Has Harapan learnt the folly of allying with a race-based party? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Sunday, March 08, 2020
Malaysiakini : “How can I say I am a Malaysian first and a Malay second.
All Malays will shun me and say it’s not proper as Indians will also
say they are Indian first.” - Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin (2010)
| Maverick Kelantan DAP head honcho made a few rather queer remarks
recently. In arguing for a pragmatic approach to working with the
current prime minister, Zaid Ibrahim claimed that to describe what happened as a power grab was factually and legally incorrect.
relitigate the chain of events, the machinations of the plotters, the
motivations of those involved is pointless. The factual and legal basis
of this issue could be resolved if the current prime minister
demonstrates once and for all that he has a legitimate claim to power by
convening Parliament and surviving a vote of no confidence.
fact that those who have benefited from this power grab, notably
political operative Abdul Hadi Awang is now claiming that a vote of no
confidence is disrespectful
to the Agong, should tell us who the “good” and “bad” guys are in this
scenario and whether working with them is a “pragmatic” course of
Keep in mind that PAS and Umno have vowed not to work with
DAP, hence any attempt at building consensus and perceiving that
members of Pakatan Harapan – PKR, DAP and Amanah and whoever else is
with them – could fill in possible slots of the Muhyiddin Yassin regime
The prime minister has to balance the expectations
of his allies, which include the now disenfranchised plotters and his
bona fides as a Malay-first PM. If Zaid could articulate how DAP and
PKR, which have sizable numbers in Parliament – so far – could navigate
the Umno/PAS political terrain without alienating their bases, this
would be appreciated. As it is, PKR and DAP, as Zaid concedes,
could not even stand up to Bersatu when it came to its Malay uber alles
agenda, how could they possibly work with the Umno/PAS, even if the two
allowed them participation in the game?
Which brings us back to
the most important lesson that hopefully, Harapan has learnt from this
fiasco. Forget about the machinations of the old maverick. Forget about
the treachery of the Azmin Ali cartel. What were behind these moves was
that mainstream Malay political establishment feared the rise of an
effective multiracial coalition in opposition to traditional Malay
I do not mean power sharing in the BN sense, but rather a
form of egalitarianism that is anathema to Malay/Muslim power
structures. While Amanah may be an “Islamic” party, in its constitution
it states - “Keahlian parti adalah terbuka kepada semua rakyat Malaysia
tanpa mengira bangsa, kepercayaan atau jantina.”
greatest strength is that it was supposed a coalition which had no
race-based parties. Now the argument could be made that racial politics
dominated the Harapan discourse in substance but in form they were a
multiracial coalition and this was a good start. Good enough to wrest
power in certain states from the Umno hegemon and good enough to make
the Malay establishment fear the rise of a multiracial block because the
“Malays” were split.
up with Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Bersatu poisoned the well when it came
to Harapan’s multiracial discourse. PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim’s “don’t spook the Malays”
comment would have not been as bad if he did not have a race-based
political party – Bersatu – which was actively seeking not to spook the
Balancing racial expectations and preoccupations in a
multiracial party is less difficult when all your partners are dealing
with the issue, but when you have a race-based party which by its nature
is there to promote a racist ideology and you have to spin or ignore
that, it becomes problematic.
Harapan’s weakest link
from the Sheraton Move describes the Malay establishment as fearful of
“Chinese” influence in the government which Anwar sought to allay.
Reportedly even DAP leader Lim Guan Eng was amenable to relinquish his post if that meant making it easy for Malay power structures within Harapan.
you believe that Mahathir was needed to swing the vote in GE14 is
beside the point. The point is that by hooking up with a race-based
party, Harapan has to replicate the failed policies of BN in the hopes
of maintaining power, not realising that their win had caused
palpitations by the very fact that Mahathir's Bersatu – the weakest link
in the coalition – was not the racial power it claimed to be.
old maverick has publicly stated when he had that kumbaya moment with
the DAP a couple of years back - that it was the agenda of Umno to
demonise the DAP because this is what Malay politicians did after all.
The anti-DAP – read Chinese – propaganda was enabled by DAP’s political
ineptness and their failure to present a cohesive egalitarian and
DAP wallowed in the Bangsa Malaysia nonsense
while trespassing into the religious domains of the Malay polity all in
an attempt to present themselves as acceptable to the majority
community thereby falling into the trap of Malay power structures. I
wish DAP strategists and policy wonks would write about the real issue
that many in the Malay community have with the DAP, which is reflected
in the blogosphere and social media. The mainstream narrative is not
“Chinese hate” but rather the hypocrisy many Malays believe the DAP
the discourse online by DAP supporters is mired in racialism and
victimhood, which makes it easier to promulgate the anti-Chinese
narratives that propagandists rely on. Try to do something about that
instead of assuming tribalism will get you more votes from the “rural
Malays”, especially since you think that they are uninformed about what
goes on online.
DAP and PKR have the most potential – so far
unrealised – which is why the establishment fears them. This is why we
get partisans pushing the narratives that the "Malays" will not change
and the system won't change and that it is Harapan which has to bend.
Amanah could be the dark horse, the truly progressive Islamic voice, but
they are being neutered by the far-right and agents of the fascist
An effective counter-narrative to this would mean slaying
sacred racial and political cows and this would mean establishing
secular and egalitarian principles that would be unpalatable to the
base. Is the Harapan willing to do this? So far, they have not.
the Sheraton Move was a deep insecurity that Harapan, if left
unchecked, would lead to a new dawn in Malaysian politics where a strong
multiracial and secular-inclined coalition would supplant the
traditional feudal corrupt power structures. If Harapan under the
stewardship of leaders who actually believed in the manifesto, this
would have been the death knell of race-based political parties in this
Harapan, meanwhile, has to reform and present an
egalitarian and secular choice in opposition to whatever Umno and PAS
stand for. This is, after all, was what fuelled the machinations of the
old maverick, the treachery of Azmin and the connivance of Umno/PAS.
They fear that a majority in the voting demographic would embrace a multiracial coalition over ‘ketuanism’ (Malay supremacy).