Friday, August 31, 2012

We Malaysian Have A Dream Time to realize the true dream of the founding fathers

Time to realize the true dream of the founding fathers Come on, Malaysia - RISE TO THE OCCASION

In this dispensation, those who see themselves as being responsible for winning elections have chosen not to involve themselves in the exercise of the mandate they have received, leaving it to a set of people who do not have a mass base and do not feel the compulsions of retaining power. Their power is artificially derived from within the party and their concern is thus largely internal. The arrogance that we see often in the way their spokespersons come across is not the arrogance of power, but the smugness of patronage untethered to any accompanying responsibility. Without any meaningful hierarchy in the administration capable of taking punitive action, and with little accountability to the power they possess, ministers are able to set personal agendas and build and defend territories. 
which is already going viral on the web, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah spoke in UK without fear, favor or shame. Note he is no ordinary politician; he is of a true-blue royalty lineage and also an UMNO veteran.In reading his Speech, Malaysians can easily relate with the many things he said. If we do not in unison cry out “I weep for you Oh Malaysia” while the politicians celebrate Malaysia’s 55th birthday, it would be a disaster compounded many times over.“It is time to realize the dream of Dato' Onn and the spirit of the Alliance, of Tunku Abdul Rahman. That dream was one of unity and a single Malaysian people. They went as far as they could with it in their time. Instead of taking on the torch we have reversed course.” he said.Now the question is what do we do next? Talk about it? Dismiss it? Or do we re-ignite that dream this Merdeka? And if so, how? Will the honorable Tengku take the torch in his hands and lead us on?
it was felt by many that UMNO the foundation build a more durable edifice of equitable growth. Look at it any way you like, but everyone engaged in political life ends up entangled in the coils of party politics.Can an election ever throw up the right candidate? Or to put it more moderately, is an election the mechanism best suited to throw up representatives that will strive to work for their constituents and attempt to better their life? Are there in-built into the electoral process, a set of imperatives that help pre-determine one kind of outcome, irrespective of the quality of the candidates? It seems like very long ago that the need the support of all party members that the upcoming 13th general election would determine Umno survival.
He also reminded them to learn from the experience of losing five states in the 2008 general election and not to repeat those actions that caused the loss. came back to power on the back of a lot of goodwill and with a lot of expectations.We, the people, are an eternal stalemate. We love confrontation and hate cooperation. Can’t we all just get along? Where would the fun be in that? Why would we watch? Why would we care? We’d much rather argue, and disagree, and scream at each other. It’s what makes this country great. Compromise is for wussies. We  can inherited a two party system, and were going to stick with it, as long as we never find out which side is right.
Najib appeal already four years (since the last general election)... there should be no more problems, the factors that work against the umno have been gaining strength as well. For the first time ever, it does look very possible that umnowill be voted out. no more finger pointing.enough is enough. Time to close ranks. Too much already been said, until foaming at the mouth.reminded party members that the upcoming 13th general election would determine Umno and Barisan Nasional’s (BN) survival.reminded them to learn from the experience of losing five states in the 2008 general election and not to repeat those actions that caused the loss.This sense of alienation has not diminished in the intervening years. On the contrary, more groups are showing open dissent againstUMNO
The Prince went on to also quote Albert Einstein, “The world is a dangerous place not because of people who do evil, but because of good people who look on and do nothing about it.”And so if we do not weep for Malaysia on its 55th Birthday of freedom and independence, we qualify ourselves for having contributed summarily for the nation’s failure. And are there any more people left in this country to weep, to be moved into action that can decisively put to immediate arrest of the rot that has seeped into the very capillaries, veins and arteries of nationhood?Can the Prince take on that leadership to combat his peers and opponents? Wiil the rakyat rise behind him like a fortress redefining the nation’s future? Will the rakyat rise up to the occasion?“Without a doubt, Malaysia is slipping. Billions have been looted from this country, and billions more are being siphoned out….” he lamented.“Actually much has also been stolen from you. Over the last twenty five years, much of the immense wealth generated by our productive people and our vast resources has been looted.”He has to be right. Yes, citizens have through various channels – the internet, blogs, opposition platforms, NGOs and Human Rights Associations and civil society, attempted to express their collective concerns. What awaited them were water cannons, brutal fists and horseshoes, and extreme fear intimidations.They were chastised as anti-nationals; as thugs; as provocateurs; as agents of the nation’s enemies holed up somewhere on planet earth.Sinking to the Myanmar, Cambodia & Philippines peer groupNow will the gentleman Tengku and veteran of the very political party that is seen as leading the pack of raider-wolves, then rise to the occasion and marshal all the corridors of principle-centered avenues to cease and desist all that has been going wrong for far too long and too much?“Today, according to the latest World Investment Report, FDI into Malaysia is at about a twenty year low. We are entering the peer group of Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines as an investment destination.” pointed out the leader.Tengku has confirmed the truth that the citizens have been trying in vain mourning over. Tengku, what can we do collectively for we have been speaking and hearing about these for far too long only to be ignored, lambasted, sidelined and proven to be stupidly wrong? Will you be where we want you to be so that we can do what needs to be done and done right away, rather than keep talking and keep hearing?Or are you saying that we cannot do anything now but have to wait another fifty years? But you also said, “It is time to wake up. That waking up can begin here, right here”.Arise, leaders - show the way out of the BN killing fieldsThe steps the Royal Prince has spelt out are and must become the piercing cry for the nation’s salvation.“Resist the temptation to say ‘in line with’ when we do something. Your projects, believe it or not, don't have to be in line with any government campaign for them to be meaningful. You don't need to polish anyone's apple. Just get on with what you plan to do.”Dear Tengku, are you willing to grip the baton of reform, take the lead and run that defining race to bag realizing the dream of Dato' Onn and the spirit of the Alliance of Tunku Abdul Rahman?
Or will you leave it to the weeping citizens to risk “crushed bodies and broken bones” and the civil society leaders to languish in jail before the spring of hope sets the nation free from the many atrocities you have spelt out without fear, favor or shame?Or would you rather conveniently leave it in the painful hands of our senior and national laureate Pak Samad and a woman like Ambiga to clean the killing fields?Where are your equals? Where are your brethrens in arms? Why are we hearing a deafening silence from the sanctified powers that be – if there are any still left given the cancer that has turned so rampantly malignant north, south, east and west of this blessed and endowed nation that the founding fathers safeguarded once before?Truth be told then that on this 55th Merdeka Day, citizens are indeed weeping.
Leaders, politicians (from all sides of the divide), payroll parrots of power, the thieves, the true anti-nationalists – all of them need to be told in no uncertain terms that this nation of citizens in the likes of the ordinary Ahmads’, Ah Kows’ and Muthus’ and East Malaysians included, are weeping.Our tears of sadness, helplessness, fears, pain are swelling deep in our hearts as we witness this Merdeka 55.
Winning elections requires a peculiar kind of race and community arithmetic, multiplied by financial resources and propped up by on-ground muscle. The reason why the incidence of criminality in politics has been such a visible presence is partly due to the fact there are great similarities between the two skill sets. It is easier for a local tough to become a politician than it is for a local schoolteacher, to use a crude stereotype, not only because it easier for the former to mobilise resources and numbers far more easily but also because the electorate sees more advantages in being represented by someone who can thump the table on their behalf rather than someone who is not seen to have a realistic chance of winning. 
 don’t want to see anymore politics of playing one against another and no more factions in the party, any more sulking and back-stabbing in the election campaign.The seductive lure of politics is based on power, said to be the most potent of all aphrodisiacs. Social activists and other public figures can command faithful followings and can hope to influence the course of events, but they cannot hope to control them. Control of what is to be and what is not to be comes only with power, the unavoidable path to which is politics. It has been said that if you scratch any public figure you will discover a politician lurking within. A variety of people who work for 'good causes' - be it environmentalism or the protection of human rights - secretly, or sometimes not so secretly, envy politicians, who can get things done which the moral crusader can only talk about. Like so many other professedly non-political personalities in the past - from godmen to movie stars, sportspeople to writers and poets - Anna and Ramdev seem to have learnt this lesson, even though belatedly. But as they say, better late than never.The prospect of winnability makes unsuitable choices rational, for it is seen to be smarter to align with those that could win rather than root for those that might act on one's behalf much more usefully if elected, but are seen with little real chance of doing so. Money is the other reason why only those that already have the ability or are able to generate it, are found suitable to be offered as candidates. The political system wards off change at the point of entry itself, by making the entry level conditions unsuitable for anyone but those that toe the existing line and play by the rules already laid down. The election requires that a large number of people exercise their preference for one candidate over the others on the basis of some knowledge and familiarity with the individual's previous track record, the party that he or she represents, the promises made, and the overall feeling of empathy and trust generated by the individual. Given the sizes of constituencies and the scale of the geographies involved, it is difficult for someone who is already not a visible presence in at least part of the constituency to mobilise adequate support. Chances are that the choices will veer towards those that already enjoy a measure of prominence and power in the area-If all the party members support the candidates chosen, it will be impossible for us to lose in the elections
 Moderates. What the hell happened to you? Where’d you go in all of this? What are you, afraidto be reasonable? The middle of the road has never been so narrow. Everyone’s loveable politically incorrect uncle is now just politically incorrect. From watching too much news. No one wants their politics in moderation. They want it full-on, fast and furious, loud and obnoxious, righteous and so effing wrong. So, how do you approve of something that doesn’t exist?
The prime minister said as an experienced and mature party, Umno should be able to resolve all its problems. the party wants winnable candidates, all (aspirants) will claim they are winnable candidates but actually, only half of them can win.UMNO strategists, using the party-controlled newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, and the affiliated right-wing group Perkasa, are working overtime to stop the dwindling of their Malay support base, and are doing all they can to portray the party as a fiercer ethnic champion than opposition Malay parties and leaders. So far, this seems to be alienating more middle-ground voters.Across the board at the moment, what Malaysians seem to be seeking is greater economic equality as well as an open and clean government. And yet, Prime Minister Mr. Najib Razak continues with micro-level vote-buying measures such as giving cash handouts to strategic groups at a time when the country is in great need of macro-level reforms.
The long years in power has also seen the BN generate its own worst enemies. Many leaders in the opposition were formerly from the ruling coalition, including former Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Anwar Ibrahim. Their experience in government has been serving as a much-needed reassurance to voters that the opposition is ready to exercise power efficiently, while their personal networks within the system has brought valuable information and understanding of the system that had previously eluded the opposition.The underlying assumption of elections is that every individual takes a personal decision, on the basis of the inputs received, to choose the person deemed suitable to represent his or her interests. The truth is in the Indian social construct, the individual does not necessarily act as a singular entity and is often inclined to act as part of a larger collective. This is true not only of elections, but of many other walks of life. The election is in some ways almost asking for people to find their own appropriate collective and to cobble together enough numbers so as to increase the bargaining power at their disposal. It is rational to do so, for otherwise every individual feels virtually no ability to influence the outcome. The middle class distrust of politicians is in part a sense of frustration with the electoral process. Part of the reason why visible outrage does not automatically translate into higher voting percentages is because the idea is laced with a sense of presumptive futility. It is also the reason why movements like the one led by Anna Hazare get traction; the apolitical nature of the struggle is found valuable. The disenchantment with the movement is in part due to its involvement in electoral politics; the paradox being that the impetus for change cannot succeed unless it becomes a variable in the elections but the very act of getting involved with anything to do with elections is seen as an act of contamination. Electoral reforms will help. But too much has to change before reforms by themselves can be effective. As a structure, elections cannot create intent; that must exist in the system. Without intent, the structure merely re-inforces and perhaps amplifies all that is already wrong. Even when elections are not rigged, in some ways they always are. If not by design, then by definition.

Previous opposition coalitions (in 1990 and 1999) were hastily formed during election time and they easily collapsed soon after. An alternative coalition that has been tested for more than four years, with that has gained substantial administrative experience in governing four out of 13 states is in itself a novel – and critical – factor.

While all the built-in advantages that favour BN in an election have not disappeared and those that remain will be put to full use in the electoral contest that is to come, the factors that work against the umno have been gaining strength as well. For the first time ever, it does look very possible that the old government will be voted out.
research has shown that it would encourage up to 33% of non-voters to use their vote. We feel it is important that our democracy allows people to positively vote where they feel there is not a wide enough choice of local candidate or those on the ballot paper all appear to be .Defeat is the distance between a bedtime story and a wake-up call. The former starts with ‘Once upon a time…’ and lulls the voter to sleep. The second is an energiser that addresses a fresh dawn.political parties have become victims of their own success: their narrative has run its course, and they have not been able to find a further chapter to their saga In electoral science, statistics are illustrative, interpretation is critical and everything is fluid. Politics is evolutionary, and evolution – even Darwin’s – is a theory, not a fact. No election is an echo of the past, let alone a mirror of the future.
The statistics of last general elections do not justify the self-evident depression that has overtaken The shock is that UMNO could not read the internal map of every constituency as well once it did. UMNO confidence lies in its brilliant management of the most important gene in democracy’s biology. It consolidated its vote,It may be difficult to deal with defeat, but the regret of a drowned dream is quickly overtaken by the compulsions of survival Umno must show that it is able to innovate at the local level.  An invention awaits the next genius: a camera that can photograph the mind. Television politics has become a screaming contest between politicians, perhaps because the camera has lost the art of stimulation. Since there is no hope of getting a different kind of politician, we need a different sort of camera. It will chase the mind for news.“Politics today is all about thoughts as besides having reacted swiftly and strategising, the people want to see its way of thinking as we are dealing with educated people and professionals who are exposed to all kinds of information. It is therefore utterly mystifying as to what has happened in recent memory has been under siege in such a relentless manner, and none has responded with such transparent clumsiness. What makes it particularly interesting is that the problems have come not from outside, but from within the administration first created problems for itself which it then magnified by its own mishandling. To top it all, it added to these formidable problems by making a spectacle out of the disagreements between its senior ministers and fashioning a poorly-scripted and unconvincingly-enacted compromise.

 It is clear that something fundamental has gone wrong, which makes the government incapable of dealing with complex issues meaningfully. It has been pointed out by several commentators that the deep design flaw in the model of governance used by this regime — the separation of power between the party and the government — is coming to the fore and playing itself out. The Prime Minister lacks authority without which he has no control over his ministers, who do pretty much as they please. As a result, the administration lacks a clear leadership structure and functions as a confused babble of vested interests, egos and animosities. There is much truth in this view, but the leadership model adopted creates an even deeper and more intractable problem.

In a democracy what makes an administration responsive to the needs of the people has much to do with the institution of power. Politicians turn into rulers, but only when they are given the power to do so by the electorate. Power has many problems associated with it and we are all only too familiar with the distortions that power can bring, but at its heart it is a self-regulating mechanism that acts as a surrogate for the will of the people and keeps politicians on a leash. Getting power requires a demonstration of concern for one’s constituency and whatever form that concern takes, it still ensures that there is a link between the rulers and the ruled, which when ignored can lead to the loss of power. Power provides a form of homeostatic calibration; it can be heady and sobering, energizing and frustrating. Its pursuit and exercise makes one act differently at different times — it adds shades of compromise when needed, provokes insincere contrition on occasions and once in a while compels deep introspection. It makes people fly briefly and fall spectacularly, stand firm and bend ingloriously. It is a hot, fluid vital force that is deeply responsive to the source that enables it. Power might magnify one’s sense of self for a while, but eventually it acts as a compass that helps ground one’s actions to something real.

The problem with the Congress today is that its administration has become divorced from the mechanism of power. When power comes from a clearly identified source and when its continuance is dependent on how well it serves the interests of those that elected him or her, there is always a need for the elected to keep the interests of their constituencies in mind. In the way the present government is constructed, governance has been detached from politics; real electorally-enabled power has been sucked out and retained with the family, which uses it selectively. What remains is administrative power shorn of political purpose which in turn becomes the discretionary property of individual the family performed both the administrative and political functions and was thus capable, in theory, of trading off needs of one against another when called upon to do so. 
The internal reading of the victory in the last two elections has legitimized the divorce of politics from governance. The belief that the constituency that wins elections can be managed largely outside the government, with the help of bodies like the MACC, makes it possible for the party leadership to take only occasional interest in the larger act of governance.
What the umno is effectively doing is to devalue power and in doing so, is perhaps gradually dismantling institutions that make democracy work. The problem is not the weakness of the Prime Minister alone, but the draining of the vital force that keeps governments on their toes and makes them answerable, however imperfectly, to the people who bring them to power. The problem with this government is not too much politics, but too little. 
This is the challenge for Umno.”Winning the young minds And while it could be a ton of fun to mock our chosen leaders and their never ending game of gridlock, I think this begs, on both its knees, another question. What does that say about us as an electorate? What is our approval rating? What is your approval rating?

The U.S. Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. What this nation needs now is separation of wealth and state.
Without such a protection, Americans stand to lose their democracy. They'll be ruled instead by an aristocracy of 1 percenters.
That's the 1 percenters' plan. To them, it was no more than a perk when the U.S. Supreme Court enabled politicians to open their wallets for unlimited, anonymous campaign contributions. That's because way before the 2010 Citizens United ruling, 1 percenters were working on a takeover. If the 99 percent don't stop them soon, don't establish some sort of separation of wealth and state, then the nation will lose its founding precepts -- that all men are created equal and that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Aristocracies can ignore the governed.
Already the 1 percenters have been extraordinarily successful. The rich really do enjoy advantages. They've succeeded in stuffing Congress with their peers. In America, fewer than 1 percent of all people are millionaires. In Congress, 47 percent are. The median net worth of a U.S. senator in 2010 was $2.56 million.
Those guys haven't experienced what it's like to try to pay a mortgage, fix the car and keep food on the table for the average household with a median income of less than $52,000. They're completely out of touch with the 50 million Americans who don't have health insurance.
In addition, the 1 percenters implemented a system to influence even those lawmakers who are not millionaires. It's called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Corporations and the rich, like the billionaire Koch brothers, give ALEC money, which it uses to write "model" legislation, like voter suppression laws. ALEC's lawmaker members, mostly conservative Republicans, pay dues of $50 a year. ALEC entices them to attend swanky conferences with freebies, like ALEC-paid hotel rooms, ALEC-paid plane rides and God knows what else ALEC-paid. Of course, those aren't bribes. But the free vacations may incline lawmaker members to introduce ALEC-written legislation.
ALEC is sly. It doesn't come right out and say its "model" voter identification laws are intended to suppress balloting by Democrats. ALEC contends they're designed to prevent voter fraud. Within the past two years, 10 states passed these laws.
But in-person voter fraud, the kind these identification laws are supposedly intended to prevent, barely exists. In the dozen years since 2000, only 10 cases occurred in the entire United States, according to a study funded by the Carnegie and Knight foundations.
That's one case for every 15 million eligible voters. By contrast, as many as 11 percent of eligible voters lack the government-issued identification these laws typically require. That's millions of disenfranchised people in those 10 states.
And studies have found that those people tend to be young, women, minorities, the elderly, low income, the disabled and more likely to vote Democrat -- if they could vote. In fact, a prominent Republican in Pennsylvania, the largest battleground state to have adopted a voter suppression law, admitted it. Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said passing the state's voter suppression law was an achievement for the GOPbecause it meant Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would win the state. That's a state where Democrats have a registration edge and Obama has a lead in polls.
That's how it's done. That's how the 1 percent creates an aristocracy for themselves. They make the wealthy few more powerful by buying elimination of that nettlesome one-person-one-vote democracy problem. The rich count more when the riffraff don't count at all.
A handful of one-tenth-of-one-percenters, including billionaires Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers, and hedge funders Kenneth Griffin, Cliff Asness and Paul Singer, will spend $500 million to install their chosen candidates in the White House. Adelson by himself is expected to give $100 million to elect Romney and Paul Ryan, one tenth of the billion the Republicans are expected to spend. That kind of money will buy Adelson a little more than a couple of overnights in the Lincoln Bedroom.
In addition to ALEC, these billionaires bought for themselves shadow parties, as writerMatt Bai described them in the New York Times. They fund groups like Club for Growth, which defeats Republican candidates they deem not conservative enough. They finance groups like Americans for Prosperity, which promotes ultra-conservative economic ideas.
They're willing to buy influence, but not pay taxes to support their country. The Ryan Roadmap budget would reduce millionaire Romney's tax rate from about 14 percent to less than 1 percent. And, for the 99 percent, Ryan would destroy Medicare as we know it.
In the early days of this republic, John Adams worried about the country creeping toward aristocracy. As he prepared to take the office of vice president, some leaders, including Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, argued that government officials should serve without pay. Here's what biographer David McCullough wrote about the incident in his biography of Adams:
"Were a law to be made 'that no man should hold an office who had not a private income sufficient for the subsistence and prospects of himself and family,' Adams had written earlier while in London, then the consequence would be that 'all offices would be monopolized by the rich; the poor and the middling ranks would be excluded and an aristocratic despotism would immediately follow.'"
Here's the difference between George Washington and John Adams. The general was a wealthy Virginia planter whose riches were made in part on the backs of slaves. Adams was a middle-class Massachusetts farmer who opposed slavery and never owned a human being.
Congress agreed with Adams. Aristocracy was forestalled. Today's middle-class farmers, mechanics and nurses now inherit that responsibility to separate wealth and state.Weak opposition pacts in the past helped BN cling to power
Opposition pacts in Malaysia—including the Gagasan Rakyat and Barisan Alternatif oppositional alliances cobbled together to fight the 1992 and 1999 General Elections often collapsed soon after despite making some gains. As James V. Jesudason argued very persuasively in his chapter “The Syncretic State and the Structuring of Oppositional Politics in Malaysia” in Garry Rodan’s seminal Political Oppositions in Industrialising Asia (1996), this was due to the “syncretic” nature of the Malaysian state.
He defined Malaysia’s “syncretic state” as “A product of a particular historical-structural configuration that has allowed the power holders to combine a broad array of economic, ideological, and coercive elements in managing the society, including limiting the effectiveness of the opposition as a democratizing force.” To my mind, this means that successive BN administrations continued the colonial British practice of “divide-and-rule”, whereby the various ethnic groups in Malaysia were kept apart politically, economically and socially. Whereas this was used by the imperial power to justify its presence, as a “honest broker” between the various races, it has been adapted by the BN to argue that its continuance in office as essential to maintain harmony between Malaysia’s ethnic groups, whose interests at times seem irreconcilable.
BN’s success can be attributed to their forging a syncretism in their style of government that was able to straddle these competing interests. They were able to squelch dissent by simultaneously using coercion such as the application of the now-dead and unlamented Internal Security Act (ISA) but also selectively co-opting oppositional groups like absorbing the opposition Malaysian People’s Movement Party (Gerakan) in 1969.
BN’s hold on power was also helped by the inability of Malaysia’s opposition parties to come up with coherent alternatives to BN’s syncretic state. First, because parties like the DAP, PAS and S46 were themselves largely composed along Malaysia’s ethno-religious lines, they could be portrayed as “extreme” in these matters compared to BN. PAS’ heartland was and is Malaysia’s rural Malay-Muslim communities, while S46 appealed to their urban counterparts. The DAP, whilst theoretically multiracial, was and is largely Chinese or Indian in composition. This meant that they could never command as large a vote bank as BN, whose emphasis on economic development and political stability had cross-ethnic appeal.  With the power of state patronage behind it, BN could effectively outbid all three parties in addressing ethnic aspirations, depicting itself as looking after the interests of all races.
Furthermore, the opposition’s very different ideologies meant that it was very difficult to form permanent alliances between them. As we know, two previous attempts to form an alliance, the Gagasan Rakyat and Barisan Alternatif,eventually collapsed after PAS and the DAP were unable to agree with the former’s quest to create an “Islamic State” in Malaysia. Jesudason argued that Malaysia’s opposition parties tend to withdraw to their own ethnic constituencies to shore up support after brief attempts at cooperation.
Umno unity shattered by Anwar's sacking
The very fact that Malaysia’s oppositional parties are primarily ethnic parties reinforces the notion of the syncretic state. Jesudason accused Malaysia’s opposition parties of doing nothing to close the ethnic cleavages that perpetuate BN’s rule by championing ethnic-based platforms. This in turn renders them vulnerable to BN’s practice of coercion and co-option. For instance, opposition leaders who question Malaysia’s constitutional settlements can be silenced via the various security laws. Conversely, the ruling regime can then win over Malaysians who may feel threatened by the perceived “extremism” of the opposition, for instance, non-Malays wary of PAS’ political Islam or Malays worried about DAP’s vision of a “Malaysian Malaysia”.
These factors, along with what Jesudason called the “enfeeblement” of class politics in Malaysia (i.e., the perceived pliancy of its middle-class) has conspired to prevent broad-based and permanent oppositional alliances against Barisan and perpetuated its power.
Subsequent events however have suggested however that Barisan’s “syncretic state” is breaking down. As Jesudason himself hypothesised but thought unlikely, Barisan’s hold on power would continue as long as its UMNO lynchpin was able to remain united, it’s governments able to manage Malaysia’s complex ethno-religious identities, as well as provide continued economic growth.
The record will show, however, that all of these contingencies have come to pass: UMNO’s unity was shattered (the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim and the spat between Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi), it lost its ability to deal effectively with Malaysia’s communal relations (the Hindu temple demolitions in Selangor, as well as the race-baiting against the Chinese Malaysian community by certain UMNO leaders) as well as the loss of performance legitimacy regarding the economy (the Asian Financial Crisis of 1998 and the subsequent, numerous corruption scandals). The rise of the social media also meant that BN could not present selective messages, at least to Malaysia’s urban middle-class, as effectively as it had in the past.
Regroup, rebuild
Reformist elements in the opposition, on the other hand, spent the years after their drubbing in the 2004 General Elections regrouping and rebuilding. The release of Anwar Ibrahim in 2004 and his recommitting of the PKR to a multiracial, “Ketuanan Rakyat” brand of politics gave the opposition a bridge that could unite both its secular and Islamist elements. Anwar’s adoption of ketuanan rakyat was also a turning point as it presented Malaysians with a Malay leader who had a vision for the country’s future that all communities could equally accept.
The DAP too, has and continues to make an effort to recruit not only technocrats (such as businessmen like Tony Pua and, more recently, academics like Ong Kian Ming), but also to try and shed perceptions that it is a “Chinese chauvinist” party and reach out to the Malay community. It has launched Roketkini, a Malay-language online news portal, as a companion to its already multilingual Rocket organ and has promised to field more Malay candidates in the next election. It is too early to tell if the Malay community will embrace these initiatives, but the unease by which they have been greeted by Umno suggests that it may not be completely futile.
PAS, too, has undergone remarkable changes. Whilst it’s harping on the Islamic State and imposition of the hudud laws did much to turn off non-Muslim voters in the past, its setting forth of its “Caring Nation” agenda which emphasises its interpretations of Islamic notions of democracy, good governance and development suggests that it is attempting to present an more universalistic, or at least nuanced version of its struggle. Furthermore, the fact that it’s technocratic (i.e., lay, non-ulama) “Erdogan” fact triumphed in its 2011 party polls and are now clearly driving the party also indicates that it is more responsive to the social changes in Malay society, which is rapidly urbanising and becoming more complex.
These internal changes have helped make cooperation more possible between the opposition parties where it once seemed remote. Furthermore, in response to Barisan’s use to race- and religious-baiting against them, all three parties need themselves now more than ever before: PAS “protects” PKR and DAP from accusations that they are seeking to overthrow Malaysia’s constitutional establishment, while the two nominally secular parties act as a guarantee that the former will not pursue theocracy unchecked. It can be argued therefore that Pakatan Rakyat is now forging a syncretism of its own to match BN’s model, which its predecessors lacked.
To survive, Pakatan must bring REAL change
This is not to say that Pakatan is without problems. It must in the time left show Malaysians that it has a coherent and viable plan not only to continue the country’s economic growth but also move its communal relations forward from its current atrophy. It is simply not enough for it to say: “Vote for us because we’re not Barisan.”
Moreover, the continued tensions, both within and between PKR, DAP and PAS over legacy issues like the hudud laws suggest that elements of its leadership and cadre are still vulnerable to the traps of the syncretic state. Pakatan must therefore show that it can also make difficult decisions from within—which its rivals in Barisan have hitherto avoided.
Pakatan must not only seek to win power, but also bring about substantive change to Malaysia’s political system. It has the historic opportunity to do so, but we also have to realize that this will be a long-term process and one which will require hard work rather than occur overnight.
Win or lose (and one has a feeling that, thanks to gerrymandering and the abuse of state machinery, we will see the status quo being repeated) in the next General Elections, Pakatan needs to stay together and make its alternative model to Barisan work. It has a historic opportunity, not only to bring down a long-ruling incumbent, but to also change the fact of Malaysian politics and society permanently.

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