Agenda Daily


While members of the ruling coalition, especially Umno, are busy indulging in mudslinging,finger-pointing and the like, the Opposition has come up with a new grouping. If proven to be viable, it will pose a far more serious threat to the BarisanNasional not as far ahead as the next general election but in the near term even. In the meantime, we all watch and worry relentlessly.


WHILE THE BARISAN NASIONAL (BN) COMPONENT parties, in particular Umno, are bogged down in postelection mudslinging, their victorious opponents are continuing to push the boundaries.

On April 1, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (Pas), the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the People’s Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat or PKR) announced the formation of the BN-like coalition called Pakatan Rakyat or People’s Alliance.

The formation of the coalition was announced in Kuala Lumpur at a joint Press conference attended by the PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and PAS President Datuk Abdul Hadi Awang. Also present was the new Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is PKR president and Anwar’s wife.

Anwar said leaders of the three parties would bring the agreement back to their members for approval, adding that the alliance would hold its inaugural conference after getting the endorsement.

’Pakatan Rakyat pledges to uphold the rights and interests of all Malaysians as enshrined in the

Constitution,’ said Anwar.

With that, the governments of Kelantan, Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor would be known as

Pakatan Rakyat state governments.

In the March 8 polls, the coalition, which was described as syok-syok saja – just for fun – by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, won 82 parliamentary seats, thereby depriving the BN of its two-thirds majority for the first time since 1969.

But it promises to be a long, difficult haul for the three ideologically opposing parties. Unlike the original members of the BN — the United Malay National Organisation (Umno), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), which traced their common origins to the formative years of the independence struggle in the mid-1940s — Pakatan Rakyat’s three component parties are diverse.

They cannot be more different from each other in their founding, ideologies and policies. They have been until now united only by the common enemy they face – the BN.

Pas was founded in 1955 to contest that year’s Malayan Legislative Council election, although its origin dates back to 1948 with the formation of the Parti Orang Muslimin Malaya ( Hizbul Muslimin). But Hizbul Muslimin was soon banned by the British on allegations that it had links with the banned Malayan Communist Party.

Many early leaders of Pas were disgruntled Umno religious leaders who left the nationalist party after failing to make it more Islamic.

The DAP is an offshoot of Singapore’s People’s Action Party. The PAP contested a number of seats in Peninsular Malaysia in the 1964 election and won a solitary seat in Bangsar.

When Singapore was ejected from Malaysia in 1965, most Peninsula-based PAP members decided to remain with the original party. Those who decided to continue the party in Malaysia formed the DAP in October 1965 and received registration on March 18, 1966.

In its original form, the party, via the 1967 ‘Setapak Declaration’ pledged that it would be ‘irrevocably committed to the ideal of a free, democratic and socialist Malaysia, based on the principles of racial and religious equality, social and economic justice, and founded on the institution of parliamentary democracy’.

Although it was intended to be a multi-racial socialist party, over the years, it degenerated into a Chinese-based party with minority Indian and Malay representation. In recent years, its Malay caucus has almost been non-existence.

Parti Keadilan Nasional (The Justice Party) was borne out of the Reformasi movement that championed Anwar’s cause, following his sacking as Deputy Prime Minister and Umno Deputy President in 1998.

It drew its initial membership from among Anwar’s followers in Umno and the liberal-minded multi-racial social activists and intelligentsia. It later merged with Parti Rakyat to assume its current name, PKR. Via the recent general election, however, PKR has become a broad-based multiracial party with little by way of ideology.

A rough parallel can be drawn between PKR and the now-defunct multi-racial social democratic Parti Keadilan Masyarakat Malaysia (Pekemas).

Building new alliances

IT will take more than the amiable Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, attending Prophet Mohammad’s birthday celebrations and the Pas parliamentarian, Khalid Abdul Samad, entering a church to thank Christians for supporting the Opposition, to build the new alliance.

Whereas the original member parties of the BN – Umno, MCA and MIC – had thrashed out their differences and entered into a contract as early as 1956, when Malayan independence was negotiated and agreed upon, Pakatan Rakyat members are only taking baby steps.

The outcome of the March 8 polls offered the Opposition parties the best chance ever to prove to the multi-racial voters that they can offer a viable, long-term alternative to the BN.

Their chances of making it work cannot be underrated, given the fact that the alliance was formed on the basis of the strong electoral performance of its members.

This makes the alliance genuine and as such more viable. Having proven that the three-way electoral pact worked, they were naturally encouraged to formalize the arrangement.

This they had to do quickly to dispel the notion that their collaboration was temporary and opportunistic in nature. The next big challenge is to convince Malaysian voters that they are serious about positioning themselves as the viable long-term alternative to the BN.

And if Anwar is successful in persuading BN parliamentarians to cross over to Pakatan Rakyat — a possibility that cannot be dismissed no matter how remote — the unthinkable may happen.

Pakatan Rakyat may replace the BN sooner than expected.

PKR Vice-President and the new Gombak Member of Parliament, Mohd Azmin Ali, had on April 5 claimed that Anwar was close to persuading up to 30 BN members of Parliament ‘to reject the leadership of the Prime Minister’.

Given the flurry of activities among top Umno leaders in recent days, Azmin’s defection claim could have some basis after all.

At the very least, there is the possibility of some BN parliamentarians, in particular, those from Sabah and Sarawak, voting with the Opposition on crucial motions and issues when the Lower House begins its sitting later this month.

Of sabotage and misplaced trust

FOR Umno, the trauma of the March 8 polls debacle has turned into a complicated malady that it is poorly prepared to face.

Thus, it took the embattled party President and Prime Minister nearly a month before he was prepared to announce, albeit tentatively, the reason for the party’s debacle — sabotage by party members.

Speaking to the Press after the April 6 meeting with the party’s divisional leaders in Kuala Lumpur, Abdullah said Umno’s defeat in 14 ‘safe’ Parliamentary and 22 state constituencies in Kedah and Perak was due to sabotage by members.

Abdullah said analysis by the party classified some of the 14 seats as ‘white’, meaning safe, which should rightly be won by Umno candidates.

The Prime Minister also singled out 22 state seats in Kedah and Perak as being the target of sabotage by party members.

Ironically, he conveniently left out his home state, Penang, Selangor and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur that also fell to Pakatan Rakyat.

This led observers to conclude that Abdullah was influenced by inaccurate feedback by the divisional leaders, many of whom had lost the March 8 contest, and by his own disappointment that many of his handpicked associates had lost in the two states.

These include his senior political secretary Datuk Othman Desa in Sik and the Putera Umno Chief, Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, in Baling, both in Kedah, and Umno Treasurer Datuk Azim Zabidi in Bukit Gantang, Perak.

Unrepentant, Abdullah went on to sternly warn that disciplinary action would be taken against those guilty of sabotaging the party and that he would not be cowed into resigning.

Abdullah’s conspiracy theory was rendered even more incomprehensible when, the following day, his loyal deputy Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Abdul Razak said the party did not have definite proof concerning the identities of members who were accused of sabotage.

What was known, said the Deputy Prime Minister and Umno Deputy President, were allegations that certain party members had been involved in sabotaging the party at the polls.

‘We heard stories from members and candidates who lost, but these are not enough to initiate disciplinary proceedings against any member. They could be carried out only if there are written complaints to the Disciplinary Committee,’ he said.

He went on to urge members to come forward to make formal reports so that action could be taken.

Although he alleged members of sabotage, Abdullah declined to elaborate when asked by the Press, saying that he did not have to state reasons for their betrayal.

Ironically, while he declined to elaborate on this very serious allegation against party members, he took time to chide the critics of his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, as being extreme and prone to making allegations.

It appears that the initial findings of a top-level Umno mission sent to the states have not been positive.

At the time of writing, the consensus that emerged from its meeting with divisional leaders in Kedah and Penang on April 10 is that the Prime Minister has lost the confidence of the party and should resign as soon as possible.

The choice for Umno and the BN, thus, is a difficult one. It’s not quite a Hobson’s choice, but one way or another, they have to decide fairly quickly and decisively between the Prime Minister and the survival of the party.

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