast. But is that the end of the story?
It was reported that former prime minister Najib Razak has been slapped with an extra tax bill of around RM1.5 billion by the Inland Revenue Board (LHDN). A financial daily quoted sources which said that a letter was sent to Najib by LHDN over backdated tax amount for the years 2011 to 2017. LHDN’s investigation assessment showed that Najib had not declared taxable income of close to RM4 billion for the period. Why is Najib not the main by-election issue? Why is “Bossku” still roaming freely?
Parliament is not spared the Malaysian idiocy. Recently, the entire opposition staged a walkout after a heated shouting match during Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s winding-up speech in the second reading of the Supplementary Supply Bill 2019.
The walkout was triggered after a shouting match between the opposition, the finance minister and government backbenchers, after Pengkalan Chepa MP Ahmad Marzuk Shaary (PAS) called Lim “pondan”. The Malaysian narrative has expanded to an Indian doctor, two goats and “pondan”.
Labelling someone as “pondan” or LGBT could have serious consequences if Lim were to visit shariah-compliant nations such as Brunei. But our tourism minister saved the day for Lim.
According to media reports, Mohamaddin Ketapi denied the existence of LGBT people in the country. Ahead of attending the ITB Berlin travel fair, he told German reporters that he wasn’t aware of LGBT people in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Yes, we are all being treated like idiots. Could it be that we elected idiots to represent us in the first place?
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. – Alphonse Karr
Malaysians must be scratching their heads over how quickly the ICERD has gone from being a symbol of hope to a stark reminder that we have yet to come to grips with the racism that has plagued our nation for so long.
It was only a few weeks ago when Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, speaking at the United Nation’s (UN) General Assembly as head of the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, proudly announced to the world that “the new Malaysia will firmly espouse the principles promoted by the UN in our international engagements. These include the principles of truth, human rights, the rule of law, justice, fairness, responsibility and accountability, as well as sustainability”.
In this context, and while admitting that it was a sensitive issue, he “pledged to ratify all remaining core UN instruments (including ICERD) related to the protection of human rights”.
His speech was immediately hailed both at home and abroad as an indication of the new government’s commitment to human rights and democracy.
The Ketuanan Melayu pushback
The reaction of Umno-PAS and other Ketuanan Melayu groups was fast and furious. Insisting, contrary to the facts, that ICERD directly challenged Malay rights, the position of the rulers and even the role of Islam in Malaysia, they demanded that the government abandon plans to ratify ICERD.
Add to that unverified reports of unknown groups distributing Bibles to Malays (even leaving copies in mosques, apparently) and UMNO-PAS had all the ingredients necessary to create the perfect political storm. Having found a lethal mix of race and religion that could galvanise public opinion, divert attention from their own failures and put PH on the defensive, they are now enthusiastically milking it for all its worth. And it’s going to be worth a great deal to them.
Umno president Zahid Hamidi, in the best traditions of his party, starkly warned that the Malays would run amok if ICERD was ratified. PAS leader Hadi Awang, always at his best when it comes to religious demagoguery, insisted that it was “compulsory for Muslims to oppose ICERD” as it would diminish the special position of Islam in the country and weaken the Malays yet further.
Of course, ICERD does no such thing; it is in reality more an aspirational convention rather than a binding treaty. Members are given wide leeway to carve out for themselves exceptions to satisfy their own local laws; dozens of countries have, in fact, done so. Indeed, several local legal experts have confirmed that ratifying ICERD would not violate the constitution. Malay extremists, however, are determined to read into it whatever serves their nefarious agenda.
Anti-ICERD rallies are now being planned across the country with a mammoth one scheduled to take place on December 8. It is telling that the same people who did nothing when billions were being looted from the public purse, when our nation was being literally sold off to a foreign power, are now ready to push the country to the brink of instability over a non-existent threat.
In the meantime, a vicious and racist anti-DAP campaign, perhaps the worst we’ve ever seen thus far, is now underway.
PH in full retreat
Initially, PH luminaries defended the decision to ratify ICERD; it was, after all, mooted by none other than the Prime Minister himself at a very high-profile international event.
Mujahid Yusof Rawa (Minister in Prime Minister’s Department for religious affairs), for example, took Malay rights groups, including PAS, to task for claiming that Malay rights would be abolished if the convention is ratified. He stressed that ICERD “will not have any impact on what’s protected under the Federal Constitution”. PPBM president and Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said essentially the same thing.
However, as right-wing pressure grew, PH’s resolve crumbled and its ministers beat a hasty retreat from ICERD.
Muhyiddin started worrying publicly about whether ICERD would undermine the special position of the Malays. Syed Saddiq, the PPBM Youth chief and youth and sports minister, expressed concern that ICERD could undermine constitutional provisions pertaining to Malay rights. Other ministers with the exception of Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah (who continues to valiantly defend ICERD) simply kept their heads down.
PKR President Anwar Ibrahim, always ready to stand decisively on both sides of an issue, said that while ICERD did not conflict with the constitution, there was no hurry to ratify it given other more pressing priorities – as if the government cannot chew gum and walk at the same time. In Parliament, he even joined the chorus of opposition calls for the Foreign Minister to defer ratification.
Of course, all of them were careful not to reference the fact that it was the Prime Minister himself who surprised everyone by raising the issue at the UN. Mahathir himself finally agreed that it would be almost impossible for Malaysia to ratify ICERD because the government lacked the two-thirds majority it needed to amend the constitution. He also added that some aspects of ICERD were not suitable for Malaysia. It was a surreal moment that immediately begged the question of why the prime minister raised the issue at the UN in the first place.
Non-Malay politicians, for their part, justifiably terrified at being cast as the villains in the whole saga, are running for cover. DAP Secretary- General and Finance MMnister Lim Guan Eng said, “We did not raise the issue. It was Waytha (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department) who did.” MCA and Gerakan as usual attacked DAP.
Left holding the bag
Unsurprisingly, Waytha Moorthy, whose portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Department obliged him to steer the ICERD issue forward, has now become the fall guy.
More than 115,000 signatures have also been collected for a petition demanding Waytha’s resignation; he now joins a growing list of PH ministers – Theresa Kok, Kulasegeran, and Gobind Singh – whose resignations are being demanded by Ketuanan Melayu groups for one reason or another.
If Waytha is guilty of anything, it was simply of taking the Prime ,inister’s UN speech at face value and acting upon it, as most responsible ministers would. After all, the foreign minister had tabled the same UN speech in Parliament and received unanimous PH support for making it official policy. Unfortunately for Waytha, when push came to shove, all his Cabinet colleagues (save for the foreign minister) left him holding the bag.
A PH-made fiasco
ICERD has, undoubtedly, dealt a serious political blow to the PH government. Despite its good intentions, the government failed to do its homework, failed to build a clear consensus within its own ranks and failed to agree on a game plan to manage the ratification process once it committed itself to doing so. They came across as a party in disarray, unable to even agree on a common position. Worse still, they did not have the courage of their own convictions to stand their ground against Umno-PAS.
PH’s mishandling of the ICERD issue has now given UMNO-PAS a new lease of life. In a single swoop, Umno-PAS appears to have out-manoeuvred PH and put it on the defensive. ICERD has also allowed Umno-PAS to burnish their credentials as the preeminent defender of all things Malay. Whichever way you look at it, it’s a brilliant (if obnoxious) political gambit by a party that until recently was given up for dead.
More dangerously, it has also allowed UMNO-PAS an opportunity to claw back some of the political power it lost at the ballot box; by threatening to run amuck whenever it feels Ketuanan Melayu is challenged, it will now be able to strongly influence national policies without even being in the Cabinet.
At the end of the day, by exploiting ICERD, UMNO-PAS has now forced PH’s Malay leadership to compete with them on the issue of who can best defend Ketuanan Melayu. Rather than being consigned to the dustbin of history after May 9, Ketuanan Melayu will now become the altar at which all Malay politicians will have to offer obeisance if they wish to hold power.
If PH doesn’t act swiftly and decisively to extricate itself from this mess, it will be the end of Malaysia Baru as we know it.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT
People voted for a newer Malaysia, Ketuanan Melayu 2.0
20th Century Mindset in A 21st Century 4th Industrial Revolution Pluralist Era–The Kris Vs Technology and Innovation
“The voters in GE-14 voted for a new Malaysia. Equal opportunity in education, lessening of race-based politics, abolishing of tolls and whatever that was promised by the then opposition, the “Coalition of Hope” of the Mahathir-led campaign against kleptocracy and the materially, morally and ideologically corrupt regime of Najib.
At least that was the promise which then turned into a primarily false one, leaving the voters feeling lied to and short-changed”–Dr. Azly Rahman
COMMENT | As we read about the “Operasi Lalang 2.0” or “Weed-Out-the-Corrupt Campaign of the New Regime” at play and in full throttle as in the McCarthyism of our cultural sensibility, as we see more leaders hauled up to be tried for grand theft, money-laundering and for bankrupting and corroding society, we ask: what next in this metamorphosis and game of political karma we are to see?
All these against the backdrop of talks of the third car project, crooked bridge, political-party border-crossings, renewed demands to strengthen Malay rights, postponed promises, and to rebrand fundamentalist Islamic identity in preparation for the challenges posed by the super liberals and the LGBT. What will the new coalition transform into in a country whose political parties are addicted to a race-based ideology?
Then, there is the crucial issue of a newer UMNO and newer BN emerging, with talk of 40 UMNO MPs crossing over to Bersatu. There was also the latest statement by a minister that Ketuanan Melayu will end soon, replaced by the idea of making every Malaysian prosperous. Then the idea was immediately repudiated by another minister, a former Deputy prime Minister in the regime of the Najib Abdul Razak.
I have a sense that the latest developments in the continuing chaos produced in PKR, the seemingly silent DAP in addressing the issues the party once opposed, the talk of a new Indian party, and, of course, the strengthening and enlarging of Bersatu – all this points not only to the emergence of a BN reloaded, a 2.0 version of Malaysia’s race-based politics.
I might be wrong. We shall observe the developments. We may even see more “Kajang Moves”, cross-overs, and more intense struggle for power within and amongst the coalition parties.
The voters in GE14 voted for a new Malaysia. Equal opportunity in education, lessening of race-based politics, abolishing of tolls and whatever that was promised by the then opposition, the “Coalition of Hope” of the Mahathir-led campaign against kleptocracy and the materially, morally and ideologically corrupt regime of Najib.
At least that was the promise which then turned into a primarily false one, leaving the voters feeling lied to and short-changed.
The hope for the non-Malays, non-bumiputera to stop being treated as second-class citizens in the land called Malaysia they and their parents and grandparents, too, toiled for will not be realised after all. The rhetoric of today’s new Malaysia is the same old rhetoric of keeping the status quo alive.
DAP is the New MCA?–The Silent Partner in Pakatan Harapan
This means that there will be no push for the idea of “Malaysian Malaysia” and equal opportunities in education, especially for all non-Malays. Hope buried. When the new coalition has transformed into a newer version of the old politics, the non-Malays can expect another five decades of racialised politics affecting the future of their children.
This is not a grim view of what I see developing. I am sure some of my esteemed readers, too, share a similar perspective of a hope for the triumph of multiculturalism dashing. Unless the Harapan government can, in unison, with consistency and as a policy, state its commitment to make Malaysia a place in which no Malaysian will be left behind.
Where are we heading?
Back to Umno and its sudden death. The talk about more UMNO MPs leaving for Bersatu is of concern for those who voted for hope and for real change.
But what will replace UMNO in this time of a “new Malaysia” in which race and religion continues to be the strongest force for the current regime as well, to continue policies inspired by her own apartheid system of divide and conquer with wealth, power, hegemony, and ideology as the hybrid of authoritarianism, continue to glue the still-cognitively unliberated society?
The question remains: what kind of Malaysian Malaysia do we wish to see? How will a rebranded Umno be an obstacle to this?
The key to dealing with any rot from happening is to educate for change. If the change we wish to see is for a Malaysia for all Malaysians, education, as the only means for a sustainable cognitive, cultural, personal and social progress should be the one taking lead.
When politics continues to travel the trajectory of ethnocentrism and only pays lip-service to multi-culturalism and the restructuring of society through a philosophy of education based on a truly Malaysian reconstructionism, we will fail as a people.
Education needs to step in and correct the political conveyor belt, changing course. As it is now, we are not seeing the Ministry of Education committed to producing such a change to reverse the major aspects of discrimination in the various levels of schooling. The issues of class, caste, race, religion and privilege is not addressed systemically.
Like many, I am concerned with the disjuncture between politics, education, economy, and national unity. There is an unhealthy development in the way party-politics is moving.
Our concerns may turn into fear of yet another wave of chaos as parties and followers and consumers of ideology and real and fake news alike prepare for another general election that will only bring stagnancy, not change.
Where are we heading? What then must we do to drum into the new regime that race-based politics should no longer be allowed to rear its ugly head?
*Dr. AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of seven books available here. More writings here.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.
After two decades of reformasi, two generations of resistance to ‘Malaysia lama’ spent September addressing capacity crowds of Malaysians abroad about ‘Malaysia baru’ and the horizon ahead.
As the two veteran campaigners for Malaysia’s democracy traversed the Australian continent across September, another leader Anwar Ibrahim formally started his campaign to reclaim parliamentary leadership, nominating for the Port Dickson by-election almost 20 years to the day his jailing sparked off reformasi, the democratic reform movement that led to Malaysia’s regime change on May 9 this year.
Amid this frenetic activity was the background rattle of ruling party PKR’s own tightly contested polls this month, threatening to split it apart in bitter recriminations as two proteges contest to become Anwar’s party deputy. All at a time when this year’s historic victory under the PKR flag has become a drama of a fragile coalition, rather than about how the biggest ruling party enables reformasi coming to pass.
As veteran reformasi activist and PKR Vice-President Tian Chua blitzed three Australian cities in four days over the Hari Merdeka (Independence day) weekend, he provoked a raft of thorny questions about a new Malaysia that were sometimes left unanswered.
Those in two minds about new Malaysia’s ambivalence on liberalism, religious laws, and political values found the DAP icon Lim Kit Siang cajoling and bristling in front of record crowds over such questions a few weeks later. After a half-century as an integral part of Malaysia’s parliamentary democracy, the once-‘Mr Opposition’ Lim now counsels patience and fortitude as an elder in the new government. Like Mr Chua earlier in the month, Mr Lim by September’s end encouraged Malaysians he met abroad to not judge the new coalition government too quickly or harshly.
The 77-year-old occasionally displayed flashes of his famed street-fighting rhetoric when parrying questions in jammed venues across Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, before continuing his tour of the Malaysian diaspora this week in New Zealand. Like his former nemesis and now coalition partner Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Mr Lim took all questions, barbed and not, with a deftness and directness that was so alien to the previous prime minister’s leaden events.
He wanted the Melbourne crowd, which packed three rooms with scores more stranded outside on a Saturday evening, to forgive but not necessarily forget the DAP’s old foes. In the new Malaysia the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government hopes to build, “we all need to have a big picture outlook, to have a lo-o-o-ng vision.”
Nobody in the new government joined this endeavour with entirely clean hands, he said, and Malaysians when united demonstrated to the region how corrupt governments could be tossed out peacefully via the ballot box.
“Tainted people? We’re all tainted. To some, Mahathir is tainted,” he told the crowd. “Let’s give a chance to all who’re tainted to turn over a new leaf. We want Malaysia to succeed. In the past, some said ‘Malays must unite’ but today we say ‘Malaysians unite!’. So we must give them a chance. So we can go forward. So that we can be inclusive, so that we can be progressive.”
“That’s why when people ask how can Lim Kit Siang cooperate with Mahathir when he had put Lim Kit Siang in jail? Not only that, Mahathir put my son (new finance minister) Lim Guan Eng in jail, and Guan Eng’s daughter is here!” he said, as the audience applauded his granddaughter in the room.
“Yes, it’s not easy. But there’s the larger interest of the nation. Personally, of course, you’ve jailed me twice (referring to the previous Barisan Nasional regime). You say I’m anti-Malay, I’m anti-Islam, you tell lies about me. But what is the larger picture? If Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai Shek can unite for the larger interest, why can’t we do so too? So we must be above ourselves, we must rise above our personal likes and dislikes. National interest, national good.
“So we’re in uncharted waters, in completely new territory,” he stressed. “There’s no simple answer to solve all problems. Of course there are a lot of reports about Mahathir, about Anwar disagreeing, but nobody can give answers to that. But you must have a positive outlook because we want the (PH) experiment to succeed. We don’t want it to fail. And if we continue with that approach, if Mahathir, if Anwar and everyone else has this approach, it will succeed, whatever difficulties and contradictions that arise. But if our attitude is ‘so what? let it fail’, then it will fail. But we want it to succeed. Of course the differences will develop, it will come. Let’s have a big picture outlook, a long vision. That’s also my message to the Malaysian diaspora. Not just now, tomorrow, the day after, but the next 10, 15, 20 years. Can we survive that?”
Mr Lim proved more gnomic and nuanced off stage the night before in Sydney, at a vegetarian dinner after a more formal panel discussion where he insisted Malaysia was created as a secular state, framed as it was by Sabah and Sarawak when the nation formed in 1963. He was relaxed about his ‘backseat’ role in the new government, he said, bemused when referred to as an ‘elder statesman’ after receiving the Bersih Sydney Democracy Award earlier in the evening. His political secretary, the young constitutional lawyer Syahredzan Johan, drew giggles among the Sydney crowd thanking the “boss” when Mr Lim pointed audience misunderstandings about Malay rights and religion for him to answer.
While the crowd had come to hail “the opposition legend”, as someone synonymous with leading the resistance against the UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional government’s corruption and other abuses since 1969, there was also a reflection of where the past 20 years had left Mr Lim’s DAP and the instrumental role he played in the reformasi coalition.
There were principles of accountability, of good governance that couldn’t be cast aside, he said, that urgently needed reform in any ‘new Malaysia’. He suggested old men like the new nonagenarian Prime Minister, and octogenarian advisors like former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, were atoning for previous mistakes, keen to leave behind a nation that worked for more than just the few. The Malaysian people had to continue playing their renewed role, he stressed, whether it was through civil society movements like Bersih or other groups, to ensure the new government stayed true to their promises.
Fellow coalition leader Tian Chua faced similar questioning a few weeks earlier, when he took to the stage at a ‘Malam Merdeka’ dinner event in Sydney featuring Malaysian dancers, and a performance by legendary chanteuse Saloma’s niece Rozita Rohaizad that included the crowd singing along to the Mahathir-era anthem ‘Sejahtera Malaysia’. Unlike the mostly older crowd that attended Mr Lim’s talk a few weeks later, many younger Malaysians at Mr Chua’s event had been part of the storied overseas voters contingent that had gone to great lengths to vote at the historic 14th general elections (GE14).
The questions posed to Mr Chua suggested the crowd was still unsure about how a disparate coalition worked together, under a former authoritarian leader that had jailed so many in the new government, while doubts about another leader returning to center stage also hovered into view. Where this fits into the past 20 years of acrimony between politicians now unexpectedly triumphant together was not easily answered by Mr Chua.
“I was quite surprised when Mahathir invited me to his office the day before he quit UMNO. We hadn’t seen each other since 1999, when he had advised me to eat more as I was going in and out of jail so often,” he revealed, as the audience laughed along.
“Both of us we alone in his office, and I started by saying that most of the time we’ve been opposite each other (sic), we’ve disagreed about most things, we have fought over various issues. But one thing I’ve never doubted was his commitment to Malaysia, never doubted his love for the country. That’s what I said to him. But now we could sit down and work out our differences. We wanted the country to be free, to have a proud and better future,” he said, explaining the meeting in 2016.
“Today, whether it’s led by Anwar or Mahathir, Malaysia will be governed by the set of principles laid down in the (Pakatan Harapan GE14) manifesto. It doesn’t matter who takes over from Mahathir, and after Anwar there will be others. We have to follow a new way of governance. We must strike a consensus among those running the country. There will be no more one-man-shows, no more PM-decides-everything. We must all agree, and the leaders must follow this principle.
“It’s inconsequential whether we think Mahathir is a reformed man, or whether Anwar is up for doing the job. It will be a collective effort. Those in Putrajaya must be executing the collective wishes of the Malaysian people. And if any of us deviate from this, you all know what to do! That’s why May 9 can be repeated, the guarantee that helps us stay on the right track.”
This question of Dr Mahathir’s notorious authoritarianism, and how it had damaged Malaysia’s democracy by the time of 1998’s reformasi, intrigued the Australian parliamentarians Mr Chua met with during this short trip.
When catching up with Anthony Albanese, the former Australian Deputy Prime Minister who’s now a senior leader of the opposition Labor Party, Mr Chua had explained to his old university comrade how a delicate coalition of parties was galvanised to win power after the previous regime’s scandals proved too much for Malaysians. This Sydney meeting contrasted with one a few years earlier, when Mr Albanese learnt of the outrage over the multi-billion dollar 1MDB heist that was still unfolding, and how opposition parliamentarians like Mr Chua faced arrest and worse as they raised the alarm.
The respect for human rights and the supremacy of Malaysia’s Federal Constitution (which had co-drafters from Australia) was a critical part of new Malaysia, said Mr Chua, and keeping the new government true to its word will not only be the task of parliamentarians but also a responsibility of civil society. Adhering to the principles outlined in the winning coalition’s election manifesto will be tough, he admitted, and as Mr Lim echoed a few weeks later, the disappointments will pile up if “practical” timelines for promised reforms are not publically discussed and expectations managed.
“Sometimes people forget that some of us were pushing for the reforms we’re discussing as policy today, before this time 20 years ago. We helped start the reformasi movement, we weren’t parachuted in afterwards,” he said.
But it was the discussions about the tough party elections headlined by Rafizi Ramli’s challenge to Azmin Ali, and the opposing camps Mr Chua and his party peers were slotting into that made his long road trip between the Canberra and Sydney events so weary. The unbridled ambition and the urgency for power often obscured the ideals of the reformasi movement that he felt was still a core part of his identity.
ian Chua and Anthony Albanese, with classic regime change poster as backdrop.
Tian Chua and Anthony Albanese, with classic regime change poster as backdrop.
The party polls had sounded a little like the party fratricide that Mr Albanese alluded to when explaining how yet another prime minister was torn down in Australia the previous week, making it the fifth time in 10 years. The enmity stayed raw for quite some time, and a brutal contest for party power was no way to ensure stability and purpose when in government.
It was a sobering reminder that lingered as we left Mr Albanese’s inner Sydney enclave. Just as we stepped out, the overcast skies broke into a stormy deluge as the Malaysian reformist rushed to the airport for his flight home, straight into another bruising election season.
Having spent two full days in Port Dickson, I feel compelled to urge all Malaysians, not just the Port Dickson voters, to come forward with more energy and enthusiasm in support of Anwar Ibrahim. Let’s create the buzz and excitement which is now sadly lacking in support of PKR, the party that allowed its symbol to be used for the epic victory on May 9.
Let’s not treat Anwar as an opposition figure like we did over the last 20 years. He is now an integral part of Pakatan Harapan (PH), the party that the people voted in to replace the kleptocrats.
Many in Port Dickson and elsewhere are still asking inane questions such as why Anwar engineered this by-election, why he is in a hurry. Why can’t Nurul Izzah Anwar vacate her seat for her father, and so on. There are also those who keep asking: Is Anwar suitable to be Prime Minister, what is his vision for the country, etc.
These are legitimate questions but if we are seriously looking for answers, we should have asked them before May 9. We should not have portrayed to the people during the election campaign that Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar are working together for the good of the country. We should not have agreed to the winning formula that Anwar succeed Mahathir as Prime Minister.
Once we agree on a deal, we have to honour it. No more questions asked. There is no need to question the timing of Anwar’s entry into Parliament and which seat he should be contesting. If he is not good enough to be the next prime minister, then why the need to accost him in the corridors of courtrooms to invite him to topple Najib Razak? There must be honour, even in politics.
Why is the subject of a government of national unity being talked about non-stop by UMNO and PAS? It’s because Anwar does not feel wanted in the PH government. UMNO and PAS are therefore trying their luck to lure Anwar away from PH. In light of this, it makes sense for parties in PH to assure PKR that its position in the coalition is safe, and that its leader, Anwar, will succeed Mahathir as Prime Minister on a specified date.
This assurance must not be just verbal. Verbal assurances mean nothing in politics. Instead, it must take the form of action by Mahathir and all the leaders of PPBM, Amanah and DAP.
There are three things they can do very quickly.
The Prime Minister, after a few days’ rest from his successful trip to New York and London, needs to go to Port Dickson. Although the Prime Minister does not usually campaign in a by-election, this is no ordinary election. This one gives the certificate of eligibility to his successor. We must not give the impression that there has been a change of mind about Anwar becoming the next Prime Minister.
The people are tired of political gamesmanship and they just want a smooth transition of power. A few reassuring words from the Prime Minister in Port Dickson that the leadership of PH is solidly behind Anwar will go a long way towards ensuring victory for Anwar and sending the message to Malaysians that their leaders want to focus on the more difficult issue of governance, and nothing else.
Some say that Anwar is an “Islamist” and will abandon democracy and secular principles, while others say he was a right-wing UMNO flag-bearer before his dismissal many years ago. I don’t want to get involved in such arguments. All I know is that Anwar and PH today are much, much better than PAS and UMNO; and I know that unless we drive him out, Anwar would rather stay with other reformists in PH. His own party, PKR, is a party of diverse racial and religious groups which will guide Anwar towards policies that unite the people.
The second thing PH leaders can do very quickly is to give Anwar some latitude in the appointment of key personnel in corporations and government-linked companies. It’s probably too late now, but it needs to be said: this is how real partnerships work. If we do not want key decisions and appointments to be left to powerful oligarchs or a special selected group like the 4th floor boys or the famous “Kitchen Cabinet” under Najib’s rule, then we must also not allow some eminent persons to dictate how the country should be managed. Ministers must take charge and senior party leaders like Anwar consulted. We won the election because the people believed we were going to put an end to kleptocracy, but if “oligarchs” still make key decisions in the new Malaysia, then it’s just a matter of time before we are back to the old ways
The final thing to do is for PH leaders to set a date for Mahathir to step down. This date must be decided collectively. I suggest May 2020, which will give Mahathir enough time to put in place plans for the big picture. If Anwar agrees to this, nothing he says or does will be viewed with suspicion or interpreted as an attempt to accelerate his ascent to the top.
The country needs certainty and stability, and we must give the rakyat a smooth succession plan. The people are tired of the endless power-play, so let’s give politicking a rest. This is the message PH needs to bring to Port Dickson.
Zaid Ibrahim is a former law minister.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.