What new operating system is Harapan offering?


“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” – US author James Bovard

What the recently failed half-past-six emergency declaration has demonstrated is that the Malay political establishment is in total disarray. The fact that Muhyiddin Yassin loyalists – from the diverse political parties that make up PN or whatever it is called – are calling for ceasefire and cooperation indicates that the gang from the Sheraton Move are in trouble. This means Malaysia is in trouble.

All over the world, political systems and institutions are going through the wringer because what this Covid-19 pandemic is doing is ruthlessly pointing out the flaws in systems of governance. This could have been a time of reset and a reshaping of priorities, but here in Malaysia, we continue to meander and have become numb to the antics of the political class.

DAP senator Liew Chin Tong thinks that Malaysia needs a new operating system (OS), but what he considers a new reality that requires a new OS – a divided electorate, coalition building and bipartisanship – are merely baseline features of messy democracies all over the world.

The real issue here in Malaysia is that we have never got over our original sin of race and religion. The fact that the two biggest parties, in terms of representation and voter share, cannot find common ground because both sides use race and religion (in their own ways) to gin up their respective base, indicates that this country will never move forward.

Rickety dink Malay uber alles formations will attempt to control the political narrative for the near future until Malaysia slips into a truly theocratic state.

I despise it when the partisans talk about “principles” as a means to circumvent the realpolitik discourse and castigate personalities when there is ample evidence that “principles” were never an issue when it came to chasing political power in this country.

Some folks clutch their pearls when they hear about PKR president Anwar Ibrahim possibly working with former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak and I roll my eyes because the electorate certainly had no problems voting in alleged kleptocrats and serial abusers of public trusts for decades.

Maybe Anwar and his newfound buddies can come up with some sort of truth and reconciliation tribunal, where all the kleptos can return monies stolen and make some sort of religious mea culpa. Then political operatives can breathe a sigh of relief because stealing money from public coffers, dismantling public institutions, race-baiting, and jailing opponents are things that the rakyat can and have got behind.

Racial and religious issues that divide the country are systemic. The same goes for corruption. It is pointless targeting individuals, although it has political advantages. The opposition, at least the non-Malay opposition, has claimed that the issues are systemic, and the major part of the problem is race-based political hegemony that seeks to sustain such systems.

What I want to know – and maybe you do too – is how does the non-Malay uber alles crowd not spook the Malays? Does stating clearly that the opposition is a secular and egalitarian opposition make the situation better or worse? Or is it better doubling or sometimes tripling religious funds, mucking about in religious spaces of the majority in demonstrations of kumbaya, do more damage?

Liew has publicly admitted that Pakatan Harapan and, I suppose, the DAP, did everything that Muhyiddin wanted or needed. The DAP played by the rules – unfair though it may have been – and let down its base when it came to various hot button issues, and yet this was not enough for the gang from Sheraton and even Malay power structures in Harapan.

Remember how Harapan had all these select committees, which turned out to be impotent bodies waiting for the old maverick to tell them what their purview was? Or how about all those supposed bipartisan initiatives that never materialised?

These are not “gotcha” questions. I really want to know. Forget all these fancy talks about principles and new operating systems. I used to be one of those people who thought that the DAP and PKR would be hewing the secular and egalitarian line as best as possible when it came to differentiating themselves from the political and social contract of BN regimes.

Since we have never really had that and no one in the political apparatus of Harapan is interested in such things, how does Harapan move forward? All these legacy coalitions, which are actually a facsimile of the BN formula, have caused too many problems for the DAP and multiracial parties. Lim Guan Eng’s statement that the DAP is willing to work with anyone on the issue of loan moratorium extension is a good start

Which is why someone as smart as Tony Pua should not be making statements that a Najib-backed government can go to hell. If a government goes to hell, so do the people it is supposed to govern. Not to mention, it makes it difficult to work with demonised political operatives for a utilitarian good.

This is why Umno demonising the DAP has always been a dumb political play, because you are essentially demonising a large section of the voting public whom you need to support policies that benefit the greatest number.

Harapan (specifically the DAP) has to figure out how to get out of its ‘damned if we do and damned if we don’t’ cycle of their own making.

Small steps like a willingness to work with anyone on specific issues is perhaps the way out of this mess.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he hopes young people will assume the mantle of leadership – if there is to be any hope for this country.