Can Malaysia have meaningful coalitions? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, November 11, 2021
Malaysiakini : “A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen
tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability
afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.” – Winston Churchill
COMMENT | DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang said this
recently: “The day for meaningful coalition politics in Malaysia has
come, and political parties must learn to co-operate with one another
for the good of the nation – not for personal and political party
self-aggrandisement but on the principles of justice, freedom, fair
play, well-being for all Malaysians so that Malaysia can be a
world-class great nation and avoid the traps of kleptocracy,
kakistocracy and a failed state.”
I believe most Malaysians want this but the problem has always been
that ideas such as “justice, freedom, fair play, well-being for all
Malaysians” has never really been the goal of any political party.
a way, this should make cooperation between race-based parties and
multiracial parties easier, but it does not because both sides have been
demonising each other for decades.
Honestly, when two political
parties – DAP and Umno – who have a sizable share of votes and
representation, cannot find the middle ground, you know that this
country is in trouble.
Remember the flak Anthony Loke received when he dared wonder
if such a DAP-Umno deal was possible. He said: "More people are saying
that one way out (of our political crisis) is for Umno and DAP to come
to the same table. But this needs political courage and will from both
sides. Is Umno prepared to even talk about it?”
The DAP, by
making its Faustian bargain in cooperating with Bersatu, demonstrated
that working with morally suspect and corruption-tainted politicians was
not an impediment to “saving Malaysia”.
Indeed, when Pakatan
Harapan briefly formed the federal government, and Bersatu was accepting
Umno frogs, the DAP bent over backwards attempting to justify why
Bersatu accepting Umno members were part of the grand plan to save
the DAP brings to any kind of coalition is the majority backing of a
voting demographic and, hence, they can claim to be the “voice” of the
community on secular and egalitarian issues.
Now, imagine if they
could do this with Umno, which is a vital part of the Malay power
structure, and work on a reform agenda, which many in Umno know needs to
be carried out if Malaysia is to remain a viable democracy and not some
sort of theocratic nightmare.
The problem is that no matter what
the DAP does, no matter how much they bend over for the Malay political
establishment, it will never be enough.
This is why we have
these tensions within the DAP. The identity politics in the DAP, like
most forms of such politics, is reactionary.
The DAP set the bar
so high with the MCA that any attempt to navigate through the corridors
of Malay power are futile because folks who voted for the DAP as a
“secular” alternative to the race-based power-sharing model become
disappointed by the way how DAP fit so snugly into the role they
politicised for decades, yet feel there is no choice but vote opposition
even though reforms will not be forthcoming.
Be as vague as possible
of course, all this boils down to messaging. Harapan’s messaging sucks.
Nobody is interested in the principles that Lim talks about, even the
non-Malays, because even when Harapan fails to carry out reforms, they
would still vote for them anyway to spite Umno/BN/PN. Therefore, the
base can take a lot.
Harapan should tailor its message on a state
level instead of attempting a grand national narrative that more often
than not does not resonate. Mind you these state-level messaging may at
times conflict with the national message that Harapan is putting out.
goal is to be as vague as possible so the other side cannot pin you
down. Hammer down bread-and-butter issues on a local level because more
often than not national agendas mean very little to folks struggling to
make ends meet.
When Malacca DAP chief Tey Kok Kiew says that the DAP cannot rely
on its Harapan partners to court the Malay vote, the question folks
should be asking is why is it that the DAP continues to be a Chinese
dominated party 50 plus years after its formation.
Every so often
incidents pop up where various power brokers clutch their pearls
chastising Ronnie Liu for being a Chinese chauvinist (for instance),
never once considering that they were working hand in hand with Malay
bigots for lack of a better term.
That’s the problem right here.
The whole Bangsa Malaysia horse manure was the negation of non-Malay
culture for the benefit of Malay proxies who never subscribed to it in
the first place. So perhaps it is best if the DAP drops this nonsense
and concentrates on actual reforms as opposed to dispensing the
have been instances where the political paradigm could have changed,
such as the offering of an olive branch by Muhyiddin Yassin (for
instance) that Harapan rejected.
Now what we are left with are
disparate coalitions (including Harapan) squabbling amongst themselves
to retain power while gaslighting their respective bases that all this
is for some greater good.
Lim is right when he says that Malacca
is a bellwether election and if Umno emerges victorious, it would be in a
better position to consolidate power in the Malay uber alles
However, as PN has ably demonstrated, without
inclusive participation, the country is going down the manure hole, with
a bloated cabinet, numbskull policies and political operatives warring
amongst themselves even when part of the same coalition.
coalitions in the Malaysian context by definition means reforming the
system. This takes political will and at this moment, no political party
wants to make changes that would transform Malaysia.
Everybody seems to be intent on keeping the game going a little while longer.