Citizens’ Declaration not a ‘game-changer’

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The real game-changer would be a civil society movement that compels the opposition parties to discuss and formulate a joint position on several critical issues, says Jeyakumar Devaraj.

I would agree that removing Najib is a good thing for the Malaysian polity even if a corrupt Umno leader takes over as prime minister – because Najib has now become toxic to the political system.

His attempts to cover up his misdeeds will further weaken our already weakened institutions and reduce the separation of powers. Bank Negara, the attorney general’s chambers, the police, the MACC, the media, etc are at risk.

And as we have seen from the Mahathir era, weakened institutions (eg the judiciary) remain weak for decades! So removing Najib is important for us.

But the method – an opportunistic even cynical alliance with the old guard and elements in Umno – who have their rich history of corruption cronyism and racial politicking – is hardly a game-changer by any stretch of imagination.

To me, the real game-changer would be a civil society movement that compels the opposition parties to discuss and formulate a joint position on the following six issues:

  • Persistent poverty among the rural Malays. Specific programmes to overcome this.
  • Urban poverty.
  • Our position on neoliberal macro-economic policies. Health tourism, private education at tertiary level, public transport. Can we agree on a programme of social protection? What would that be?
  • The form of Islamisation that is acceptable in a 21st Century multiracial society.
  • The tendencies towards corruption within the opposition. A better system to manage political funding.
  • Democratising the opposition coalition. Getting the top leadership to conform to democratic norms.
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Moving forward on these items would pave the way for constructing a more mature and robust opposition coalition. That could be termed a game-changer.

Not these shortcuts that do not address fundamental issues that will repeatedly lead to a breakdown of the coalition when challenged by ethnic and religious controversies. It happened with the Semangat 46 coalition, the Barisan Alternatif, the Pakatan Rakyat. And we want to cobble together another opportunistic coalition?

Let’s work on something that is more lasting based on a firmer foundation of better consensus on crucial issues as listed above.

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