Where are the Friends of Pakatan?

Mariam Mokhtar

Last July, the Friends of Pakatan Rakyat (FoPR) was officially launched in London to great acclaim by Zaid Ibrahim, who had specially flown into England, with his DAP and PAS colleagues.

For Pakatan Rakyat (PR) supporters worldwide, it was a new beginning. However, four months later, Zaid dropped his bombshell by withdrawing from the PKR deputy presidency elections and openly criticising PKR’s party leaders.

Whilst many are angry at Zaid’s (right) betrayal, FoPR’s silence about this important development is damning. Has FoPR lost its focus or is it just momentarily stunned? Where is the rallying cry at a crucial time like this?

The FoPR probably chose July 4 for its launch, presumably because of its significance – it is synonymous with the United States’ Independence Day. Even the venue was important – Conway Hall in Holborn is renowned as a hub for free speech and progressive thought.

Soon after its launch, the FoPR movement was being duplicated throughout Europe, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. In east Malaysia, FoPR helped create awareness, with its network of support and community services.

Harnessing global strength

FoPR’s objective was to harness the global strength of highly qualified Malaysians working and living abroad, to tap into their expertise and financial strength in preparedness of the up-coming general election (GE-13).

When contacted, FoPR supporters in UK, although shocked by Zaid’s actions, made the following comments about PKR’s crisis.

Q: Will Zaid’s actions affect FoPR in UK?

“Although we are not clued up about the internal politics, Keadilan is in crisis and we are waiting to see how the party can regroup itself after the elections. They need not be written off, now.”

“The timing of the withdrawal will have an impact on public confidence. It’s a shame the various parties could not work out their differences and come to a common understanding of how best to move forward. The nature of politics is that things are often very fluid and you come to expect the unexpected – life goes on.”

“Parties do not disintegrate or fall apart just because of the change in one person’s circumstances.”

“Malaysia’s domination by one political party for 52 years means a strong opposition coalition will not be built overnight. For all the faults and weaknesses of the opposition, it does not wield the ISA axe, arrest students observing the election process, allow ministers to spend RM1.8 million at Disneyland or arrest cartoonists for political satire.”

“Umno has systematically immobilised civil society by stripping the rakyat of their basic civil liberties, freedoms and rights. We need to make a stand and reclaim those basic rights for a more open, democratic and just society. A stronger and more accountable opposition with the ability to run the country, means we each need to pitch in and do our part, stop complaining, get involved and take a real interest in the future of our nation.”

Q: Did Zaid’s allegations about irregularities in the voting process have a basis of truth?

“The system is imperfect. Perhaps the right mechanisms and safety nets were not in place to deal with the logistical complications of running this sort of party election. Issues have been overplayed by certain quarters in the media.”

“We must conduct a proper investigation before jumping to conclusions.”

Q: Were Zaid’s allegations dealt with properly and satisfactorily?

“There has been a lot of sensationalism and hype in the media. We need to refocus and keep our eye on the ball.”

Q: How much stronger or weaker is PR and/or FoPR without Zaid?

“I admit it’s a shame – Zaid seemed to have a lot to offer. He could have contributed significantly to the opposition coalition. We must not be swayed by any one particular personality.”

“A lot needs to be improved in PR but it is not just about PR – there are also stalwart component members – DAP and PAS – which have stood the test of time and been working towards a credible opposition and two-party system for over 30 years.”

Q: Zaid was wooed at the official launch of FoPR and today, it is not just Zaid who is despondent, but PR supporters too. So what happens now, for PR and FoPR?

“That’s life and that’s politics. What happens next? We move on.”

“PR needs to reflect on the recent election initiative, how the public relations were handled and the losses in Galas and Batu Sapi.”

“We are here to campaign for a better Malaysia – not a Malaysia where apartheid type policies and scare tactics paralyse society, but a Malaysia where fundamental civil liberties and the rule of law are upheld, democracy thrives, and social justice and equality are not just pipe-dreams.”

“FoPR needs to keep being a ‘friend’. True friends offer constructive criticism, to improve things and forge a better way forward. But more importantly, true friends also take action by providing the practical support and ideas to move forward.”