What are Harapan's 'progressive' values? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, July 06, 2020
Malaysiakini : "Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’." - Ronald Reagan
| When “progressive” political operatives talk about the middle ground,
what exactly are they talking about? Honestly, I do not know what a
“progressive” Malaysian political operative is.
What are the
values that separate “progressives” from ethnoreligious ideologies
sustained by cronyism and feudalism? I know where religion-focused PAS
is coming from and we know that Umno and Bersatu will do anything to be
the “centre” of whatever power-sharing formula they concoct. But what
are these “progressive” values some people keep yapping about?
DAP has shown that they will grovel at the heels of any Malay power
structure that would have them. To them, the “middle path” is anytime
they can hold onto public office without being held accountable to
whatever principles the party’s ideology is premised on.
always been imploding, with its president Anwar Ibrahim unwilling or
unable to control the narrative. “Malay rights” over the years has been a
problem for this multi-racial party simply because the "reformasi"
movement has been chipped away when the mandarins of the party who
tasted political power realised that reforming the country would not be
to their benefit.
When it comes to racial politics, it is painful
to watch minorities squabbling for the political interests of majority
stakeholders. At least the Malays from both sides of the political
divide can sometimes meet halfway on those politically-designed issues
of race and religion.
Anwar’s latest rejoinder of ditching
race-based policies in favour of needs-based policies and his
justifications of such is a return to the rhetoric that he has used in
the past. And I say good for him. If everyone in PKR was committed to
that instead of committed to the infighting that wrecked Pakatan
Harapan, it is a good start.
Former deputy defence minister Liew
Chin Tong says there is a need to define what this new Malaysia stands
for. Liew says for him, it means that we all see ourselves as primarily
Malaysian citizens. What does this even mean?
in Malaysia has always seen himself or herself as a Malaysian citizen -
that is, if we are lucky enough to have our citizenship acknowledged by
the state. The problem has always been that the state does not view us
as equal citizens. Put simply, politics does not view us as equal
What exactly does the “middle ground” mean in this
milieu? Most Malaysians, especially non-Malays and non-Muslims, define
it as the middle ground between the religious and racial politics of the
majority and the “rights” of minority communities. The middle
ground has nothing to do with secular governance, nor does it have
anything to do with egalitarian policy. Most of the time, it is
political rhetoric. This is why we get all this aggravation when it
comes to educational opportunities, for example. But the private sector
thinks that it is free from racism and bigotry.
Now, of course
with the Perikatan Nasional government running around like a headless
chicken, even participants in a "Youth Digital Parliament" are
intimidated by the police.
it comes to political rhetoric, the middle ground normally means
engaging in false equivalences and blaming others for certain problems,
instead of attacking ethnocentric narratives and policies. Is hooking up
with Bersatu the middle ground or is it just political strategy?
Malay power structures, “moderation” is defined by acquiescence to the
concerns of the minority communities. By how pliant their non-Malay
counterparts are to their racial and religious agendas.
hegemony in a multiracial and multireligious coalition is the only form
of governance that Malaysians understand. This is why we got all these
Bersatu members attacking the DAP and warning them not to trespass into
rural enclaves or warning them not to disrespect the elite of their
Hence, the middle ground has always been defined, not by
values or policies - which are predicated on not spooking the majority -
but rather on compromising at the expense of oversight and
am not even looking for vanguard progressive ideas but simply baseline
ideas that everyone in Harapan can get behind. For example, take the
vast religious bureaucracy. Instead of hounding “deviants",
indoctrinating the majority to believe that their religion is under
siege and issuing decrees banning the majority from engaging in ideas
that the rest of the world are grappling with, did the Harapan regime
attempt to change the narrative?
Why not spend the money on
welfare work, on education in maths and science, and education into
whatever language that would make the majority competitive in this
ever-changing geopolitical landscape?
And for heaven’s sake, there
must be some kind of strict parliamentary oversight, instead of
retreating to the idea that some people cannot “interfere” in the
religion of the state, which is why there have been so many corruption
scandals involving religious agencies. Instead, what we got was a
Harapan religious czar who was disgusted that LGBTQ elements had
infiltrated a women’s march, sucked up to an alleged money launderer and
fugitive, hyped the introduction of a syariah-compliant dress code, was
content with the hounding of de-hijabing activists, and carried out a
host of other religious issues that did nothing to alleviate the
social-economic distress of the majority community.
still get Harapan operatives lecturing us about “caring” for the plight
of the urban Malay poor. Harapan was not interested in creating a
counter-narrative. A counter-narrative that Harapan's Islam was about
promoting a first-class education for Muslims, weeding out corruption in
the political and religious class, ensuring the healthcare system is
one of the best in the region and ensuring a plurality of Islamic voices
so that young people do not join extremist groups that pose a danger to
the citizens of this country. You could, if you were smart, define this
as a "Malay" right.
This is not a “progressive” idea. This is
about reforming an institution that political operatives say the
majority cannot do without. This is not some sort of radical reimagining
of politics and religion in Malaysia but rather streamlining and
reforming an entitlements programme.
The first step in solving a
problem is recognising that there is one and Harapan should stop acting
like it is not part of the problem.