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 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
| 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.
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.
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
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
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
The danger of Umno infusion into Bersatu
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
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?
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:
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.
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
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.