A New Malaysia, Saudara Anwar?

Unlike many liberals, I do not have much problem of Anwar’s past as an Islamist and Malay-nationalist. I never think that politicians need to be saintly to do good things (by whatever standards). All they need is just the right incentives.

To me, the right incentives are the prospect to power and the prospect to loose it. Before the polls, I told Anwar-skeptics that if they didn’t trust Anwar’s sincerity to carry out the reform he promised, they should give him power for an Anwar without power would only be more likely to abandon the cause for reform.

In that sense, I have never doubted Anwar’s ability to do great things. For the very least, he has the ability and credential to bridge Malaysia’s communal divide, greater than any other politicians.

The first part of his come-back speech at Kelab Sultan Suleiman, Kampung Baru last night confirmed my belief in his potential. He took the talks on Malay Supremacy (Ketuanan Melayu) head on and forcefully pointed out how the champion of such cause, UMNO, has let the Malays down in both economic and cultural senses.

Economically, he said, “they talked about Malays only after they have lost. When they win, it’s me, my son and my son-in-law.” He asked if the ordinary Malays have benefited from projects contracts, permits to import car (AP), taxi licenses and other business opportunities.

Culturally, he attacked UMNO for marginalizing the Malay language, pointing at the teaching of science and mathematics in English.

His rhetorics is as consistent as you have heard him talking elsewhere. He certainly did not tell different stories to please different audiences. He did not disown the Malay nationalist concerns. He only skillfully married the traditional concerns of Malay ethno-nationalism – economic opportunity, Malay as national language – to the inclusive positions in Malaysian civic-nationalism.

He began his sentence so naturally, “kami orang Melayu”, as if you are listening to an UMNO leader, but without a break, “Cina, India, Iban, Kadazan, ……”

He talked about making “the Chinese and Indians feeling this is their land”.

He addressed the thorny pig farm issue.

He led the Malay-majority crowd to shout “Ketuanan … Rakyat! Ketuanan … Rakyat!”

His message is clear: the Malaysian land does not belong only to Malays, but all other Malaysians too.

Anwar’s new Malaysia is not only inclusive, but also supposedly clean and people-serving. He said he told the Arab investors that his future ministers will not take any kick-backs from the projects. Projects will be carried out only to benefit the people. Economy will be managed well so that the people will not suffer inflation.

So, you will see an inclusive, clean and competent Malaysia.

But how would he achieve that? That’s what the second part of his speech is all about.

(The third part is to rebut Mahathir’s charge that he collaborated with Israel and to attack his former boss for fixing the judiciary and controlling the media. )

“Officially, we have only 82 seats. Unofficially, we have enough”, he hinted again at party-hopping.

And he openly and shamelessly justified such practice. “They said this is not moral. What morality are you talking about when the elections are rigged?”

He also questioned the critics about the morality in his imprisonment, the detention of innocents under ISA and other wrongdoings by the BN.

He counted his estimate of the Pakatan Rakyat’s losses in the unfair and unclean elections: 15 seats to the cancellation of indelible ink (which might prevent multiple voting), 15 seats to the opaque postal votes, and 10 seats to media control.

So, with a clean election, his coalition would have won 122 seats, installed already now as the government. He claimed some East Malaysians have told him that they know well how the elections were stolen, hence if they change the parties, they are merely representing the choice of the people.

So, the new Malaysia will be built through seat-buying?

Yes, saudara Anwar, we know your party leaders have stressed that the cross-overs would not involve monetary transfers. However, who would be so stupid to ask for only money when they can ask for even ministerial position in the new government?

Saudara Anwar, would you enlighten us, why is vote-buying wrong but seat-buying right?

If elected representatives can make the “right” choice for the people they represent after the poll, what’s wrong with voters who would be happy to make the “right” choice during the poll after receiving the right gifts?

If a voter selling his/her vote can be considered prostituting his/her democratic right, is an elected representative selling his/her election mandate not equatable to human trafficking?

And what kind of new Malaysia is this? How is your New Malaysia different from the new Sabah you have helped to bring about in 1994 when the PBS government was brought down by its lawmakers crossing over?

Saudara Anwar, you seemed to ask your critics: where were you when the elections were rigged and when the ISA was abused?

You tried to make a case that two wrongs will make a right.

Let me offer you my observation.

Some of your critics were in fact hypocritical – they have never condemned election rigging or human rights violations until today. They condemn party-hopping now only because their parties stand to loose. And they were your colleagues until September 2, 1998.

Some others – from the civil society mainly – have always been critical of election rigging and human rights violation. They have nothing to be apologetic in opposing any seat-buying moves – whether from Pakatan Rakyat or Barisan Nasional – today.

And finally, some others – including your party colleagues from the former Parti Rakyat and your coalition colleagues from PAS and DAP – had condemned party-hopping of elected representatives in the past. PAS Kelantan even passed a state enactment to require the party-hoppers to relinquish their positions only to be declared unconstitutional by the apex court for violating the representatives’ freedom of association. I just wonder where these colleagues of yours stand today. They can perhaps answer all your questions better than anyone else.

A New Malaysia? Yes, I still want it, but please not one that is made in a dirty process.

3 responses to “A New Malaysia, Saudara Anwar?

  1. Ai yo yo! Chin Huat, I really can’t agree with what you are trying to say here. What you have expressed is actually of idealist, not liberal.

    Suppose BN has really gone into disarray, and therefore seems to be unable to keep a stable government. Your logic (and idealism really) would suggest either BN *voluntarily* call for fresh poll or the country must continue in its unstable form. (In most cases, the latter will be the case as BN would not likely do the former.)

    While you take a perfectionist view of a democratic system, you shall not forget that it is politics that ultimately makes up a government. You must allow the political process to run its own cause within the clearly spelled out parameters of our democratic system.

    Let’s be a little academic here. The people vote for the MP, not her party. Therefore we expect the MP to make her own judgement in exercising her freedom of association. And if her move is deemed unacceptable, the people shall vote her out the next round.

    As for your so-called “seat-buying through ministerial position in the new government”, can we take a slightly different angle and see it as “having more proper representation in the federal government”, in which case isn’t it amounting to fair political judgment on the part of those MPs who switch side? Now, this is purely hypothetical and speculative as we don’t have the actual details to analyse and comment on.

    For me, what is more important is the quality of the new government and who are selected into the cabinet. In this case, Anwar has already stated that Pakatan Rakyat is not in a hurry to form a new government with slim majority, as it would be weak and unstable. And this is a key point that shows the sincerity for reform, rather than thirst for power.

    “A dirty process”? I suppose with that term you imply that there are flaws in our current democratic system that need fixing? May I ask you to list and define them? That will be more constructive.

    I can’t help but to bring out a very fine piece of writing from Disquiet on this issue.

    I have certainly read Malik’s piece but remain unconvinced – just like I was not convinced by his legalistic argument on royal intervention into politics.

    If by ‘idealist’ you mean ‘naive’, I beg to decline your labeling. I am only tried to be principled because I have always condemned party hopping including those attempts at Perak and Selangor. One thing I learn from my personal struggle against BN’s rule is that I shall not become like them in practicing double standard. Allow my full reply next week. Thanks.

  2. Dear Chin Huat,

    This article you wrote should, in fact, sparks more debate about the current issue of political crossing-over / defect. Here i am offering my views…

    You said Anwar Ibrahim is a bit impatient of ‘seizing’ the federal power by luring defection from other side, which his side was used to go strongly against. However, whether is it seat-buying, unless you have evidence, i can’t say you are right on the motive of Pakatan Rakyat. Yes, you may damn some opportunistic politician who ‘betrayed’ his supporters who voted him/her in — what if, those politicians, who have the heart of conscience, knowing that there is no good future in the current BN system? Neither can they reform the system nor bring welfare to their people in their constituency through this already systematic corrupted adminstration. What if now they realize what is right to do and have changed their political beliefs ever since the 12th GE and hence abandon ideology of BN, for the sake of the reform agendas promised by PR which they see better fits for the people in this country? What if they have known PR would bring a better ‘bargain’ for the people especially from East Malaysia? Perhaps the Federal government would allocate more financial funding from the national treasury coffer to aid better development of their area (especially those rural poor area in East Malaysia)? You might want to consider upon many other possibilities that why such a stand will be taken by politician.

    Party-hopping sometimes means the dead disappointment or totally losing hope with one’s current party, and feels that what one is fighting for is no longer fits in this party. So, then why still stay in the party? Should elected representative has no freedom to advocate his new belief, quit the old and join the new party?

    Soon, the ruling party UMNO is likely to change the leadership, then Najib would come on stage. Don’t you worry if he would revert the country back to Mahathir-style-authoritarian state, and play greater cheats in General Election (like the case in Zimbabwe now) while retaining their notorious repressive system to crackdown democratic voices? wouldn’t that be more hurtful to PR and hamper the hopes of Malaysian people for Reformasi? You would probably expect Najib would do anything to manipulate the election before 13th General Election to favour his coalition’s survival, so where is the fair chance for PR to govern and bring in those much needed and hopeful reform agenda and policies?

    In my opinion, to right the wrongs and take the chances at this moment, for PR, is the most suitable timing (before Najib takes the reign). I must insist that they must reveal their governing policies, the candidates of PR’s cabinets, and how are they going to fulfil the reform agendas (especially on the Electoral reform), before they take over the government by this way. I sincerely agree with you, in future, to prevent this scenario from happening again, Election law should be amend, so that the incumbent MP who wants to resign and should be allowed to re-seek his mandate when switching side – this is the most ethical things to do.

    Right now, we still live in the imperfect world, i would rather to see the end justifies the means, as BN has cheated the people for so long. I hope that PR should have basic principles and ethics, and would not resort to offering money or any specific position to exchange of the defection of MPs. I also hope that the decisions from the defecting MPs must NOT base on their personal gains, but for their sincere new political beliefs, and for well-being and gains for all Malaysian!

    I shall reply next week. Stuck with other works. Thanks.

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