Has the 2008 tsunami run its course?

By Vijay Kumar Murugavell

Some opine that political support is like a pendulum, if that is so the political tsunami on March 08, 2008 could have really begun in 2004 where the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration won a record 92 per cent of the seats in Parliament. The resounding mandate could generally be attributed to weariness after 22 years of Mahathirism.

There was euphoria all around as Malaysians were hopeful that corruption and other injustices would be addressed. Abdullah, popularly known as Pak Lah, was a phlegmatic character who seemed very dovish compared to the hawkish Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

At that time those who raised the alarm as to the almost non-existent opposition in Parliament like me were dismissed as alarmists and cynics.

It did not take long for right-wing ethno-nationalists to hijack Pak Lah’s reform agenda.

What Pak Lah did with that mandate is now water under the bridge but it is widely acknowledged that he failed. Many factors caused this initial euphoria to die down and BN was punished at the ballot box in the last general election.

The election was suspiciously called about a month before Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was eligible to contest, at the same time many BN leaders had declared that Anwar was not a factor, irrelevant, etc.

This had proven to be a major strategic blunder borne out of arrogance as Anwar was not confined to his own constituency and was free to criss-cross the country to help co-ordinate the loose opposition coalition campaign machinery and strategy. BN lost its customary two-thirds majority and an unprecedented five states.

This time, supporters from the opposition camp were euphoric. Many who were accustomed to power were seen as sulking and unable to be magnanimous.

On the flip-side, many from the opposition camp found themselves in charge of administering state governments, some of whom were seen as arrogant, depending on one’s political affiliation.

Anwar has been called many names, among which that he is an untrustworthy person with the gift of playing political spin in his favour.

However, what many people fail to see is that Anwar has managed to accomplish the Herculean task that no one before this has been able to do, which is to unite the opposition parties with diverse ideologies into an alliance that subscribes to justice, equality and a quest to end corrupt practices, which are not so different from Pak Lah’s pledges.

Fast forward to the present and PKR is mired in much controversy. This was exacerbated when Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, a former Umno minister, left PKR in a huff, alleging party electoral irregularities. In the corporate world if the boss is insecure about his position it is likely to manifest in disunity among his team where his subordinates are likely to follow the cue and backstab new employees.

Zaid sympathisers believe this is what happened to him. Zaid too caused confusion when he declared his on-again, off-again intention to contest.

Imagine if Zaid had won the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat and now left PKR, what a conundrum that would be!

Zaid must appreciate that he was allowed to contest in the first place, unlike T. Murugiah, who left the PPP for the MIC because the party constitution decrees that newcomers cannot contest positions for three years. Zaid should also learn grace from Kulasegaran who, despite feeling sidelined, declared he will not leave the DAP.

In an even contest too it is unlikely for Zaid to win but this does not mean PKR does not have to address its internal problems. It is pointless to maintain party status quo but lose the confidence of the voters.

PKR also has a responsibility to explain to all Pakatan supporters the status of registering PKR, DAP and PAS as a formal coalition with the Registrar of Societies. Zaid was designated with this task, so what is the plan now?

The low turnout for the PKR party polls is also very alarming and cannot be explained away without properly auditing membership rolls. Do you see your leadership of the Pakatan coalition as a responsibility or a privilege?

Please appreciate that PAS and the DAP have not reacted despite being baited by BN. Are you open to constructive criticism without jumping to conclusions?

Because there will be plenty coming your way should you succeed in capturing Putrajaya.

You have to go beyond reformasi.

English statesman Robert Bulwer-Lytton (1831-1891) once said: “A reform is a correction of abuses; a revolution is a transfer of power.” Seen in our current context this means if Pakatan does not go beyond submarines, Altantuya, TBH, 100-storey Warisan Merdeka tower, etc (and I don’t mean to say abuses should not be highlighted), you will not go further than denying BN its two-thirds majority.

To capture Putrajaya you must articulate beyond a reasonable doubt what the shape of a Pakatan federal government will be.

Even a bad idea is better than no idea at all, which repressive laws, Acts, ordinances will you repeal when you come to power?

What will you do to win over civil servants, many of whom are BN loyalists, from possible revolt? In the first place where is your shadow Cabinet?

This is the most fundamental platform for a government in waiting. If you cannot do that and assure the rakyat that they can safely hand federal power to you, then I am afraid there is a great possibility of seeing BN win with two-thirds majority indefinitely and you will go down in history as what Lim Kit Siang famously warned “a one-term wonder” and after a while everyone will begin to wonder why they backed you. The ball is in your court.