The BN/PR challenge

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 If our politicians’ goal is to ensure justice for all, then they must use power to ensure that this objective is met in the interests of all Malaysians irrespective of ethnicity, writes K Haridas.

Many Malaysians who voted for the Barisan Nasional (BN) are today disillusioned. They did not vote for Umno, MCA, MIC, Gerakan, PPP or any of the other BN component parties. When they voted they put their “X” mark for the BN. But after decades of hoping that things would be different, what we get is more of the same.

Take the case of the appointment of the Chief Justice of Malaysia. This is a decision of Umno, not of the BN. Even when the ISA is exercised, this appears to be a decision coming out of Umno and not of the BN. There is very little discussion and agreement among the component parties. Unless this trend is arrested, many are going to be further disillusioned.

Umno may be the first amongst equals within the coalition and no one begrudges this position, but this cannot be at the expense of the coalition’s hopes and expectations. It is time that the BN becomes the party of identification, decision making with the constituent parties contributing to all aspects relating to the policy formulation and decisions.

Does BN represent the future?

Some are even claiming that a fraud has been committed on the electorate who have been regularly voting for the BN but have not had their views adequately represented. In reality, it is the constituent parties that are bigger than what the BN represents. Many constituent parties within the BN are now speaking of re-inventing themselves. Some are talking about re-branding.

Such attempts will not make a difference unless the overall structure and ethos within the BN is enhanced. Many vote for the BN and as such they want the BN representatives to have policy input in all areas from the Environment to Trade from Home Affairs to Foreign Affairs. All the re-inventing and re-branding at the constituent party levels can be akin to putting perfume on cow dung. When the smell of the perfume evaporates, what remains will yet be the cow dung!

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What the last general elections early this year and the ‘Permatang Puah’ verdict recently highlight is that there has been a shift in mindset amongst people of all ethnic backgrounds. Consider the analogy of two shops selling photographic materials. One sells the traditional films and cameras of high quality. The other is a digital shop that has the latest cameras, computers and the latest production methods.

However much the first shop invests in marketing and sales, promotions and gifts they represent the past.  Many of the enlightened customers today will respond to the technology of the future. No amount of investment and re-branding of the first shop will insure the shop from the changes that technology brings. If they do not embrace the change they will end up in the garbage heap of the past. It is the same with ideas and vision.

People are interested in the future. No amount of the same slogans will sustain the past. Who are those who are willing and brave enough to embrace the future? We cannot have 21st century problems being perceived by 20th century mindsets as Obama so rightly emphasises in his campaign. The same is also true for Malaysia. There is a dynamic at work and it is those politicians and political parties who are able to sense this and drive this forward who will shape the future of this country.


Can the BN re-invent itself?

We have to move beyond ethnicity. Our nation is rich enough to meet the needs of all but not the greed of any community. Unless we pull together in the same direction, in the same boat, we are not going to move forward or progress. The other strategy is to paint your cabin at the expense of the ship and this is a recipe for disaster. There may be short term gains but this will be in the context of the terminal illness that will ultimately consume those who propagate exclusive ethnic tendencies.

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I am not a supporter of Hindraf, yet, any politician worth his salt would clearly say that by banning this movement, you alienate a good segment of a Malaysian community. At a time when the strategy should be to win friends and to neutralise issues, our politicians are blind to the feelings on the ground. This is the state of the BN mindset. Those who express their views from within the BN are also ignored.

In the end, Umno is going to destroy the BN framework for there are no leaders within Umno who understand that change is needed. That is why the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is an alternative. Only when the BN goes into oblivion will they sit down and discuss the realities for change. This is not to say that the PR is a better alternative but the fact remains that their expressions are resonating more with Malaysians of all ethnic backgrounds.

The BN of the 1970s has to reinvent itself. Change is needed at this level and not at the constituent party levels. BN should increasingly be the party of policy and representation. For this to take place, all the constituent parties will have to sacrifice for the larger good. This is akin to individuals of all ethnic backgrounds who have to rise up to become Malaysians.

While change is constant, growth is an option and it is those who exercise this option for growth who will sense the future and contribute to the creation of structures and systems critical for the future of this multi-ethnic nation. In the Rukunegara and Vision 2020, we have the templates but these will have to be more than just slogans. These ideas will have to guide our political structures as well as our institutions as we shape these to meet the needs of the future.

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In the final analysis, if our politicians are engrossed with power then they will continue to manipulate the people. But if their aim and goal is to ensure justice for all, then they will use power to ensure that this objective is met to serve the interests of all Malaysians irrespective of ethnicity. Can the BN reinvent itself?  It is good that we have the Pakatan Rakyat to challenge them.

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