Are you disappointed in Harapan? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Malaysiakini : “Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy – the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.” – Eric Hoffer
COMMENT | Academic Bridget Welsh, as usual, made an interesting point in a recent conference about the disappointment
some Pakatan Harapan supporters feel towards this new regime. She said:
“Unlike US President Donald Trump who had responded to his political
base and hold on to power, in Malaysia we don’t see that.”
Just before the election, I made my case as to why I thought Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Harapan would get the ‘Trump vote’
instead of Najib Abdul Razak’s BN, which went all out, in the words of
then-deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, to emulate the US
“What Zahid should be mindful of is that in
these uncertain economic times, Mahathir looks more like someone who can
take control of the situation than the current Umno poohbah and his
coterie who are mired in all sorts of scandals. This is what Trump
promised his supporters and what got him votes from the most unlikely of demographics.”
The reality is that the people most disappointed
with the current regime are (mostly) non-Malays who believed that
Harapan would be the change this country needed, and not necessarily
what the majority wanted.
Now, of course, some people would say
that removing Najib was the main goal – and I get that – but there would
not be this sense of despondency if they didn’t actually hope that
Harapan would save Malaysia.
If removing Najib was all that was
important, then these people would be of the same intent as Mahathir –
who, in the beginning at least, publicly admitted that removing Najib
was the only thing he shared with the then-opposition – and not be
clamouring for reforms and nodding their heads with everything he is
almost seems like a fait accompli. The propaganda was so thick that
contrarian voices were shouted down when they pointed out discrepancies
in the way Harapan political operatives talked and the polices they came
up with. Everything was viewed ahistorically.
It still is. This
is why the prime minister warned that we should not forget our history,
that minorities could be perceived as an economic threat to the
majority, and make the claim that wealth distribution should be done “fairly”
– all in the same breath. My political stance has always been that
wealth redistribution and egalitarian principles are mutually exclusive,
but this is not the place for that conversation.
Harapan is pushed to fulfil their campaign promises to implement the
agenda which may save Malaysia, they are warned not to spook the Malays
by rabid partisans. These partisans have no problem highlighting the
systemic dysfunction, but are too concerned that Harapan would lose the
next election or stir up the far right in this country to do anything
about it. BN, at the apogee of its power, promulgated the same idea.
consider Welsh’s point further, what may be the problem is that
Mahathir (Harapan), unlike Trump, is not too concerned about
disappointing the base. They will temper their expectations because it
is politically expedient to do so.
In a way, the Harapan base is
doing the job of politicians – tempering political, social and economic
expectations to maintain power. The irony, of course, is that in certain
situations, all Harapan had to do was fulfil certain easy-win election
promises, which would have cost them nothing and would have strengthened
democratic institutions and processes in this country.
Forget about the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) debacle, and concentrate on the fact that Harapan promised it would abolish or repeal certain oppressive laws.
fact that they backtracked on this and had to be dragged kicking and
screaming before they reconsidered their decision should tell you about
the kind of people we are dealing with.
Look, these laws are horse
manure. They know it and we sure as hell know it. There are some morons
– yeah, I think these people are undemocratic and fascist morons – who
think that the state needs these laws to enforce peace and stability.
There is no evidence of this, but there is copious evidence that these
laws stifle democratic norms, rights and practices.
have done away with these laws, be secure in the knowledge that there
are enough laws out there to deal with specific behaviours deemed
detrimental to democracy, and basked in the easy win which would have
objectively separated it from the previous regime.
See also patronage – or race-based patronage, to be specific. Economist Edmund Terence Gomez wrote a terrific piece
about the trends pointing to revitalise the patronage system under
Harapan. He said: “Equally troubling is a gradual and perceptible
attempt to reinstitute the practice of selective patronage in the
conduct of politics and in the implementation of policies, hallmarks of
Umno politics that led to its fall.”
Again, in this
post-May 9 reality, the Harapan regime would be abandoning the practices
of BN if it was interested in reform. Instead, what we have are neo-BN
policies that will ensure that the political ecosystem remains in place,
but more importantly, sustain the Umno wildlife that was claimed to
have brought this country to ruination.
Not only that, there is
also the factor of Bersatu attempting to impose its imprimatur on
elements within PKR, which just fuels the conflict between political
personalities in various Malay power structures. This, again, has
nothing to with the system Harapan inherited – which is the favourite
strawman of its partisans – but rather the determined efforts of
political operatives to sustain a system which they believe will ensure
their political survival.
There are more than enough qualified
people in Malaysia – or who would return to the country – to lead
government-linked economic entities if they were given the chance, and
who would be proud to be part of a regime that was committed to
institutional reforms. Instead, we have the wildlife from the previous
regime and newly-minted acolytes burrowing into Harapan, attempting to
replicate the success of BN, replete with a ‘pragmatic’ but rabid voter
Another example would be education reform. Harapan does not
need big education ideas. It needs people who have the foresight and
integrity to understand that the education system in Malaysia is mired
in racial and religious toxicity.
way out of this is not coming up with fancy ideas, but basic ideas that
have worked in the past. Keep in mind we had a functional education
system that was broken after years of racial and religious manipulation.
We don’t have to start from scratch, but rather acknowledge what worked
and what was purposely corrupted.
Mahathir or Bersatu for this mess is avoiding the real issue. The real
issue is the transparency and accountability of the coalition partners
in Harapan. DAP, PKR and Amanah, by making excuses and gaslighting for
Bersatu, are complicit in the creation of this neo-BN.
be thankful that there are political operatives willing to speak truth
to power. But unfortunately, there aren’t enough. Bersatu has power
because the other coalition partners want to bask in some of that power,
and will continue embracing nanny state policies and unearthing
previous corruption scandals, hoping to narcotise the base into
believing that reforms are on the way, but down the road.
it this way. Nobody expects the Harapan regime to correct the problems –
which were created by some of the same people leading this new regime –
in eight months. What some people want is for Harapan to save Malaysia
by carrying out the reforms they promised without resorting to
fabrications – mostly economic – that these are difficult to carry out.
what the Harapan component parties are hoping is that people will blame
Mahathir only, and that their reputations will remain intact enough for
some people (most probably on racial and religious lines) to continue
voting for them.
The problem is – and I suspect Harapan know this –
for every disappointed Harapan supporter, there are many more who are
simply in denial.