Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pakatan Rakyat!! the Ideal!!

Finally, after all the talk Pakatan Rakyat has submitted its application to be registered as a coalition with members of PKR, PAS and DAP. Supposedly it is a statement of their commitment towards a common cause, a common purpose and a common goal. But is it really?

Barisan Nasional leaders point out the differences and the frequent squabbles between members of coalition partners. The current Zulkifli Nordin challenge to Sivarsa shows the diversity in cause, purpose and goals of MPs from even within the same party. Some Indian members of PKR have chided PR for ignoring Indian interests and see themselves as representing Indian interests as their main cause and achieving benefits for Indians as their ultimate goals. Obviously each of them have an audience out there that cheers them on and from which they receive their "accredition" to soldier on.

You also have the intransigent positions taken by some leaders like Karpal Singh who insists that the Islamic State will happen over his dead body. That surely must irk even the most hip of clubbing Muslims. Of course it is most often in response to PAS continued commitment to their Islamic State ideal.

To Karpal Singh, all that I want to say is that hey, its only at best an aspiration. You cannot deny anyone their aspirations. That would be like denying a citizen of hope. Actualising that aspiration would be like my aspiration to ascend to the top of Mt Everest!! Rather than you laughing at my aspiration I would appreciate that you respect it. I have not asked for support and even if I did, it would be perfectly alright to deny me that support. Similarly, respect PAS' Islamic State objectives. Understand it and tell them politely that you cannot support it. But it is not necessary to get yourself worked up over it because if PAS pushed it any further they know that what ever advances they have made will just wither off very quickly.

So what is it that is needed for this coalition to work?

I would like to suggest that politicians as well as citizens understand and separate the different roles played by the different interests that come to play here. In this, PAS and its members would have to confront the greatest of obstacles. So will those in PKR like Zulkifli Nordin.

I have to accept the fact that there is the Muslim believe, some might even say obligation and others a compelling indictment that politics is part and parcel of practicing the religion or the faith. There are many who are motivated and moved to action by their submission to this edict, as they see it, on them. Yet, there are others amongst the Muslims who, possibly having been influenced by "non-Islamic" or secular ideas who would rather not be swept away by the impositions of their faith.

Nevertheless, those wishing to pursue this agenda have to confront the fact that the dynamics and the demographics of the country are such that that objective cannot be pursued without the acquiescence of those who might be diametrically opposed to it. You could wait for the acquiescence to happen, or like the Moguls did, you could do it by the sword. But we are living in the 21st century and the motivators that moved the Moguls are all but dead today. It is life in Malaysia as we know of it today that needs to be governed. In its governance is where politics plays its part.

So What Is It That We Want Governed?

How much of our lives do we want dictated by someone else? In Centralised Economies of the past in communist Soviet Union and China personal choice was not something that was allowed beyond your own home. Even the number of children you could have was dictated to you. I know I have not extended any politician any invitation to invade my life and extract from it my hopes, my choices, my dreams, my opportunities and my miseries. Neither have I given permission to any religious leader of any religion, including my own, to invade my life and that of my children. My freewill is for me to to exercise and not surrender!

That being the case, what do I expect of my elected leaders? Lets put it another way. Am I an asset or am I a liability to the nation? As a taxpayer, as an employer or as an employee I am contributing to the development of the nation. As a parent I am also contributing in ensuring valuable human assets are developed for the country. As a taxpayer, I contribute towards the the roads, the drains, the street lights, the security, and all the other services rendered to the people where the benefit is enjoyed, well, almost equally, without reference to our proportionate contribution to the nation's coffers. Sure I am an asset. And sure I can and I have the right to decide the type of government I want. And I can decide what it is that I want governed, administered and regulated.

Yes, there is the public space that needs governing, administering and regulating. And there is the private space I expect to be given the due respect for and from which I want the regulators well away from. If the regulators want to make themselves really useful beyond governing, administering and regulating the public space, they could, if they want, make it more conducive for me to go about taking advantage of all that this country has to offer. In a legal way of course.

The Government's Task

If in the last paragraph I have been able to impress what is expected and there is a political movement that can dedicate itself to giving me that, than that is what I really would support. The question to Pakatan Rakyat, the coalition, is, can they commit to that? In fact, I should say, in the light of what might appear to be very valid objectives the founding coalition partners are confronted with objectives of their own parties that might just be opposed to one another. One wants to have an Islamic State and do everything Islamic. Another wants a purely secular state and does not attribute any good to any claimant.

To PAS, I would like to ask, what is it about a secular state that it finds offensive? Has not Islam thrived in secular states? What is it about good human values that it finds offensive until it can be adopted or determined or claimed as something stemming from Islam? To DAP, and to some extent myself, what is it about a Muslim claiming a good to have come from Islam so unacceptable?

But really, in what is called for in governing, administering, regulating and leading a country's public space, are these concerns, fears, bias or prejudices going to dictate how the coalition parties are going to work together? I hope not!

And it is this premise that I have to take if I am to be asked to list practical and inspirational organisational solutions to make Pakatan Rakyat stronger. Even before I begin the list, I have to assume that the parties in the coalition and their respective members are not on the same page in so far as their expectations, hopes, aspirations are concerned. They also are not on the same page on such things as what they can do or cannot do. Also, I don't know really what should come first. A practical and inspirational list of solutions or should it be a list of things that we have to agree upon. One thing that surely will unravel this coalition will be to leave to chance the assumptions that they all, representing different sets of interests, bring to the table. If today, after over 52 years we are debating the so called "social contract" it surely has to do with the unspoken and unwritten assumptions that were brought to the table when the three leaders of UMNO, MCA and MIC met. Their assumptions about each of their communities they saw themselves representing would have been valid at the time. But are they valid today? If not, than is the "social contract" spoken of valid today? Indeed Pakatan Rakyat should not even look at the social contract for answers as, if they do, than might as well we not have this Pakatan and we all go back and support the BN.

If it is at all possible, if we imagined ourselves to be on a ship that has hit troubled waters, I know and I am confident that our humanity will take over where we would be able to work together and support one another to get out of the troubled spot. Provided of course we do not give in to our bias, selfishness, prejudices and preferences.

For a Cohesive Pakatan Rakyat we need to:

1. Spell out the Goals and Objectives for the nation and the rakyat that will be for Pakatan Rakyat to achieve. This does not have to be the same as those of the component parties.

2. Define public space and private space so that we all will and can know from there all that is common and that binds us and we can also tell off the politicians to stay off from what is our private space.

3. Insist that as it is geographical constituencies to which leaders are voted in for that they represent all within that constituency and that they will not do or say anything that any one sector or more within that constituency will find offensive or objectionable.

4. Adopt the policy that if we were in business, our market would be the entire citizenry rather than just one sector of the market. Best exemplified by the Nasi Lemak sellers. Usually Malay, but their market is all of us without bias or prejudice!! Why can't our leaders be like our Nasi Lemak sellers? The Nasi Lemak that is most popular is the one that is truly a Malay recipe and not one that is doctored and adulterated to meet another's perceived preference.

5. Have a clear education policy is needed. A bold statement that the national education policy and experiment introduced by Mahathir when he was the Education Minister has failed as reflected by the increased demand for vernacular education will be a good start. Is anyone brave enough to state that the success of the vernacular schools is testimony to and represents the rejection of the Education Services wished on the nation by policy makers? What we have today is simply to pacify and retain MCA and MIC in the BN fold more than it is to nourish our ethnic minorities with culture and language!! The Education Policy should be guided by what is best for the people and the nation in the context of the world we live in than the sentiments and emotions of a few who have little else to justify their political participation to.

6. Acknowledge that matters of the state that the coalition needs to govern have nothing to do with cultural and religious traits and needs of the people. This should be left to the respective communities to take care of. As Mahathir once said, to a handful of us when we met him at his office, the business of government should be to issue laws, regulate, administer, enforce and govern matters of the state and not anything else, really. Of course he did admit that reality of the nation also required the government to provide medical, policing, education and other public and social services. I can't remember him saying that it was his duty to ensure the propagation, protection or whatever of any religion or culture or race. I came out feeling that there was only the Malaysian race!!

7. Recognise that there is a Malaysian race. We know it and recognise it when we are abroad. Then we identify ourselves as Malaysian. We are glad to see fellow Malaysians of any race. Indeed if anyone of our fellow citizens need help with immigration or customs, we gladly help, unless of course if you are a Menteri Besar carrying money he cannot account for. Can we try and be such Malaysians here at home and not see ourselves as Malay, Indian or Chinese?

8. Trust the best Malaysian to do the job. Why should it be that the Home, Finance, Education and Defence Ministers have always got to be Malays? Why should the cabinet positions reflect any racial quota or composition? Why can't it be an all Malay cabinet if indeed all of them are the best for the job? Or all Chinese or all Indian or Kadazan or what ever? Meritocracy is the word.

The above are but just some of the more important trust building imperatives that Malaysia needs if it wishes to advance and the people are to benefit the most from that development. Sadly, however, these ideals will be whittled down by politicians because of their own ambitions, perceived support, greed, fears, prejudices and distrust. To navigate through all this all these inhibitors should be confronted head-on. Not to embarrass or to cause anyone to fail or lose out. But politicians especially are not wont to expressing their own negative attributes that reduces them to the little nothings that they usually are.


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