The new politics of the new Malaysia

Umno and the BN are totally unaware that the New Malaysia and the New Malaysians have slowly yet surely embraced a New Politics. That the New Politics is diametrically opposed to and in total conflict with the Old Politics of the Umno and the BN is now widely acknowledged and ever so evident by the passing day in turbulent Malaysia.

By Dzukefly Ahmad, The Malaysian Insider

During five uninterrupted decades of rule, the Perikatan and later the BN government have assumed almost absolute control of power and acted with such impunity. The Opposition parties, much less the rakyat, reacted defencelessly, occasionally able to cause a whimper to the hegemonic grip of the BN’s asymmetrical electoral “fire-power” and machinations. By God’s grace, that era is over.

After the fourth successive by-election defeat, post-12th General Election in Peninsular Malaysia, the BN must be now scared stiff to face any more by-elections, especially not in the very near future, for fear of being trounced and humiliated further. What seems to be their greatest anxiety is the fact that they themselves do not quite understand what has gone terribly wrong with them. They seem to have lost their so-called “magical touch”, their “wows” and their “appeals” after being the “super-star adored and cherished” by the rakyat all over the nation.

That must be a very terrible state to be in. The last by-election of April 7 must be about their worst nightmare. Speculation was rife from intelligence sources right to the 11th hour, both from the military and the Special Branch, that the BN candidates in Bukit Gantang and Bukit Selambau would make it 3-0, with the Batang Ai BN man winning hands down. But alas, as fate would have it, only the remote (read less informed) voters of Batang Ai were willing to give the newly minted prime minister a “feel-good” factor and accolades worthy of a new PM.

Both Pakatan Rakyat’s candidates indeed won by a wider majority, a tight slap on the PM’s face, which he perhaps deserves for his deafening silence on the most heinous crime perpetrated on Malaysian soil on a vulnerable foreign woman. That has caused a big dent on the nation’s already much compromised integrity.

Be that as it may, is Umno/BN about to be sent to the grave? I have asked this question before, in my piece “Umno — the end of the end or …?” (Harakah, Febuary 2009). And again I’m going to answer this in the negative. I’m pretty sure that I’m not liked by many well-wishers in Pakatan Rakyat. Playing to the bigger gallery of Pakatan Rakyat’s supporters, it would be most apt and expedient to pronounce a death sentence for the BN.

After all, isn’t that what the opposition and many people would wish to see, the final demise of Umno and the BN? But that wouldn’t be very interesting as it would succumb to opposition rhetoric and we may fail to see the rationale of such an assertion.

Just hold on, and let’s rationalise and look at the issues further. The BN is in pain to understand why they have been given a bloody nose, so to say, despite their painstaking efforts of “serving” and “caring” for the rakyat, again seen in Bukit Gantang. The deputy prime minister literally and frantically lashed out at the Chinese and Indians for abandoning the BN’s candidates. The Chinese and Indians retaliated ferociously, for having been dubbed as ungrateful.

This writer intends to make one thing plain and clear in this piece. This writer is about to reveal a much needed panacea for Umno and the BN. Umno has just to read this article and their leaders understand and internalise this message.

The Umno/BN government and leaders have no longer what it takes to lead this nation. The solution for Umno/BN is not in doing the wrong things better. It’s not about delivering it more efficiently. It’s not about plugging old holes and creating bigger new ones. It’s not about re-nationalising bad, failed privatised mega-projects. It’s not about changing new faces and new players in an old game of poker. It’s not about putting old wine in new bottles! They got it all wrong.

Let this writer be merciful and gracious enough to correct his political nemesis’ gross error of political judgment in problem solving. Through all these years of sheer arrogance, unbridled greed and unabated sins of omissions and commissions, Umno and the BN are thoroughly oblivious that times have changed, while they are stuck and embedded in their old paradigm of ethno-centric Malay supremacy and ethnic-based politics of patronage for cronies and well-connected business rent-seekers.

Umno and the BN are totally unaware that the New Malaysia and the New Malaysians have slowly yet surely embraced a New Politics. That the New Politics is diametrically opposed to and in total conflict with the Old Politics of the Umno and the BN is now widely acknowledged and ever so evident by the passing day in turbulent Malaysia.

Lest Umno and the BN think that the New Politics is about Pakatan Rakyat and hence, it’s rightful owner and its torchbearers, rest assured that it is neither the case. It may be consoling to Umno and the BN to note that the New Politics is entirely a rakyat-centric phenomenon, both its genesis and now its content. It seems to have a life of its own, a momentum triggered and rekindled after the 12th General Election and continues unabated to date.

The New Politics is here when the citizenry, the voters, the real stakeholders of democracy are turning to be the real bosses in a democracy. That’s only plausible when the rakyat and voters have become “informed and enlightened” through the enabling medium of the “new media”. A thousand thanks to the God-sent new media!

With the majority of the rakyat becoming discerning and liberated voters, what you actually have is a functional democracy. When democracy is about voters making informed decisions, you now have in place a truly functional democracy. And that’s the first prerequisite of the New Politics as opposed to the Old Politics of Umno/BN that have all along denied and stifled information from the rakyat.

Not only did they usurp the right of the citizens from assessing information, they actually made it forbidden and unlawful for them to gain assess to it. They criminalise those that gained proximity to it and enact draconian laws as to instil and propagate the politics of fear, a hallmark of the Old Politics.

They are hell bent to protect their sinister and dubious business dealings, unchallengeable in the open courts. Such are their acts which smack of sheer arrogance and conceit, an Old Politics steeps in unrestrained power and greed.

While the New Politics liberate and empower the voters and its citizenry to make informed choices their democratic rights, the Old Politics continue to exercise strong-arms tactics of the controversial repressive laws so as to quash lawful dissent and legitimate contestations.

While the voices of the concerned civil society are clamouring for a renewed nationhood based on Justice, Transparency and Good Governance, the proponents of the Old Politics fear that they must make way for the eventual triumph of a New Politics for a New Malaysia.

It would be wise and pertinent for Umno to quickly realise that in the New Politics lie their reinvention and survival. The Pakatan Rakyat does not command an absolute right to be the torchbearer nor the sole owner of the New Politics.

Umno and the BN must not only attempt at imitating and plagiarising the PR on its all-inclusive rhetoric and various rakyat-centric tag-lines. That may not be the critical challenge, much as it is the easiest things to do. The rakyat are equally bored of that.

Umno and the BN must first size up to the task of undergoing real reform. That real reform hinges on actually embracing a new window-to-the-world, a shift from an ethnic-based political worldview to the bigger vision of a value-based political worldview based on universal and Islamic/transcendental justice.

Islamist democrats, like this writer and his Islamist party, much as their secular democrat partners from the DAP and the PKR, are all willing to forge a credible and sustainable coalition politics as to enhance bigger, nobler and critical strategic values that they together commonly cherish, in the effort of debunking the Old Politics of corruption, cronyism and patronage.

Proponents of the New Politics, with all their well-wishers from civil society, set their goal-setting as essentially reconstructing a new nationhood of virtues and a nation of care and opportunity.

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad is the director of the PAS Research Centre. He is also the Kuala Selangor MP.