Progressives and Umno politics 

There must be real and substantial differences in their political views and thoughts before we can make this distinction. It’s not necessary for us the rakyat to take sides in the Umno political contest by lending credence and respectability when none is expected from us.

Zaid Ibrahim

Last week I was immersed in the literary festival in Ubud, Bali, listening to well-known writers as they shared their progressive views on the many facets of the human condition.

Most people associate the word “progressive” to include far-sighted views on democratic systems of government, an equitable economy and a free society where personal liberty is well protected.

In political terms, a progressive country is one where laws protect the rights of all communities—including minorities—and where the courts are independent and well respected.

In other words, improving the human condition is the yardstick by which progressives are measured.

In the US, for example, the progressive movement of the 1890s  included the fight for progressive taxation, where the rich were taxed more; the fight for the rights of women generally, including their right to vote; and freeing education from the clutches of vested interests and the Church.

In the UK, reformists sometimes use the term “progressive” when they are not happy with either the Conservatives or the left-leaning socialists in Labour.

There is not much difference, however, among the three big parties on the “big issues”, such as the meaning of democracy; the need for accountability and transparency in Government; the need for the Rule of Law  to be applicable at all times; or the idea that liberty and freedom for the people of Great Britain are guaranteed.

Their differences are more on budgetary priorities, healthcare services, school systems and the role of the state in providing socioeconomic services.

By now most of us have read about the great success of Khairy Jamaluddin and Dato Sri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil at the recent Umno polls.

Everyone was ecstatic that the so-called “progressive forces” in Umno had won. In their opinion, the fact that the relatively unknown challengers (whose names many people could hardly spell) failed to unseat the powerful incumbents signalled a major political shift in Malaysian politics.