Ronald Benjamin hopes the PH leadership council will chart a political narrative of the centre with a broader perspective of justice going beyond race and religion.
The continual polemics among Pakatan Harapan component parties is self-defeating and leading them to the trap set up by Umno and Pas.
It does not augur well in terms of sustaining the coalition in the long run, so that the people can enjoy a governance that is distinct from its opponents.
The racial polemics by Bersatu leaders in competition with Umno and Pas will in fact polarise the nation further.
The arrest of social activists, the so-called Tamil Tigers saga and the continuous protection of Zakir Naik from extradition to India is a symptom of deep seated ethno-religious politics of a deep state.
It is sad that the current reforms undertaken by PH, such as empowering young people in the next general election and measures to combat corruption have been dwarfed by the politics of deception.
The latest incident of a particular menteri besar, alleging that he has been a lone wolf in standing up to the DAP on issues, to safeguard the rights of the Malays and their religion, shows that the current PH configuration has a problem.
If not managed well, it could turn into a full-blown crisis.
Since Bersatu is an ethno-religious party that is competing with Umno and Pas for its very survival, it has been cornered into ethno-centric polemics by the opposition – which will damage the coalition’s prospects in the next general election.
The overall scenario is obvious. PKR and the DAP are not race-based parties, unlike the MIC and the MCA.
PKR and the DAP have gone through trials and tribulations that have propelled its leaders to take a progressive stand on issues over the years.
In contrast, Bersatu leaders emerged from Umno and never went through those years of tribulation, except for a brief moment of combating kleptocracy.
The glue that brought the PH parties together was a common stand against kleptocracy – but this not enough to sustain a cohesive coalition.
Bersatu has taken over critical ministries, holding on to a conservative race ideology that is a direct contrast to the approach of PKR and the DAP.
If the leadership of Bersatu, together with its current coalition partners, is unable bring in a new narrative of Malaysia, based on integrity and broader justice, extremists will continue to hold sway.
Malaysians will also suffer from politics that lack concrete and substantive differentiation.
The issues facing Malaysia are not about a particular race, but inequality, corruption, extremism, relative poverty and religious fundamentalism.
There is a need for a distinctive political coalition that moves to the centre, where its effectiveness is not taken away by ethno-religious politicking.
The alternative would be for PKR and the DAP to form a new coalition – excluding Bersatu – with parties across the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak. This should provide an alternative and a direct contrast to the tribal-religous politics of Umno and Pas.
Such a contrast would ultimately compel Bersatu, Umno and Pas to move to the centre when it comes to the polls.
For example, in India while the BJP has a strong Hindutva ideology, current Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his predecessors moved to the centre during the general elections, knowing very well there were secular regional parties that it needed to collaborate with to form a government.
In the United States, there is a clear contrast between the Republican party, which has an ethno-religious centric element and the Democratic party, which has liberal and environmental credentials.
Both parties have a distinct character in politics but move to the middle ground during presidential elections to obtain the votes of fence-sitters who are less ideological.
Unless such distinct coalitions that are able to move to the centre emerge in Malaysia, the current political dynamics moving to the right will cripple the nation.
Hopefully, the PH leadership council will take heed of this contradiction within its coalition and start charting a political narrative of the centre with a broader perspective of justice going beyond the ideology of race and religion before it is too late.