By Charles Chia
I was dismayed when Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman announced his withdrawal from the “unity government” bloc.
In the compelling manner characteristic of Syed Saddiq, he made a “very principled” speech, directly criticising Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim “for abandoning reforms” and then declared that he would be the “third force”!
As a result of his withdrawal, the unity government lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament. This should not, hopefully, hinder the passing of reformist laws.
Holier than thou
While it is Syed Saddiq’s prerogative to choose to be independent and to exit the government bloc, is this the appropriate stance at this juncture? Is his withdrawal in the best interests of the nation and of his Muda party?
The manner in which he quit smacks of self-righteousness and a “holier-than-thou” arrogance. It is a disappointing move coming from the founding leader of Muda, which shares a programme similar to that of Pakatan Harapan, which helms the unity government.
Like debilitating diseases, corruption and poor governance have infected Malaysia until now. “Frog jumping” (political defections) engendered political instability. Stale politicians overstay their welcome and stir up strife. Muda is, for many, a glimmer of hope in a sea of darkness.
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The formation of Muda was such a welcome breath of fresh air! They were a new brand of politicians – young, dynamic and articulate. Muda captured the imagination, assuming the role of a reformist party, alongside PKR and its partners in PH.
Unfortunately, Syed Saddiq’s moves since the recent six state elections reveal a lack of tactical shrewdness. His biggest mistake is to alienate himself from PH supporters who are also Muda’s supporters (present or potential).
Unity government failed?
Saddiq declared that the PH-led unity government under Anwar Ibrahim has failed to honour its election promises.
What evidence is there and who does he intend to convince? Among Anwar’s supporters, many wish that reforms could be pushed through more quickly, and many do not fully agree with some of his decisions.
For all that, Anwar’s commitment to bringing the ailing nation back on its feet is beyond doubt for friend and foe alike.
It is as plain as day that he is doing his level best to juggle with the given situation for a semblance of unity, a prerequisite for reform.
The anti-corruption drive is well en route, and so is the needs-based poverty alleviation programme.
The Madani (civil and compassionate) economy is being sculpted by means of various reforms.
Anwar has shielded the precious multi-ethnic tapestry of Malaysia from the harrowing hailstorm whipped up by the “green wave” politicians. For the first time in decades, there are tangible signs of healthy governance.
Criticism is welcome but it is pompous for Syed Saddiq to imply that he (or anyone else for that matter) can do better givenr the present constraints. The last thing we should do is to pull the carpet from under Anwar’s feet.
Third force politics does indeed have a place in any political system. Emerging organically from the socioeconomic and political environment, it is defined by a culture and strategy that is different in essence from the two existing blocs.
But how is Muda’s political programme different from PH’s? As an opposition, what alternative policies can Saddiq propose, apart from hooking up with the Pas-Perikatan Nasional bloc to attack the unity government? That would be such a shame and misalignment of talent.
Our young vanguard must recognise that it takes commitment to be a third force. Muda has that potential, but there is also much room to grow, to evolve and to mature.
Before Muda can take on PH, it will have to come up with a viable alternative in policies and demonstrate leadership that can draw its own electoral support.
Otherwise, calling itself the third force rings hollow. It takes more than impassioned speeches in Parliament to bring about reforms in the country.
Bide one’s time to strike
韬光养晦 tao guang yang hui is a Chinese saying which means “lie low and bide one’s time to strike”.
A young and weak dragon, as the saying goes, should lie low in the field without its head exposed. When it is powerful and full of vigour, it should roam the skies and bring benefit to all the people. As for an old dragon, it should know when to quietly withdraw from the scene.
Muda has to find its positioning, restrategise and relook at its priorities. Instead of being caught up with electoral politics, dissipating its energy and financial resources by losing all the seats contested, Muda should concentrate on building up its rank and file. A leadership core that is dedicated to a common ideology and in for the long haul is crucial.
Muda’s biggest asset is its youthfulness, and time is on its side. Muda aspirants need to mingle with the common people to know first-hand the problems that they face. This process will heighten their political awareness. Without feeling the pulse of the people, how can they prescribe solutions that will effectively cure the country of its ills?
Rome not built in a day
A person who has been through the mill will not easily dismiss Anwar’s struggle for reform with a single stroke. Anyone with experience in a social movement is, on the contrary, humbled by Anwar’s visionary grit and endurance.
I actually harbour high hopes for the role Muda can play in Malaysia. Syed Saddiq is a gifted orator, but he has made some serious faux pas. He does not see the ‘big picture’ and cannot discern ally from adversary. Unless he sharpens his political acumen, he may end up a mere political performer instead of a political reformer.
Charle Chia is a committee member of Monsoons Malaysia