On Friday, I attended a youth camp at Janda Baik and the topic I was asked to talk about was: “Is the idea of a Malaysian an empty dream?”
This was particularly pertinent, as only a week earlier, Pakatan Harapan was given a drubbing in the Tanjong Piai parliamentary by-election, where Pakatan Harapan not only lost the seat which it had clinched with a slim majority of 524 votes 18 months earlier in the 14th General Election, but lost it with a landslide majority of 15,086 votes.
If the Tanjong Piai by-election is a harbinger of the 15th General Election in 2023, then the Pakatan Harapan government would be a one-term government and would be voted out of Putrajaya in the next general election.
But do Malaysians want a return of the UMNO-BN government, which would come back under the guise of Muafakat Nasional with PAS, and the quandary of the country which resulted in the Pakatan Harapan loss in the Tanjong Piai by-election becoming the order of the day – the politics of race and religion taking to their extremity with both the Malays and non-Malays in fear that their rights, position and future are under unprecedented threat by other communities making the topic of the youth camp, “Is the idea of a Malaysian an empty dream?” a most prescient and relevant one!
The past week has revealed more about the mendacity and immorality of the previous kleptocratic regime, how the 1MDB audit report prepared for the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee was tampered by the former Prime Minister with the deletion of important information about the 1MDB scandal, like the presence of Jho Low at a meeting of the 1MDB Board of Directors and the financial status of 1MDB or the revelation in the trial of the former Deputy Prime Minister for bribery, criminal breach of trust and money-laundering that not one cent of the RM31 million in a foundation to help the poor was used to help the poor.
Is this global kleptocracy the type of governance Malaysians want to revert to or would Malaysia become ungovernable and the country’s fate is to be a failed, rogue and kleptocratic state?
I do not believe so.
Three recent events gave me hope for this belief, that the mission to be a Malaysian and wanting Malaysia to be a better nation – for which I had dedicated over 50 years of my life – is not a lost cause.
The first is the protest by University of Malaya undergraduate, Wong Yan Ker, at the risk of his engineering degree, at the university convocation to make the important point that Malaysia is a land for all Malaysians.
The second is the great selfless deed by National Audit Department officer Nor Salwani Muhammad who in 2016 helped to preserve evidence of tampering of the Auditor-General’s report in the 1MDB scandal.
The third is the function I attended last night – the 20h anniversary dinner of Malaysiakini celebrating the grit and gumption of a growing band of Malaysian journalists who spoke truth to power for two decades.
Is there hope for Malaysian nation-building, to go beyond the toxic politics of race and religion, and the cause to make Malaysia a top world-class nation of unity, justice, freedom, excellence and integrity?
My answer is in the positive.
Let us go back to Pakatan Harapan’s 14th General Election Manifesto – Buku Harapan which contained Pakatan Harapan’s promises to the people of Malaysia on the policies and actions that will be implement to REBUILD THE NATION and to FULFILL THE HOPES of the people.
As the Buku Harapan said its opening remarks:
“Since Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj proclaimed ‘Merdeka’ on 31 August 1957, our nation has been very lucky to have a multi-racial and multi-religious population who co-existed and live in peace and prosperity.
“It is with that realisation that the late Tunku read out the Proclamation of Independence that said this nation ‘shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.’;
“Guided by the desire to ensure liberty, justice, harmony, and peace, our country has been administered by a succession of leaders who had always put the country first.
“Since the time when we were fighting for our independence led by the religious scholars, the nationalists, and then continued by the administrations of AlMarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussein Onn, and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the vision of this country has always been to become a developed, independent and respected nation.
“Now, at a time when our country is facing with a corruption, malfeasance and kleptocratic crisis like never before, Pakatan Harapan is stepping forward to offer ourselves to save this country and return it to the correct path.
“Pakatan Harapan is determined to bring back the glory that we once enjoyed. Pakatan Harapan is determined to reclaim the pride of all Malaysians that has been sold and bartered away by UMNO and Barisan Nasional.
“Pakatan Harapan is determined to bring Malaysia to a new vision and then drive it back to a stage where we are once again the envy of the world.
“Pakatan Harapan is determined to stop UMNO and Barisan Nasional’s failure to guarantee the welfare of the common people, especially those who live in rural areas, the Indians and the indigenous people, as well as the lower middle class who are often forgotten.
“Our promises are for the 99 percent, and not just for the 1 percent cronies of UMNO and Barisan Nasional. We promise hope for all citizens, regardless of race and religion. We will stop the rot in key national institutions and we will return the rule of law by ensuring the independence and integrity of important government agencies.
‘We will cleanse Malaysia from corruption, malfeasance and kleptocracy, and at the same time drive a sustainable economic growth so that the benefits can be shared by all, not just by a few people in power.
“We offer leaders who are clean and committed to cleaning up this country from the rot, and leaders who are committed to helping people of all backgrounds.
“Our vision is a nation where the citizens are united in championing the fate of the Pribumi and all Malaysian citizens, so that the development and growth can be enjoyed by all in a fair and equitable manner, not monopolised by those who are only interested in enriching themselves.
“It is time for Pakatan Harapan and for all of us to reclaim this nation’s honour, rebuild this nation, and fulfil our potentials.”
It is time for Pakatan Harapan and all the four component parties to reaffirm the hopes and promises of Buku Harapan.
Pakatan Harapan received a thrashing in the Tanjong Piai by-election because the voters were disappointed by the record of Pakatan Harapan government in the last 18 months to implement the agenda for a New Malaysia in the 14th General Election Manifesto, and what is worse, the belief that the Pakatan Harapan government in Putrajaya had gone back to the bad old ways of the previous Barisan Nasional government.
They were wrong, but Pakatan Harapan failed to communicate and to convince them that their disappointment and disillusionment while understandable were completely misplaced and that Pakatan Harapan remains as committed as ever in resetting the nation-building process to build a New Malaysia and is making progress in this direction.
The Economist, at the end of last year, named Malaysia together with Ethiopia and Armenia in the three-nation finals list in its “ovation country of the year 2018” – for Malaysian voters who “fired a Prime Minister who could not adequately explain why there was US$700 million in his bank account”.
In July this year, the Economist expressed its disappointment with the pace of reform and said: “If PH does not get the economy going, it may wind up in opposition for a few years; if it does not refurbish Malaysia’s democracy, it may be out of office for a generation.”
Malaysia is at the crossroads – to move forward to be a top world-class nation with an inclusive nation-building policy leveraging on the best qualities of the diverse races, religions, languages and cultures or to be relegated to the trajectory towards a failed, rogue and kleptocratic state obsessed by divisive and intolerant race and religious politics.
Malaysia made a good start in the last 18 months to build a New Malaysia where Malaysia can become a top world-class nation.
The PH had made several good and important appointments to pave the way for far-reaching institutional, political and democratic reforms for a New Malaysia, including:
The PH has amended the Constitution to lower the voting age from 21 years to 18 years although an amendment of the Constitution to fulfil the PH Manifesto pledge to restore powers to Sabah and Sarawak was defeated for lack of two-thirds parliamentary majority.
The long-awaited IPCMC Bill has been referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee which had conducted country-wide townhall meetings and is awaiting passage in the present parliamentary meeting.
But more must be done.
572 days after the historic change of government of May 9, 2018, it is time for a major review of Pakatan Harapan promise of a New Malaysia and 14th General Election Pakatan Harapan Manifesto.
The Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council had set up a review committee for the 14GE PH Manifesto. There is greater urgency and imperative for this committee to speed up and complete its task.
Let PH be frank with the people and admit where we have promised the impossible for I believe Malaysians will appreciate our frankness with their support and confidence largely intact.
We must convince our core supporters that the trajectory towards a New Malaysia is on track, and that the five pillar- promises towards the building of a New Malaysia, as contained in the 14GE Pakatan Harapan election manifesto remain our lodestar and guiding principle.
The five pillar-promises of a New Malaysia are:
There is also a need to review the modus operandi of Pakatan Harapan and the four component parties.
The Pakatan Harapan parties and leaders must develop a Pakatan Harapan mindset and approach to the nation’s problems.
Pakatan Harapan achieved the impossible in carrying out a peaceful and democratic transition of power on May 9 last year – the first time in six decades – because Pakatan Harapan avoided the extremes of hate and intolerance of the politics of race and religion and catered to the appeals of moderation, tolerance, harmony and Malaysian unity in the centre.
We were confident that those who preached hatred and intolerance belong to a minor fraction of the population while the middle ground of the rational, sane and moderate represent the overwhelming majority of Malaysians regardless of race and religion.
In the past 18 months, we deviated from the moderate centre, seeking to compete and better those who resort to hatred and intolerance in the politics of race and religion.
As a result, Pakatan Harapan has fallen between two stools – we lost the Malay and non-Malay ground for contradictory and opposite reasons.
Pakatan Harapan must return to the moderate centre and not compete with the advocates of hate and intolerance who are in the margins of society in the politics of race and religion.
The modus operandi of the component parties in the Pakatan Harapan must also be reviewed.
DAP, for instance, has been accused of not speaking up for the people when it was formerly a leading voice of society.
There is no change in the commitment of DAP and its leaders in the past 18 months to their principles and objectives, as in the first 52 years of DAP’s existence.
The difference is that the DAP was in the national opposition in the first 52 years while it became a part of the Pakatan Harapan national coalition in the past 18 months.
Although DAP and its leaders did not agree with various Federal Government policies and actions, they tried to channel their disagreements through the government sources but this was regarded as timidity or abandonment of principles and objectives.
A new balance will have to struck between maintaining solidarity and discipline of Pakatan Harapan and articulation of principles and objectives by individual component parties which are not yet common Pakatan Harapan policies.
I do not agree for instance with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s expression that the Pakatan Harapan’s Manifesto is not a “bible”, or with the “flying car” proposal as a government project or the detention of 12 Malaysians for alleged links with the non-existent Tamil Tigers Liberation Front.
We have to find ways whereby leaders and activists in the component parties in Pakatan Harapan can voice their dissent from existing government policies and measures without being seen as Opposition-minded or motivated by an ulterior objective to bring down the Pakatan Harapan government.
We want Pakatan Harapan to succeed to bring to fruition the agenda for a New Malaysia and the fulfilment of the Malaysian Dream where every Malaysian, regardless of race or colour, finds common Malaysian ground with other citizens, although we retain our separate identities in ethnicity or religion.
The alternative is too dire to consider – as it would involve the death of the Malaysian Dream and a sad and heart-aching end to Malaysian nation-building.
Finally, let me declare that DAP will not become a MCA2 or Pakatan Harapan become BN2, for the simple reason that DAP and Pakatan Harapan are committed to the agenda to reset nation building policies to build a New Malaysia – objectives which the MCA, UMNO, Barisan Nasional and Muafakat Nasional are opposed.