Looking at the recent controversies in Malaysia, Soon Chuan Yean wonders whether he should toss out his political science training and contemplate the possibility of a grand conspiracy theory.
I am not a fan of political conspiracy theory. Trained as a political scientist, I feel such an approach does not provide comprehensive and analytical tools to observe a political scenario rationally if not objectively. However, I am slowly contemplating this sort of political analysis, thanks to recent events in our political history.
The proper political theories and approaches that I have learned thus far are not helpful in making sense of what exactly is happening now in Malaysian Bolehland politics. So I am tempted to resort to the conspiracy theory and then it starts to make some political (joke) sense.
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First was the Perak fiasco, followed by the recent Federal Court decision declaring Zambry Abd Kadir as the rightful Perak Menteri Besar.
Second, the constant attacks and incidences of sabotage by the federal government against opposition-controlled states especially Selangor and Penang. This is then followed by the media hoo-ha on the possibility of Pakatan Rakyat’s MPs hopping parties.
Third, the second sodomy charge against Anwar.
Last but not least are the religious incidents such as the cow-head incident, the Allah issue, and the attacks on churches and mosques. These provided a ‘platform’ for the political party-backed Malay-Muslim NGOs to protest and make racially charged remarks in an attempt to stir not only religious but ethnic tensions such as the recent protest against Guan Eng on the issue of hawkers’ licences in Penang.
How do these events fit into a conspiracy theory?
The Perak incident was the first attempt by Umno/BN to consolidate its power under Najib’s grip after losing their two thirds majority and five states to the opposition.
Power grabbing extends to the government, institutional or bureaucratic level. The constant campaigns to attack the PR are meant to to weaken the PR’s image and reputation in the eyes of the rakyat and to thwart the day-to-day work functioning of state-level administration.
After creating a weak and incapable PR, which will also prove that the rakyat had made the wrong choice, the next step is to put the leader of the PR in prison. This is reminiscent of a Chinese saying “cut off the head of the dragon and the body of the dragon will be dismantled”.
Finally, to push the campaign further ahead, there is the attempt to create a platform of instability by stoking religious and ethnic tensions in order to allow the state to intervene and become the “pacifier.”
After a rethinking on my formal political science trainings and a glance at the democratisation processes around the region, I am beginning to become unconvinced about the possibility of conspiracy politics taking place in Malaysia. The period of Ferdinand Marcos’ authoritarian rule in the Philippines has long gone after 1986 due to ‘People’s Power’. Likewise in Indonesia and Thailand, the New Order regime of Suharto and military rule in Thailand are things of the past due to the political pressure of the incremental demands of society for wider political participation and further democratisation.
In Malaysia, 308 was the cornerstone of our political change. The rakyat have showcased their political desire for change and reform. The rakyat have experienced the ebbs and flows of political upheavals and deceit by the wielders of power.
Will the conspiracy theory work again? My political science case studies tell me that the rakyat’s political maturity has risen beyond conspiracy theories: a politically mature rakyat is on the move demanding deeper democracy. Watch out!
Soon Chuan Yean is an Aliran exco member.