For now, Malaysia has no opposition - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, May 19, 2018
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | So, do we finally have a two-party system? No, we don’t. “We were too drunk on our own Kool-Aid, and this is a sobering lesson for us which we'll remember for the rest of our lives." - Khairy Jamaluddin, member of the opposition
COMMENT | As someone who took a big gulp of Kool-Aid and wrote this, I’m thankful to de facto
PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim who reminded us that one election does not a
democracy make. One wonders though when the circus of 1MDB issue peters
out, what kind of bread would be offered? So, do we finally have a two-party system? No, we do not. Not in the
kind of way that an egalitarian Malaysia needs. As someone who has spent
a great deal of time and effort promoting that line of propaganda – the
many emails from Malaysiakini readers reminding me that it was
propaganda is testament to my doggedness in pursuing an objective, I
suppose - I have to concede when I am wrong. Malaysia has no real
opposition, hence there is no two-party system. Not yet.
Malaysiakini columnist Nathaniel Tan may call the current opposition ineffectual,
but it amounts to the same thing. We have currently no opposition to
the Pakatan Harapan regime. Tan seems to think that the BN model is over
but it is not. The BN model was a corruption – what isn’t for this
regime? – of the old Alliance model, where Malay power structures
ostensibly shared power with non-Malay power groups.
To argue that Harapan is not a marriage of convenience is
disingenuous. However, it is also disingenuous to claim that all
marriages of convenience do not work. It all depends on how much time
and effort is put into making the union work and finding common ground,
or in this case, mutually beneficial political outcomes. Remember,
mutually beneficial political outcomes does not mean that the rakyat
profits, it merely means that political parties secure their position.
The main justification by the opposition on why they needed Dr
Mahathir Mohamad was because of the Malay vote. Bersatu is a Malay-only
organisation, an organisation which Mahathir argued was needed to win
over the Malay vote. If you think that this is politically incorrect to
say now, remember it is Anwar who claimed that Mahathir was
indispensable to regime change. The numbers will tell if there was
indeed a Malay tsunami or if the non-Malays votes (in greater numbers)
propped up Mahathir, which is a case of history repeating itself.
Detractors of this new game plan were mocked and cursed in the
alternative media and on social media. Implying that we are in a
post-racial political Malaysia is as dangerous as the reality distortion
field that surrounded Najib Razak. That was some Grade A Kool-Aid right
there. When DAP leader and newly-appointed finance minister Lim Guan Eng
says he considers himself Malaysian first, it is mendacious and
subservient since he sitting at a table with someone who heads a
Malay-only organisation, feebly makes noises (with his non-Malay
partners) about following the constitution (as if the Malaysian
Constitution is not a compromised document) when confronted about "Malay
rights" but most importantly, it is a negation of non-Malay cultural
identity at the expense of Malay realpolitik, which is the foundation of
No, if you say it will take time to change the system, fine, but do
not in a fascist way negate the subject of race from the conversation,
especially when it comes to the non-Malays, to sustain and buttress
weakened Malay power structures of this new regime. This does not
dismantle the ‘ketuanan’ system, it reinforces.
Similarly, Lim Kit Siang cannot make the argument that Harapan
component parties are not anti- (insert race/religion) because Harapan
rode on the coattails of the current Harapan grand poobah and being anti
something does not naturally mean you are pro something. Hence, you may
not be "anti-Malay" but it does not mean you are pro any kind of
egalitarian system. It merely means that you are not anti-Malay as
defined by your political opponents.
Harapan made many claims that were not tested merely because the
Najib regime was corrupt and incompetent and they (Umno) were up against
one of the main architects of that system. Does this mean that Malay power structures are gone? No, Umno still
is the biggest Malay party standing but more importantly, the ideology
that sustains such power-sharing formula – ketuanism – remains. What it
means is that with the right Malay political operative, Malay hegemons
can be attacked and weakened but the real work of dismantling the
‘ketuanan’ system has to begin by acknowledging the problem, not merely
dispensing more Kool-Aid.
When the opposition first started, it was a movement to change the
country. The opposition wanted Malaysia to be a truly egalitarian place
and the DAP was the vanguard when it came to the various initiatives to
save Malaysia over the years. A real opposition is forged over years of
rejection by the very public they choose to serve and of the ideals that
sustain them. And PAS and DAP, although diametrically opposed, were the
opposition that mattered in Malaysia.
Speak truth to Harapan power
Keep in mind when the alternative media first emerged, they were a
boon to the opposition. BN had the mainstream media and the opposition
had the alternative media and were extremely influential in social
media. With this Harapan regime, not only does Harapan have the
alternative media (for the time being), they now also control/influence
the mainstream media. When Selangor menteri besar says "tonight we can start watching the
mainstream media" on a platform of the alternative media, can anyone
really make the argument that the media, alternative and mainstream, is
not the domain of Harapan? Even Anwar waxes lyrical about Malaysiakini.
The DAP made no secret of wanting to destroy MCA and they got their
wish. Their wish made true by the huge wins of DAP candidates against
their MCA brethren. MCA, meanwhile, had to actually beg not to be
destroyed, which should tell you not only the mood of this country but
also the reality that if the Chinese community could not give a damn
about the MCA because they were running dogs, why should they care now
when the DAP has made true the promise of being part of a federal
government where they hold significant influence?
Forget about the MIC or any of the other parties that made up BN.
They are all tainted or at least that is the perception. Remember the
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi regime enjoyed a popular mandate because the
perception was that the old maverick was out of the picture. Because
Najib and those who surrounded him were corrupt – how much more corrupt
is open to debate than previous regimes – they were wilfully ignorant of
the danger the old maverick posed so much so they could not see that
their base despised Najib and getting rid of him could have given them a
Who is going to listen BN anyway? What have they got to offer which
is radically different from what Harapan is offering? Former Umno
minister Salleh Said Keruak is someone who conflates the system with the
political party. This leads him to say stupid things like all great
empires fall. Umno was never an “empire”. Umno potentates may have
thought themselves royalty, but it was the “malaise system" that kept
them in power and which threw them out for another alliance which does
not have the baggage that Najib does.
This, of course, leaves PAS. PAS deserves a whole article for itself.
They are not any kind of opposition that a diverse Malaysia needs, and
by diverse, I am not taking about the racial politics of Harapan which I
discussed above. The removal of this kleptocrat should not be an opportunity to
further perpetuate a system which started out as one of power-sharing
but evolved into a hegemony.
So if we do not have an opposition, what do we have? What we have are
Malaysians who should speak truth to Harapan power even if it means
going against the group think. While it is too early to dismiss Harapan
as not walking the talk, it is never too early to remind Harapan that
there are those who will not remain silent if Harapan turns into BN
Redux. That's my hope.