Promises broken because of weak opposition? Not really - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, August 27, 2018
Malaysiakini : “‘Hush. Don't ask any questions. It's always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.’ ‘But suppose there are two mobs?’ suggested Mr Snodgrass. ‘Shout with the largest,’ replied Mr Pickwick. Volumes could not have said more.” – Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
COMMENT | Wanita MCA vice-chairperson Ong Chong Swen claims that a weak opposition is why Pakatan Harapan is not keeping its promises. Any time a political party does not keep its promises, it really has
nothing to do with the opposition. A weak ruling coalition may walk back
on its pledges if it does not have a common platform, or if the diverse
interests of its members clash. But this is not why Harapan is waffling
on its campaign promises.
An effective opposition is forged, not prefabricated, as I discussed here
– “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.” Harapan is waffling on its promises
because its base does not demand that it keeps them. Often, this base
and various political pundits make excuses for why Harapan needs time to
fulfil certain promises instead.
This may be true in specific issues – like education reform, for
instance – but where repealing certain laws, abandoning certain
propaganda organs, or just fulfilling certain promises such as
recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), this excuse of
needing more time is complete horse manure.
When Umno was in charge, they made decisions unilaterally without the
excuses of coordinating with various ministries or consultation with
anti-democratic/pro-religious stakeholders. They did it because they
were, at the time, secure with their base. The same cannot be said for Harapan. When the idea of not spooking
the Malays is not dominating policy decisions, issues like the UEC are
buried beneath oftentimes banal scandals. Most days, political
operatives are too busy shooting their mouths off bringing red meat to
their base, and not holding their political parties to their election
Come on. When Dr Mahathir Mohamad was an Umno operative, he made
unilateral decisions all the time. He got things done with just a stroke
of a pen. Of course, during his brief tenure as opposition leader, he
disavowed those things which were deemed not kosher and pleaded
An old hand
Before May 9, at one of the various people’s forums I attended, one
extremely prominent social activist said that the reason why he
supported Mahathir when he joined Harapan was that he was an experienced
When it came to running the country, Mahathir had access to people
and skills – not to mention personal relationships – which would ease
the transition of power and solve problems created by the kleptocratic
Since I had publicly endorsed Mahathir in various op-ed pieces, I was
in no position to argue otherwise. But when the old maverick says dumb
stuff like the reason why the Council of Eminent Persons is needed because he has an inexperienced cabinet, I cringe.
Look, you appointed these people. You appointed someone with zero
experience in military matters or defence issues to lead the Defence
Ministry. You appointed someone with a religious education background to
lead the Education Ministry, which should be righteously secular. Most
glaringly, you appointed someone with zero experience in anything to
lead the Youth and Sports Ministry, a cash-rich ministry with a long
history of plunder by bureaucrats.
So, really when you say you need experienced people to do God knows
what, and who handed you a report which at the time of writing is secret,
you have to wonder: Would an effective opposition make a difference?
But of course, now Mahathir wants to keep the OSA because some things
need to remain secret.
In a bind
Seriously, even if the MCA said something constructive, the mobs
would tear them to pieces. Meanwhile, DAP political operatives hardly
raise their voices against anything Mahathir says, because to do so
would mean that they were somehow in charge. And God knows, we do not want to spook the Malays. Or, at least, I
hope that is the reason, because if they truly supported whatever the
prime minister says or does because they think he is right, we are truly
Someone like Kua Kia Soong questions why Harapan is reneging
on its election promises or at least waffling on them, and he is
vilified. But every one of his articles is a reminder that the promises
made could be carried out if there was a political will to do so; or if
there isn’t, if Harapan supporters kicked up a fuss.
Every time the MCA raises an issue, they have their track record
about collaborating with Umno thrown back at them. Never mind that the
real power brokers in Harapan are not only cut from the same mould as
Umno, but as the weeks have dragged on, are demonstrating that they are
playing the same games they did when the party was at its nadir.
It really does not matter if the MCA could make a political living by
eking out various electoral victories, because the reality is that for
the time being – maybe even two election cycles – Harapan has the
goodwill of its base. This, of course, is not really ideal, because its
base is not as secure as the political elites of Harapan would like it
to be. Which is why Harapan supporters are in such a bind. If supporters
push for the reforms that Harapan political operatives promised, this
could damage the already shaky foundation that holds the coalition
If they do not push for those reforms and promises, we could end up with BN redux. Harapan political operatives know this.