The pressure from ordinary educated citizens who have their feet firmly planted in reality and its complexities will force Pakatan Rakyat to reassess its relevance and work towards cohesiveness, says Ronald Benjamin.
The clamour for change in Malaysia among the educated and human rights activists In Malaysia seems to be going through an impasse. The new politics feels to be a distant dream when one looks at the crisis that is enfolding in Pakatan Rakyat, especially the way the Menteri Besar crisis in Selangor was handled.
If there is such a big problem even in agreeing on a Menteri Besar, what about the position of Prime Minister and the cabinet ministers if Pakatan comes to power? Will there be infighting for these positions due to failure in addressing what constitutes a cohesive government? Is this not the reason why Pakatan has not formed a shadow cabinet in parliament?
One of the important factors that one has to understand is that there is always a distinction between the aspiration for change and the typical political players entrusted to bring about the change. The inability to distinguish between these two elements is one of the greatest drawbacks for those who aspire for change to the political scenario in this country.
There is a tendency to bring a theoretical or ideological concept in interpreting reality to suits one’s political or social inclination, while failing to see reality as it is. Reality is full of contradictions and deep- seated ideological chasms that make any implementation of a vision of governing a difficult task.
The failure to holistically comprehend the reality of what Pakatan Rakyat is all about in terms of its capability of governing Malaysia in a cohesive manner has not been properly analysed by certain agents of change in this country. Good governance cannot be based on mere idealism communicated during elections; it requires leaders who are capable of liberating themselves from simplistic ideologies and tackling reality as it is, cohesively.
In a cohesive coalition, ideologies like an Islamic state or Malaysian Malaysia would be transformed into a coherent vision of substance that would address history as well as the reality of the social, political and economic landscape. Religion would be put in practice in terms of practical significance by balancing form with substance without fearing the loss of identity.
The reality is, Pakatan Rakyat is basically a loose coalition of high ideals for change – but it does not have a cohesive governing vision to bring about the ideals into reality. Evidence that it lacks a cohesive vision is Pas’ insistence on implementing hudud law in Kelantan.
Pas is also going through an identity crisis. It feels it is not as dominant as Umno and is being dominated by the PKR and the DAP. It is basically struggling with its Islamic Ideology as to how far it is willing to compromise to be in a coalition since it has declared itself a far more Islamic alternative to Umno.
The understanding of democracy is also a problem: there is confusion between meeting the aspirations of the electorate and pleasing the Palace. Issues of nepotism and unhealthy factionalism have derailed the integrity of PKR and the DAP, which brings into question the deeper dimension of the ability of these parties to govern with cohesiveness and integrity.
It is therefore vital for human rights advocates and agents of change to distinguish between great idealism and reality. Substantial changes will only come when there is greater empowerment of a multi-ethnic grassroots citizens’ base that shares a collective consciousness and a common experience. NGOs and agents of change must spend more time empowering ordinary people on reality as it is and on what can be done to bring about change rather than depending on or aligning with any political parties.
The pressure from ordinary educated citizens who have their feet firmly planted in reality and its complexities will basically force Pakatan Rakyat to reassess its relevance and work towards cohesiveness.
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