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Principles, not personalities and parties

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Chandra Muzaffar responds to Choo Sing Chye and explains why he has been critical of Pakatan parties, among others.

Chandra Muzaffar
Chandra Muzaffar

I am pleased that in ‘Dr Chandra – just an open note for you’, Choo Sing Chye does not resort to the vile and vulgar vitriolic of so many commentators in cyber media. His quotes from one of my earlier books are also accurate — unlike some who invent or distort the writings of the targeted person in order to tarnish him.

However, when one quotes from someone else’s writings it is also important to provide the context. Many of my commentaries in Challenges and Choices in Malaysian Politics and Society were responses to specific episodes. Choo has also been somewhat selective in his quotes. While it is true that as the President of a reform group, I was mostly concerned with the actions of the wielders of State power, I was also critical in the book of PAS and the DAP.

In fact, Choo recognises this. He says that, “You didn’t speak for the Opposition, nor the BN government but you spoke eloquently for the poor and (sic) injustices.”

This is the crux and core of the matter. Our fidelity should be to the principle of justice, not to a personality or a party.

When I joined the Anwar movement in 1998, it was not because of Anwar the man but because of the injustice done to him. For taking a principled stand, I paid the price. I lost my university job.

Three years later when I left Parti Keadilan Nasional, it was because my conscience could not accept the wrongdoings in the party. I was not prepared to acquiesce with money politics in the party; the manipulation of communal sentiments in pursuit of political objectives; the utter lack of transparency in the financial management of the party; and the cosy relationship that Keadilan’s de facto leader had cultivated with certain elements in Washington.

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It was while I was in Keadilan and as coordinator of the Barisan Alternatif (BA) comprising Keadilan, Pas, DAP and Parti Rakyat, that I realised that the ideological chasm that separates PAS and DAP on fundamental issues such as the role of Islam in society and the identity of the nation is unbridgeable. I organised a few sessions among the leaders of the BA to try to address these issues but there was little progress.

It is because their differences are insurmountable, that Pas and DAP need Keadilan, specifically Anwar, as a link. Anwar in turn needs both parties to shore up his position. Through DAP, Pas gains some Chinese support while through Pas, DAP secures some Malay support. Pas discovered the value of a link to DAP via Anwar in the 1999 General Election when it captured 27 parliamentary seats, its best performance ever. DAP, on the other hand, realised the efficacy of a link to Pas mediated by Anwar in the 2008 General Election when it won 28 parliamentary seats, a figure that it had not reached before. So it is a case of Pas and DAP using one another. Indeed, everyone is using everyone else in the Pakatan.

Pakatan is a totally opportunistic inter-party grouping that has one overwhelming aim: to take over Putrajaya. Of course, like other parties elsewhere seeking power, Pakatan’s rhetoric is all about fighting corruption and ensuring good governance. Unlike other coalitions in Malaysian politics, it has no common belief-system that holds it together. Even the Socialist Front of the sixties, comprising the Parti Rakyat and the Labour Party, had some ideological bond. When the Alliance was formed in 1954, achieving Merdeka was its all-consuming goal. In 1974, the Barisan Nasional committed itself to development and national unity. Indeed, the Pakatan is not even a coalition in the sense in which the term is understood. It has no common symbol; no common flag; no common structure of authority.

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When a citizen alerts his fellow citizens to the inherent pitfalls of an inter-party grouping like Pakatan, isn’t he doing his duty to his nation? Why should he be accused of betraying his “egalitarian idealism” when he speaks the truth about those who are lusting for power?

After all, didn’t I in Challenges and Choices ask the honest question, “Will it (PAS) ever be able to realize its potential of becoming the leader of an alternative coalition of parties to the Barisan as long as it persists with its goal of establishing an Islamic State defined on the basis of traditional theology?” (p.123)

Dr Chandra Muzaffar is the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan 1Malaysia.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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24 Mar 2013 9.08pm

This fellow said, when he join pakatan, he lost his job. That reality hits like the tyre meets the road. Fighting for principles has a price to pay. In 2008, BN won but not 2/3 yet instead of cleaning the slate, it started to attack the opposition states, trying all sorts of evil ways to get back like that of the Perak fiasco and still doing so even till today. One just wonder will BN need another chance or be totally removed. The aim of Pakatan is to remove BN, to make a clean slate. Nothing is perfect. But the choice is of a lesser perfection than the present one. There will come a time, change is needful. Now is the time.

Albert Choong
23 Mar 2013 11.42pm

I used to attend many of the forums organized by ALIRAN when he was its president. He was very stead-fast in many of his good principles on socio-economic and political affairs of Malaysia which were neglected by the ruling coalition then. These principles of his are listed by Mr. Choo Sing Chye in ‘Dr Chandra – just an open note for you’. I could not agree more that he has made a 360 degree turn around in the principles that he believed in and fought for. Now he is blowing the trumpet for his political masters, supporting the policies and actions of the last two and present PM. When the majority of Malaysians are demanding for CHANGE and for clean and fair elections, he argued that there is no necessity to change the government. We will hear more of his disparaging remarks and condemnation of Pakatan Rakyat component parties since the GE is getting closer. We should just ignore this egoistic self-serving intellectual, shutting off his twisted ranting from his high chair of Yayasan 1Malaysia.

Ed G
Ed G
22 Mar 2013 11.50pm

While it is true that the PR coalition partners have many differences in terms of ideology or even how the nation should be governed in the long term, they have many very clear common objectives, namely to eradicate corruption and a long list of other unjust or immoral policies and practices that in many occasions border on criminality. One can never expect a party like BN with its overwhelmingly dominant UMNO which is infested with corruption right from the very top to seriously look into the malaise of corruption or the custodial deaths. And do not expect its spineless and opportunistic coalition partners to even raise their fingers much less come out with any solutions to the malaise. Ever heard any of them questioning the obscene commission to the tune of half a billion ringgit involved in the the Scorpene submarine deal? And by the way, does such shady deal weigh on Dr.Chandra’s conscience? It is to the believe of many, including mine, that a change in the federal goverment is the only hope at this point of time to rid the country of many of… Read more »

kaki pulau
22 Mar 2013 1.05pm

What happened to Chandra Muzaffar, why did he turn into Dr. M’s twin? I don’t know you well or personally, but from the little I know of you, it only gives me one impression, you have lost sight and sense of justice and now support injustice … you have also (lost) your sense of humanity and justice, which cannot be forgotten. Rom Nain is right it is sad that you have lowered yourself to being … subservient to those in power. You are lost, Chandra M to all that is true and just.

James Tan
James Tan
22 Mar 2013 11.28am

There are those who made impressionable and indelible memories that are worth more than gold. And on the same token, there are those that err….. well, not mentionable. And Chandra, you fit into the latter. I rather not be sounding vulgar otherwise you would be patting yourself on your back. Please, don’t be so high sounding. Yes, it makes me sick with all your ..well..lies. Go fly a kite.

Wong Kok keong
Wong Kok keong
22 Mar 2013 10.46am

I couldn’t agree more with Rom Nain. Chandra Muzaffar’s one sidedness is blatantly obvious to the point of being obscene or vulgar. To take just one recent example, his diatribe against Bersih, dismissing people who lead it as no more than Pakatan stooges. How insulting can he get? But this is really a reflection of where he is today–a demagogue for the BN government, made all the more vulgar because he is made use of by the BN to shore up their intellectual pretension. Chandra speaks of principles! How delusional! Since his parting of ways with Pakatan Keadilan Rakyat apparently because he had his beef with Anwar Ibrahim, he, soon enough,got work with USM (again), and then the BN government. I don’t begrudge him for having to restrain his views against the hand that feeds him. What is despicable is, again, his vulgar one-sided diatribe against Pakatan every chance he gets. His dismissal of the entire PR can really be traced to his beef with Anwar. He has nothing to say about why a viable 2nd party is much needed for Malaysia because of the wanton… Read more »

Rom Nain
22 Mar 2013 6.36am

It’s surely also a question of balance, isn’t it, Chandra Muzaffar? You virtually condemn Pakatan in this response to Choo Sing Chye, and imply sanctimoniously you are speaking `the truth about those lusting for power’. But what about speaking the same truth about those who are in power and lusting to remain in power? This whole response has been nothing more than a diatribe against Pakatan and Anwar. But what about the many wrongs of Najib and the BN – and the institutions they control – committed over a long period of time? You make sweeping statements about some really good people in the Pakatan coalition and slander these decent human beings and committed Malaysians by saying `everyone is using everyone else in the Pakatan’. Really? You mean to say you’ve analysed each of these individuals and their motives and are now an expert on human behaviour and motivation? And are we asked to believe that the BN coalition, on the other hand, is made up of a bunch of angels? You may not be vile and vulgar in the language you use, but, and I’m… Read more »

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