Isn’t it too early for a new ‘Pakatan’?

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Photograph: themalaysianinsider.com

Perhaps less formal, not so tight structures where the various actors can meet and coordinate action bilaterally and multilaterally might be more suitable, says Jeyakumar Devaraj.

The Malaysian opposition is in deep trouble, and the sooner we recognise this, the more time we will have to fix the problem.

The next general election may not be as far away as 30 months from now. No doubt, the Barisan Nasional advisors will be pushing for a general election within six months of persuading Najib to go on retirement so as to give us (the Malaysians desiring political change) as little time as possible to settle our internal problems.

The Pakatan Rakyat has fallen apart quite acrimoniously. We need a new political formula to continue battling the BN – to govern the states which the PR won in 2013 and to work together for the 14th general election.

I am not quite sure that a ‘replacement’ Pakatan is what is best for us now. For the Pakatan structure is quite formal – a party has to be either in or out. Put plainly, it either has to be Amanah or Pas. All the other parties have to choose between the two if we adopt the ‘Pakatan’ structure.

I certainly am disappointed with the manner the Pas ulamas fell for Umno’s trick and pushed on with their hudud agenda without consulting the rest of us. I tried to initiate a discussion with Hadi Awang to address some of his misconceptions regarding the PSM, but failed to get any response from him.

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But I do not think that these are sufficient reasons to write off the whole of Pas or to consider them our enemy No. 2 after the BN.

There are many branch members of Pas whom I have worked with these past 16 years in Sungai Siput. Many of them are grassroots people – the Marhein that my party believes in working for. Many of them have stayed on in Pas instead of crossing over to Amanah. They are still my friends, and I believe we have to work with them.

Many among them believe in better governance and in eradicating corruption. They remain opposed to ethnic politicking; they agree that the poor of all ethnic groups should be helped; and they are against economic policies that burden the poorer half of society. These are points upon which we can build a common political programme that can take our country forward.

We must differentiate between some elements in the current top leadership of Pas and the rank-and-file Pas members throughout the country who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in the anti-ISA campaigns, the Bersih gatherings and in the anti-TPP demonstrations. I have some serious points of difference with the former, but am not prepared to reject outright the latter group.

So instead of plunging in headlong to the building of another Pakatan structure to replace the Pakatan Rakyat (and in that process making the whole of Pas our enemy), some time should be spent discussing whether there are alternative formats for political parties and the NGOs to work together.

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Perhaps less formal, not so tight structures where the various actors can meet and coordinate action bilaterally and multilaterally? Look, the political situation has changed quite markedly. Isn’t it possible that the best format for working together is now different?

I know there are certain people who are arguing that Pakatan Harapan will come out tops in any three-corner electoral contest between Pas, Amanah and Umno. So they believe that Pakatan Harapan can afford to take a hard line against Pas. They argue that the non-Malays voters would choose Amanah over Pas and Umno.According to them, in a seat with 30 per cent of non-Malay voters, Amanah would only need to win 14 per cent of the Malay votes to be able to win in a three-corner contest.

This is a simplistic and unrealistic analysis.

Firstly, not all non-Malay votes will go to Amanah. In the Teluk Intan by-election for example, about 33 per cent of the Chinese voters and 50 per cent of the Indian voters voted BN. In the seats in Perak which saw Pas fighting Umno in the 2013 general election, Pas only got about 42 per cent of the Malay vote. It is far more likely that Umno will be the beneficiary of three-corner fights involving Pas, Umno and Amanah.

I would urge NGOs and civil society groups to weigh in on this debate. We all have a stake in it. If we do not play our depleted cards the best we can, the BN might win back a two thirds majority in Parliament in the next general election. That would augment their arrogance and lead to even more abuse of power and misgovernance. That would be quite painful!

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On the other hand, it is still possible to deny the BN a two thirds majority in Parliament and maybe even win states Governments in Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Johore if we can avoid ruinous three-corner contests among opposition parties. But we have to play our cards right!

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