The Raison d’être of MCLM

The move to see changes started back in the late-1970s and the various stages of these events have brought us to what we see today, the emergence of MCLM.

Popular blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin is the MCLM chairman. He is presently living in the UK. This article was exclusively written for FMT.

Raja Petra Kamarudin, Free Malaysia Today

There are some who are puzzled by the sudden emergence of the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) and the perceived confrontational stand that MCLM is taking towards the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat.

Maybe it is time I corrected this misconception and make clear what is our Reform Agenda and state MCLM’s Mission and Vision.

First of all, I have always been critical of the opposition since way back in 1999 when the opposition alliance called Barisan Alternatif was first launched and before there even was anything called Pakatan Rakyat.

And my critical articles were published in both Harakah and Berita Keadilan, the opposition newspapers of PAS and PKR (then called PKN) respectively.

So there is nothing ‘sudden’ about my criticisms and the opposition parties even saw fit to publish these articles in their newspapers without any editing or censorship. Maybe people have become more sensitive to criticism now compared to 11 years ago, so they have the impression that only of late have I been critical — whereas I have always been critical of the opposition since there was an opposition alliance or coalition. (We must remember, before 1999 there was no formal opposition coalition, only electoral pacts, which did not quite work anyway).

It could be that the sensitivities arise because prior to 2008 no one imagined that the opposition ever had a chance of forming the new federal government whereas now they do. So now they are more sensitive to criticisms because they feel that this criticism may result in Pakatan Rakyat losing out to Barisan Nasional.

The second point is that MCLM is not ‘sudden’. It emerged as a result of a culmination of events and a progression of developments in the political front that stretched over 35 years (as far as my involvement in politics is concerned).

The move (for me personally) to see changes started back in the late-1970s and the various stages of these events have brought us to what we see today — the emergence of MCLM.

In 1990 it was the Gagasan Rakyat and Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU) loose coalitions between Semangat 46 and DAP and between Semangat 46 and PAS respectively. In 1999 it was Barisan Alternatif, a coalition of PKN, DAP, PAS and PRM. And in 2008 it was Pakatan Rakyat, a coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS.

Wakeup call

So, over the last 20 years, we have seen the emergence of four different opposition coalitions. Therefore, nothing is static and instead we saw a progression and transformation where events dictated changes that were needed to meet these changes of events.

The same thing happened for political activism and the civil society movements. They evolved and transformed, peaking in 1999 when the Reformasi Movement was born.

In the beginning it was a ‘crude’ movement where the focus was merely to oppose a tyrannical government and bring about changes or reforms. But this movement was not so organised and lacked direction.

Worse still, we would not have known what to do had the opposition won the elections back in 1990 or 1999 and had to form the new federal government (which was demonstrated in 2008 when the opposition merely won five states and not even federal power yet).

But the civil society movements have matured since then and are now clearer in their minds as to what is required. 2004 was a wakeup call for the civil society movements although we are not too sure if the political parties have also woken up. And the wakeup call was the disaster suffered by the opposition in the March 2004 general election.

That was when I realised that the opposition and civil society movements must be better equipped to face the next general election due in 2008 or 2009. And to satisfy that requirement I launched Malaysia Today soon after the 2004 general election.

Also in 2004 a few of us also got together to form the Malaysian Civil Liberties Society (MCLS). This was so that we could offer a platform to unite the many rakyat eager to see changes and reforms and so that we could speak as one voice and help the opposition not only avoid another 2004 general election disaster but also prepare itself for the eventuality of forming the new federal government in the event it wins the general elections (or a few states, as the case may be).