A raceless race for positions?


It has always prided itself for that multiracial look. 
Mohsin Abdullah, fz.com
I REMEMBER reading a campaign flyer for the 1999 general election which said the BN is “forced” to combine various parties to get what the Parti Keadilan Nasional or PKN  have “naturally” i.e. a multi-racial composition. Obviously referring to single race-based parties – Umno, MCA, MIC – forging a multi-racial coalition as compared to the multi-racial membership of a single Parti Keadilan. And it has always prided itself for that multiracial look.
The PKN is now PKR after the 2003 merger with PRM or Parti Rakyat Malaysia. Still, the multi-racial membership, if anything, has strengthened.
Hence PKR have the likes of Tian Chua, N Surendran, Datuk Chua Jui Meng, Baru Bian, Elizabeth Wong to name few in the upper echelons of its leadership. Not to mention members of the supreme council.
But a couple of days ago, incumbent VP Nurul Izzah Anwar, secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution and Rafizi Ramli announced that they have formed an alliance to face next month’s party polls. Nurul is defending her position, Rafizi is making a bid for one of four vice-president’s slots while Saifuddin is taking a shot at the deputy presidency.
Now that has made some people ask if such an alliance is good for PKR. Or is that sending the wrong signal to party members and the Malaysian public in general? Those questioning the move are saying the formation of the alliance “could give the impression that PKR is or rather turning into a Malay dominant party when its membership suggests otherwise”. Pointing to statistics that although 50% of the party’s half a million  members are Malays, Indians made up 25% with the remainder equally divided between Chinese and the ethnicities of Sabah and Sarawak.
To them the move by the trio is not good for a party which has been “trumpeting” multi-racialism and equality for all.
Veteran journalist Terence Netto who has been covering PKR for years is one of them. To Netto, the Nurul – Saifuddin – Rafizi alliance for the party polls is something “unwise”.
Despite saying Nurul  (together with Rafizi ) “possess an appeal that transcends sectarian boundaries in race suffused Malaysia”, he liked to see the Lembah Pantai MP with age of her side, bide her time and pull out of the VP race to make way for a VP line up of Tian Chua, Rafizi, Surendran and Baru Bian.
One can understand where Netto is heading. The line-up he is “proposing” via his piece in Malaysiakini is one which is “Malaysian” in outlook. There’s a Chinese, Indian and Malay with Sarawakian Baru Bian representing Sabah and Sarawak. That would project PKR as a truly multi-racial Malaysian party. And many say Netto has got a valid point there.
As Netto sees it,  PKR will then “continue to be the party of choice for voters who feel being Malaysian is more important than being just Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sarawakian or Sabahan”.
But there are others who beg to differ, so to speak. Using the same “race blind” logic. Taking into consideration the responses to Netto’s remarks.
To them, Nurul, Saifuddin and Rafizi should be seen as “capable” Malaysians  and not as Malays. In short they want the trio to be “judged based on merit and let’s move away from race-based assumptions, as if we don’t start now we never will”.
And those in agreement say capable Malays in PKR are aplenty and they should not be “penalised  just because they are of the majority race”. In a nutshell, their message is – leaders who have the ability to lead should be voted in – even if that would mean all of them  come from the same race or ethnic group .
Interesting, wouldn’t you say? Interesting indeed.