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PH’s survival lies in the rejection of elitism

Photograph: Sumisha Naidu/CNA

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For Pakatan Harapan to survive in the long run, it needs to build a progressive coalition based on common principles that is not much about winning an immediate election but about enduring values, says Ronald Benjamin.

There have been various debates in the media about why the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government collapsed after the treacherous elements within it orchestrated a coup.

Among the reasons: the ambition of an individual who was desperate to become prime minister, the violation of the transition agreement, a lack of coordination among cabinet colleagues, a lack of trust and improper communication of its success in delivering certain reforms.

Putting things together and analysing deeper the root cause of the fall of the PH government is the nature of Malay-Muslim-centred unprincipled elite politics that were more interested in preserving positions and holding on to critical government resources, and the dominant ethno-religious Islamisation that desires a permanent foothold on institutions.

When Bersatu, PKR, DAP and Amanah formed a coalition, its driving force was more to topple the kleptocratic government of Najib Razak than what would happen in the aftermath when the Barisan Nasional government was toppled.

Bersatu’s ideology is similar to Umno’s on Malay dominance, and what set them apart was the kleptocratic government of Najib. They share a common foundational aspect of ideological coherence regarding the  Malay-centred agenda. For a party like Bersatu, human rights, the environment and local democracy is not in its vocabulary.

Bersatu needed help to topple Najib so it grudgingly accepted certain reforms in the PH common manifesto.

As for PKR, its purpose was about reforms, but its overriding objective was to install Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister through the transition plan.

READ MORE:  Memorandum persefahaman antara kerajaan dan PH adalah diperlukan (Malay/English)

This is the reason that when Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, which allows detention without trial, was used against certain individuals who were accused of links with the so-called defunct Liberalisation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, there was no vehement protest from PKR, whose leaders have also suffered from detention under various oppressive laws.

It felt that its position in the government of the day was far more important that the human rights of the detainees. It was superficially supporting former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad knowing well that he has no willingness to adhere to principled reforms.

Unfortunately for Anwar, there were elements within his party that torpedoed his prime ministerial ambition.

Where does the DAP stand in this situation? For its leaders especially Lim Kit Siang, it was about the bigger picture of toppling a kleptocratic government and bringing in reforms without understanding the nature of the political parties he is in partnership with, such as Bersatu, which is centred on greed for Malay power and dominance that transcends the reforms that he is thinking about.

Besides that, the DAP has failed to reach out to the conservative segments of the Malay community hoping that the job will be done by Bersatu, PKR or Amanah.

Its government allocations to mosques or for development were inadequate when what was required was political communication of empathy with the Malay community in understanding why they hold on to concepts like identity and the elements of history which has always been contentious with the DAP’s rhetoric of equality.

READ MORE:  Pakatan Harapan needs to reflect on recent decisions

The DAP believed that merely riding on a tiger called Mahathir or Anwar Ibrahim would be adequate in the complex nature of Malay identity politics.

As for Amanah, it was still a new party when it came to power without adequate support from the Malay-Muslim population in comparison with Pas and Umno.

Therefore, for Pakatan Harapan to survive in the long run, it needs to build a progressive coalition of common principles that is not much about winning an immediate election but about enduring values like integrity and care for social justice, the environment, local governance and respect for the reality of ethnic identity and politics that does not transcend good governance and human rights.

It has to get rid of its own ethno-centric political leaders who have little empathy to the reality of Malay-Muslim history in this country. It is time to move on from ethno-centric parties like Bersatu and build a  coalition of progressives – or even with some principled grassroots moderate conservatives who care for issues like the environment.

For an example in Austria, there is a new governing coalition between the conservatives and the greens that shows an appreciation of the different ideologies among its mature and moderate leaders in working for the common good of its people. Such maturity brings about peace and stability in the real sense – and not a superficial stability based on ethno-religious dominance like what we are witnessing now.

For the new coalition to takes shape it requires current elite leaders such as Mahathir, Anwar, Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng to step down, with new leaders at the helm before the next general election.

READ MORE:  Pakatan Harapan: On recapturing Putrajaya

New leaders should be discovered from grassroots movements and local governments.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

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