Harapan in 2020: Go big or home - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Malaysiakini : “Once a country is habituated to liars, it takes generations to get the truth back.” - Gore Vidal
COMMENT | DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang says that 2020 is the make or break year for Pakatan Harapan. Kit
Siang is correct because the vagaries of a political milieu have always
been defined by time. However, so far, Harapan’s messaging has been
absolutely abysmal. Add
to this, Harapan seems intent on shooting itself in its foot and what
we are witnessing is a coalition that seems to exist only for the power
brokers to manoeuvre themselves into positions of influence.
officials have been making a big deal of Malaysia’s improved ranking in
Transparency International's (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI)
2019. Kit Siang wrote: “If there had been no change of
government, Malaysia will be sliding down the CPI score to the thirties
bracket, to find new company among the more corrupt nations of the world
in the lower rankings.”
Now, whether you choose to place any
faith in these rankings is beside the point. Some folks may ask, isn’t
anyone bothered about corruption? I think they are but the
reality is that Malaysia has always struggled with its corruption
issues. There are two aspects to this issue. The fist is that the
average rakyat believes that politicians are corrupt, so perhaps
Harapan political operatives are less corrupt than the regime that was
kicked out, but the point is the average's rakyat's expectation is
The second aspect is that corruption in this county
is intimately linked to racial issues. Whether the narratives of
corrupt Malay/Muslims stealing from the coffers or the rich Chinese
plutocrat class engaging in financial malfeasance with the political
power elite or even the sacred cows of the Malay community, the royalty
and their links to both power structures become a flashpoint which
subsumes policy considerations.
problem was its claim that if the Najib regime continued, it would be
the end of Malaysia, and when the people – and you don’t have to be
particularly sophisticated either – notice that change has been barely
perceptible, they begin to wonder if there was anything really wrong in
the first place. Keep in mind that the opposition (then) was
always claiming that the Umno/BN regime was corrupt. There was always
this kind of apocalyptic vibe in the way how the opposition defined the
All those old narratives that the opposition used against the BN regime has come back to haunt them. I
keep telling Harapan political operatives that if they do not want to
honour the manifesto, at least put out a detailed list of everything
that Harapan has accomplished – and I mean detailed, not just a wish
list or some half-baked presentation – but real concrete steps that
Harapan has taken and which are fundamentally different from what BN
Instead, all controversies have been manufactured by Harpan
from the khat/Jawi fiasco, to the Lynas con and backtracking on
important nation-building initiatives like the Rome treaty and Icerd. I’ll
give you an example. The Orang Asli issue has always been problematic
but Harapan has been making some positive moves in this area – the most
important of which is the appointment of Juli Edo to head Jakoa – which
does not mean that all is kosher for the Orang Asli.
A report card on this issue can be read in New Mandala
by academician Rusalina Idrus: “As for Pakatan Harapan, it needs to
step up and to be consistent in their commitment to the Orang Asli or
risk losing Orang Asli support down the line. But it is about more than
just winning votes. It is about addressing past injustice and
discrimination. The PH (Harapan) coalition came about based on grounds
of fighting injustice. The government’s commitment to the Orang Asli
will be a test of its moral standing. It is not just political will that
is needed, but also moral courage. As Tijah points out, it still
remains to be seen if this new government has the courage to do the
I understand that the Orang Asli issue may not be sexy enough for most
folks, what this demonstrates is that there can be movement in Harapan
if, as Rusalina points out, there is a political will - but more
importantly - moral courage. As Mariam Mokhtar wrote: “Radical
measures will involve race and religion, but which MP dares to buck the
trend? Harapan's decline is not just Mahathir's fault. Harapan MPs have a
collective responsibility, but it is their arrogance and refusal to
listen which disgust us.”
If Harapan is to remain a viable choice,
as opposed to a single shot one, they have to think big and not allow
themselves to be constrained by conventional political/racial wisdom.
Not spooking the Malays and constant worry of what Umno/PAS would do in
any given situation is what is crippling Harapan. Another
important issue that Harapan needs to face up to is voter apathy among
its base. What Kit Siang should really worry about is that for the
decades BN ruled, there was peace and stability, even though racial and
religious policies were running this country.
Once the base
starts realising that a change in a government really does not mean a
change in policy, people will stop participating in the process. And
the Harapan base is really a big problem for the coalition. On the one
hand, you have those Harapan partisans who believe that the presence of
Mahthir was the affirmation that BN-style political social contract
politics defined Malaysia. On the other hand, you have the
Reformasi-inclined partisans who believe that the system needs to
change. In other words, Harapan must define itself beyond the whole 1MDB
issue. Look at it this way.
Umno/PAS know exactly who they are.
The MCA and MIC, if they choose to join whatever coalition that comes
from this dalliance, know exactly what their subservient role is. Meanwhile,
in Harapan, the DAP has to contend with the running dog narrative, and
Malay power structures are busy attempting to contain each other.
Umno/PAS are seen as stable while Harapan parties look like they cannot
even organise an orgy in a brothel.
Harapan has been doing
everything in its power to alienate its non-Malay base and screw over
the progressive Malay element in Harapan. Non-Malay operatives have been
bending over backwards attempting to project a benign face of Chinese
influence in Harapan.
And please, let us not have this nonsense
talk of “moderation”. Moderation has always been defined, not by values
or policies – which are predicated on not spooking the majority – but
rather on compromise at the expense of oversight and accountability.
Every political party has its definition of moderation.
I hope Lim
Kit Siang understands that if Harapan continues playing the same BN
game in 2020, this really could be a one-term administration.