We need to ask ourselves whether we want to retain the old way of racial politics or imagine a new, inclusive one, says K Haridas.
Malaysians who vote this time will have to ask themselves if they want more of what they have seen over the last 33 years since the formation of the Barisan Nasional (BN).
One always felt that the evolution of the Alliance Party into the BN was a move forward. This brought in political parties that were avowedly non-racial in their orientation. Gerakan and the People’s Progressive Party may be viewed in this context. But the last 33 years has revealed that these parties have been equally swamped by ethnic politics.
We have had the New Economic Policy (NEP) as a positive discrimination policy aimed at bringing social justice. This was supposed to be a 20-year programme ending in 1990 but was reviewed as the New Development Policy maintaining the same ethos till today. I am not against the NEP and would agree that it has achieved a measure of success.
The dilemma is that the politicians who rode the tiger of the NEP are now unable to dismount. The continuation of such an emphasis is causing disquiet among sectors of the Malaysian community. This is because the NEP was ethnic in orientation and its aim was to disassociate race from economy. In solving one it has raised other issues.
Is it impossible that after 55 years of Alliance/BN rule that Malaysians cannot do what is right to serve the interests of poor and needy Malaysians irrespective of ethnicity? This would be our singular failure as a nation. Is race and ethnicity the only basis for justice or is justice the appropriate basis whereby we do what is right by all Malaysians? For those who feel that only through the ethnic platform can ethnic justice be dispensed, then they should cast their vote for the BN.
For those who think otherwise, what are the options? The reality is that those who are caught within the box of ethnicity cannot help themselves. They see this as the only possibility. They are unable to realise that out of the box are great possibilities. This calls for a change in mindset. Out of the box I see the other as another Malaysian. I want to address his needs based on justice for all Malaysians irrespective of race. This calls for hope, faith and trust. As Thomas Kuhn says, “All the significant breakthroughs were breaks with old ways of thinking.”
This new mindset offers a landscape that is fresh and vibrant. This calls for the capacity to transcend the ethnic divide and work for all Malaysians. This is what evolution is all about. This is the option that we do have in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition. While there may be a predominance of ethnicity in each of these parties separately none of them are championing purely ethnic causes. To see Malays espousing the DAP and Chinese Malaysians espousing Pas is a leap in mindset. This message is now resonating amongst a good sector of the Malaysian public.
Though the Alliance Party metamorphosised and became the BN, the BN has stagnated and not evolved. They could have become a multi-ethnic party that would have been able to respond to the needs of all Malaysians. But race has polarised them, preventing them from being progressive and responsive. Race continues to drag them down and they seem caught within their own paradoxes – the notion of 1Malaysia and Perkasa.
While the opposition coalition gives us hope and a landscape that is new and fresh the challenge remains whether we want more of the past or a future that could be different. After 55 years a change is now timely. Like all things change is risky. Fear is real. It is easier to deal with the devil that I do know than the saint that I do not.
We are a nation in transition. This is the time to hope and to make a choice for change. A strong opposition has made a difference in the last five years and a change now will enhance greatly the sense of democracy in our nation.
So as we look ahead let us also leave behind old mindsets and inspire the change that we so desire. If we live out of memory, we will be tied to the past but if we give our imagination an opportunity to create the future, we will reach out to infinite possibilities.