Better Harapan fails as one-term reformist government - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Malaysiakini : “Now you've given them hope, and they're unhappy. So the blame is all yours.” – Joseph Heller, "Catch-22".
COMMENT | "Do you want Najib to return?" I
get this message from Pakatan Harapan partisans very often. Certain
phrases and words – "Do you want Najib to return?", "1MDB", "global
kleptocracy" and "fake news" – have achieved a kind of totemic
significance for the Harapan political elite.
Malaysia, we are more inclined to re-elect kleptocrats than to jail
them. As far as Najib Abdul Razak's return is concerned, I suppose if
you are a politician who has invested a lot in seeing the former Umno
Grand Poo-bah in an orange jumpsuit, you may very well be in trouble if
the shoe returns to the other foot.
If BN is voted in
democratically, or if the realignment of Malay power structures results
in Najib evading jail time, the average rakyat will certainly not be in
the crosshairs of whoever crawls to the top of the dung heap that is
mainstream Malaysian politics.
BN will attempt to spin their
“victory” (however they engineer it) as a reaffirmation of the social
contract and, no doubt, life will proceed as normal with the assaults
on public institutions and public spaces, continuing much like how
Harapan attempts to do so now. I would rather Harapan be a
one-term reformist government rather than be kicked out by voter apathy
or anger because it continues to slip into a neo-BN stupor. If the
majority kicks out a reformist Harapan government, then at least
progressive forces in this country would not have squandered an
opportunity to create a "new Malaysia" but were thwarted by those who
want to live in a fascist state.
However, I suspect that most
Malaysians just want a safe and stable country to live in and economic
concerns outweigh whatever communal preoccupations they have. If Harapan
can just keep its head down and work the reform agenda, I am sure a
majority of Malaysians, regardless of their political preference, would
vote for stability instead of buying into the racial and religious
agenda of the acolytes (Umno/PAS and, of course, a section of Harapan
which also includes the non-Malay political operatives) of a fascist
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, for instance. He had so much
goodwill when he stepped into office a second time. Even I sipped the
Kool-Aid but fortunately spat it out as soon as I took a gulp. But if
you are someone who has not drunk the Kool-Aid or at least someone who
is white-knuckling it after swearing off the Kool-Aid, you may have come
to the realisation that these people who promised you – us – a new
deal, really want to give you back the old deal without the Najib
We were told that the prime minister has a Herculean task
of reforming the system, aided by various cliques of notable
personalities. Here was a man in a hurry. Instead, he mocks people who
put value on Harapan’s manifesto. He backtracks on campaign promises,
offers “sarcastic” answers in lieu of substantive ones, meddles in the
internal party politics of coalition members, coddles religious
extremists, alienates his base, courts a demographic using race and
religion, enables a "kakistocracy", belittles his allies and engages in
racism in the guise of realpolitik.
All he had to do was carry out
the reform agenda and he would have been remembered as a reformist and
not the architect of this Frankenstein monster of corruption and
religious hypocrisy we call a political system. I’d pay to see that
Meanwhile, non-Malay leadership is in the crapper. Lim Guan
Eng, the finance minister of this country, is still busy engaging in a
petty and vindictive feud with the MCA. After telling
the MCA – your time is up, your time is over – when it comes to
relinquishing control of Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC),
the MCA wins a by-election. A victory because the Chinese community is
pissed off at the antics of the old maverick but also because the DAP
is not only morphing into a running dog but a rabid one at that.
worry about racial and religious issues. What exactly has Harapan’s
religious czar done to ameliorate the fascist state agenda? Nothing!
Mujahid Yusof Rawa could have been the great reformer like he positioned
himself before the historic win. Instead, he babbles on about his
compassionate Islam, with nothing to back up his claims.
makes false equivalencies between liberals and extremists. I would argue
that he has made the religious situation worse in this country because
progressives in his coalition do not want to stand up to him and the
prime minister and the “opposition” back his stance.
To understand this point, refer to my piece here,
that is one narrative. What is Mujahid’s counter-narrative? While Isma
may take potshots at Harapan as betraying the Islamic cause, it lists
the numerous ways in which the Harapan government has been buttressing
the Islamic bureaucracy.
I read all these hand-wringing pieces
about how Harapan needs to fulfil its manifesto promises, but nobody
wants to admit that the reason why nothing gets done is because there is
no political will to get things done. The entire cabinet is
genuflecting by instinct to the prime minister and Harapan seems to
think that by deploying the old BN schemes, they will win over a
In this "New Malaysia", political operatives are
busing kowtowing to the prime minister, redefining corruption to make
it more palatable, jockeying for positions, waging battles with allies
and blaming the acolytes of a fascist state (Umno/PAS) for everything
wrong with this country.
Malaysians generally are not discerning
when it comes to the kind of government they want. Everyone wants
corruption to be controlled, the standard of living to be equitable and
generally have a "live and let live" attitude. Reforms, in this case,
should be manageable. Previous governments set a very low bar. The
problem with the reform agenda is that it curtails power. It
democratises public spaces and in most cases, makes accountability and
transparency the focus point of governance. It would seem that most
Harapan political operatives do not want this.
I would rather have
a one-term Harapan failure, one that pursued these objectives instead
of another BN - the original that I served - and which saw the
destruction of everything that could have made us a regional superpower.