Articles, Opinions & Views: Will Harapan stop dancing to Umno/PAS tune? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy

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They never wanted me around

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Will Harapan stop dancing to Umno/PAS tune? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Malaysiakini: “If the leader is filled with high ambition and if he pursues his aims with audacity and strength of will, he will reach them in spite of all obstacles.” - Carl Von Clausewitz
                                                                  Oh!! My English !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
COMMENT | Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad has got it right in saying Pakatan Harapan should not dance to the Umno/PAS tune. What we have been witness to since Harapan assumed control of the Federal government is this existential fear the coalition will collapse if it does not secure a majority of the Malay vote.
Furthermore, Harapan can never win the game Umno/PAS is playing because balancing expectations in a multi-racial coalition is much more complex than feeding the communal narratives of a race-based partnership.
Instead of attempting to broaden its base, what Harapan political operatives have been doing is attempting not to spook the Malays, secure in the belief that Harapan’s non-Malay base will just sit idly. This may not be true for much longer.
While most Harapan supporters (especially non-Malay supporters) would agree with Nik Nazmi, we have to be aware that Harapan is now struggling with an influx of Umno members who are reshaping the coalition from within. In other words, they do not believe in the manifesto, but rather that racial supremacy and party dominance will determine political victory.
There are three obstacles facing reformers in Harapan. The first is Harapan's terrible strategy when it comes to dealing with racial and religious issues. The most recent example is the comment DAP's Teluk Intan MP Nga Kor Ming made about the Umno/PAS alliance turning Malaysia into a Taliban country.
Firstly, the Taliban ideology is not anathema to the mostly conservative Malay base that Bersatu wants to court. Secondly, it gives the far right the opportunity to claim this as another instance of the DAP not respecting Islam. There is no dissonance in these statements because the base that Umno/PAS represents, and which Bersatu and the other Malay power brokers in Harapan want, has no problem believing the DAP is insulting Islam while believing that there is nothing wrong with the Taliban ideology.

Now that Nga (above) has refused to apologise and more or less dared PAS and Umno to protest in the streets, it becomes even more important for Malay political operatives to put up a unified front with the DAP and Nga. If they don’t and some of them have distanced themselves from the comment, it will just be another Malay/Muslim protest against a Chinese political operative who kicked out Malay/Muslim political operatives from the Dewan Rakyat.
All this would just be another distraction that would spook the Malay political operatives in Harapan, and which would further jeopardise plans for reform, especially when it comes to race and religion-based policies.
An old Umno friend said that what I wrote about the real issue of the Umno/PAS union was very true: “Federal power will never again rest in the hands of a sole Malay structure. Instead, it will be diffused amongst disparate power groups. What the Umno-PAS union really demonstrates is that Malay power structures cannot do it on their own anymore. This is the most important point of the historic May 9 Harapan win. The federal government and Malay power structures have changed.”
The second obstacle is the issue of Bersatu as the Malay anchor of the party. Harapan is in a difficult position. While Nik Nazmi comes from a multi-racial party and the DAP is a multi-racial party, Bersatu wants to demonstrate that it is the sole protector of Malay sacred cows. This presents a problem, especially when it comes to some of the more progressive policies in the Harapan manifesto.
The danger of Umno infusion into Bersatu
The prime minister claimed that the manifesto was something that was thought up because Harapan assumed they would not win. This kind of talk helps the opposition and not proponents within Harapan who believe the policies in the manifesto could save Malaysia.
Add to this, the danger of Umno infusion into Bersatu. When these political operatives jump over to Bersatu, what they are doing is bringing their base and their web of corporate benefactors. People expect certain things when they jump. An Umno member defends race and religion. The people who voted for him or her understands this. So when he or she jumps to Bersatu, the base expects race and religion to be front and centre. For their benefactors, certain considerations must be fulfilled so the eco-system of money and politics does not wither away.
Bersatu political operatives, money men and activists always tell me they do not understand why Bersatu gets such a bad reputation. Before the election, they were going up against former comrades and they knew that playing the race card was what was expected of them. Indeed, one Bersatu strategist agreed that the nature of Bersatu’s game was not exactly to win but to win enough for the frogs in Umno to cross over if Harapan took the federal government.
Bersatu, they claim, needs to be upfront about race and religion because it performed poorly in the 14th general election. Umno did relatively well, even though the former prime minister was dragging down the party. So, what can Harapan do? Every time the progressive voices in Harapan speak up, they lose ground because they don’t spook the Malay crowd, which has more power and influence than the people fighting for the manifesto.

After the Semenyih by-election loss, PKR’s Azmin Ali (above) raised the race flag and said the Malay agenda should be carried out without apology. Was there a time when it was carried out with apology?
This is more than just about race and religion, which brings us to the third obstacle. The system resists efforts to reform. This is about keeping the system intact, instead of changing the system. The bureaucracy does not want to reform for various reasons, and the so-called reformers know this. Maybe you buy Ong Kian Ming’s pledge that the ministry will be fully transparent about the issuing of APs. Or maybe, as I discussed in whether Harapan was really interested in controlling Mahathir, this is all about maintaining the status quo:
“Nowhere is this game plan more evident than in the recent allegations by Court of Appeal judge Hamid Sultan Abu Backer that the Harapan win rattled senior members of the judiciary (for a whole minute), but then they were “extremely happy” when members of the old regime were elevated.
This last obstacle is even more of a hindrance to reform than the race and religion issue, although race and religion do play a part in the bureaucracy's resistance to reform. There is no doubt there are people within the bureaucracy who are sabotaging Harapan's efforts to reform the system.
Do not believe political operatives when they say they need more time. What they need is political will, or rather cojones, to get the reform process started.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 11:43 AM  
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