It is deeply disturbing to see dedicated politicians of integrity being dropped by Pakatan Harapan as candidates for the next general election.
Several of these are individuals, mostly from activist backgrounds, who are known to be hardworking and caring towards their constituents. As a result, they have gained traction with many of their constituents across the spectrum because they have been sensitive to their needs and concerns.
These electoral assets – Charles Santiago, Maria Chin Abdullah, R Sivarasa and others – do not deserve to be cast away after having effectively served the people and their respective parties with sheer dedication.
These politicians, through their inclusive approach, have made a marked difference in a society riddled with corruption, discrimination and the toxic politics of race and religion.
If anything, their political and societal contributions could have provided political ‘ammunition’ for PH in the face of intense competition from rival coalitions.
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It is also important to remember that some of those dropped were involved in the movement for reforms and change, from Reformasi in 1998 until the defeat of Umno in 2018. This people’s movement for change is much bigger than the mainstream political parties. To discard such people who have played such a key role in this wider movement leaves a bitter taste, especially when remnants of the old discredited order are still clinging on to power.
We call upon PH leaders to reconsider their decision, which many people have received with disbelief and utter disappointment.
Whilst it is the prerogative of the leadership of the respective coalitions and parties to pick candidates whom they believe are ‘winnable’, there is also a need to instil confidence in voters by putting forward credible candidates. There must be greater transparency and accountability to voters who are the final decision-makers in the electoral process.
As for the proposed PH electoral pact with the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), the delay in finalising negotiations for an electoral pact, which finally fell through, will affect PSM and its candidates’ preparations for the general election on 19 November.
PSM chairperson Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj was an outstanding two-term parliamentarian, familiar with the concerns of grassroots communities. It is a pity that there is no place for him and other reform-minded political activists in PH, which is standing on a reform platform that should also encompass a broad range of grassroots concerns.
It is high time to review the first-past-the-post electoral system. We call on the Election Commission to seriously consider other more viable options, like the proportional representation system, for implementation soon. This would allow voters to cast their ballots for the party of their choice separately from their choice of candidates.
We call on all political parties to have more reliable and valid criteria for the selection of candidates. They must have integrity and competence and practise inclusivity. They must be aware of the critical global issues – like climate change and international human rights treaties – that will have an impact on the local situation.
Candidates should also be able to wholeheartedly uphold and put into practice the key principles of the People’s Agenda, which has been endorsed by 58 civil society groups:
- Uphold the dignity and quality of life of the people
- Promote equitable, sustainable development and address the climate crisis
- Celebrate diversity and inclusivity
- Save democracy and uphold the rule of law
- Fight corruption and cronyism
In short, parties must select candidates who put People and the Ecosystem before Profits.
Aliran executive committee
31 October 2022