Our nation has become so divided today that it is imperative for whoever wins the next general election to repair the rift. A witch-hunt by Pakatan against the losing side will do the opposite. But an inquiry into the misdeeds BN perpetrated while in government will be essential – and edifying. It could help Malaysians learn valuable lessons in order to move forward and prevent such misdeeds from recurring.
Kee Thuan Chye
Bersih co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasen said a good thing a few days ago when she called for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to be set up should Pakatan Rakyat win Putrajaya at the next general election so that there would be no witch-hunt that could divide the nation further.
I don’t mean to take the thunder away from her, but this is something that has already been in the mind of Pakatan leader Anwar Ibrahim for some time, long before Ambiga mentioned it.
Anwar has spoken before about his admiration for Nelson Mandela, who, after he won the presidency of South Africa, established such a TRC in order to forgive the transgressions of the Apartheid regime. Anwar has also spoken about his intent to emulate Mandela’s move.
It’s not surprising therefore that Nurul Izzah and N Surendran, vice-presidents of Pakatan party PKR, have come out to concur with Ambiga. They both used the appropriate rhetoric in saying that Pakatan will be more concerned about “saving Malaysia” than putting people in prison.
Lim Kit Siang of Pakatan partner the DAP echoed this when he said, “We’re not concerned about going on a witch-hunt... We have a lot to deal with, and there are more important things to go for than bloodletting.”
Another Pakatan partner, PAS, seems in favor of a similarly reasonable bent. Its leaders Dzulkefly Ahmad and Khalid Samad have said Pakatan would not want to punish everyone and that it would instead focus on governance and policy issues.
It is most reassuring that revenge is not on Pakatan’s agenda. It also speaks well of the coalition’s political maturity. Then again, this should not be surprising.
We have already seen that right after Pakatan took over the governments in Penang and Selangor in 2008, instead of totally shutting out BN, they actually made bipartisan gestures – Penang appointed a Gerakan leader as director of InvestPenang and the Penang Development Corporation, while Selangor appointed another Gerakan leader as co-chairman of its special task force on land issues. It was BN that objected to these.
One hopes that if Pakatan takes over the federal government, it will spurn the traditional BN way and welcome bipartisanship in tackling the pressing problems the country faces. Of these, there are many – crime, race, religion, rising prices, global competitiveness, etc.
Many other things need to be set right, too – the judiciary, the police, the media, local government, repressive legislation, the whole issue of justice or lack of it manifest in the various aspects of Malaysian life.
Reconciliation must involve bringing as many interested parties as possible into the process of revamping Malaysia. Mismanagement, misdoings and Mahathirism have over the last few decades made the nation less than what it could have been. It would require the resources of men with good hearts and brains, never mind their political affiliation, to come together to revive Malaysia’s potential for better things.
Furthermore, our nation has become so divided today that it is imperative for whoever wins the next general election to repair the rift. A witch-hunt by Pakatan against the losing side will do the opposite. But an inquiry into the misdeeds BN perpetrated while in government will be essential – and edifying. It could help Malaysians learn valuable lessons in order to move forward and prevent such misdeeds from recurring.
Out of this inquiry will emerge many issues, but I think the main ones are likely to be corruption, gerrymandering, dividing the races, and acts of violence, including assault and murder.
On corruption, I have to agree with Dzulkefly and Khalid that the big cases have to be prosecuted, and also with Ambiga that the small-takers be granted amnesty because the prosecution of too many cases could engender tension.
We can’t let the big fish get off because this would be akin to pardoning those who not only committed high crimes but also abused their power. In some cases, such abuse amounts to disloyalty to country. They have to be prosecuted to send out the strong message that the new government means business when it comes to tackling corruption, and that it will not tolerate corruption of any kind.
Asset recovery from those found guilty, as proposed by Ambiga, is also a must. Those who have prospered at the public’s expense must pay back what they have taken. Financial circumstances being what they are, we need to set this condition.
As for gerrymandering, there is a need to make the Election Commission truly independent and to give it the brief to re-delineate each existing constituency in proportion to the size of its population. We should no longer tolerate an electoral map that favors the party in government.
Acts of violence are of course crimes against humanity and should not be pardoned. We have seen this lately in the form of, for example, political thuggery and alleged police brutality against individuals and also crowds at political demonstrations. If there is a case against them, they have to be brought to justice.
The Altantuya murder continues to raise questions in the minds of Malaysians. If further investigations indicate that answering these questions will bring out the truth surrounding the case, it should be resurrected.
There have also been murders allegedly covered up to protect the well-connected. A new government, with a new attorney-general, should revisit these cases and bring the real culprits to court.
I’ve saved the most insidious for last – dividing the races. There is no question that this practice reflects the greatest disloyalty to the nation. Perhaps other than selling the country to foreigners.
One man above many others must be held accountable for spreading fear and racial hatred. That man is Mahathir Mohamad.
During his time as prime minister and after, right up to the present, Mahathir has been active in polarizing the races and engendering widespread racism. He has notoriously spewed the fallacy that if BN were to lose the next general election, the Malays would be without power. Apart from persuading them to support Umno and BN, he has done this to make them fear and hate the other races.
For a man of his position and influence to be doing this without regard for the wellbeing of the nation, it is unforgivable. Thus, even if he cannot be charged in court for such a misdeed, the TRC must acknowledge his guilt.
Malaysia cannot move forward without renouncing – or, better still, outlawing – racial hatred. Those who have contributed to its growth should be stopped. That’s the bitter-sweet truth. That’s a much-needed step towards reconciliation.