Pakatan Rakyat viewed from within and without

by Elizabeth Zachariah and Melati A. Jalil
The Malaysian Insider
31 January 2015

Despite public spats over core issues of ideology, such as hudud or the Islamic penal code, and basic democratic rights, such as voting for local councils, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders are optimistic the opposition coalition will survive its worst bout of discord since it wowed voters in the 2008 general election.

Differences between the coalition’s member parties – PKR, DAP and PAS, with the Islamist party appearing the most dissonant – are now at their most obvious since bubbling to the surface last year over the Kajang Move to force a by-election in the hopes of installing a new Selangor menteri besar.

At the PAS general assembly last year, conservative delegates of the Islamist party openly displayed animosity towards the PR pact over PAS’s less-than-dominant position in the coalition.

And notably, the PR leadership or presidential council have not met for more than six months. Prior to that, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang was reported as being absent from earlier meetings for more than a year.

Is PR still a functioning coalition?

Politicians from its three component parties note the challenges but remain confident, while cautioning their top leaders to to discuss and settle differences behind closed doors instead of airing them publicly.

Civil society activists, however, were more critical, with lawyer and Negara-ku patron Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan noting that PR’s credibility was at stake with all the in-fighting and that PAS should “do the honourable thing” by leaving the coalition if it felt the partnership was not working for them.

The Malaysian Insider conducted a straw poll with the following leaders of PR parties, two activists and two members of the public:

* Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa, 51, Parit Buntar MP and chairman of PAS’s national unity bureau.

* Sim Tze Tzin, 39, Bayan Baru MP and PKR strategic director.

* Maria Chin Abdullah, 59, Bersih 2.0 chair.

* N. Surendran, Padang Serai MP (PKR).

* Nurul Izzah Anwar, 34, Lembah Pantai MP and PKR vice-president.

* Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, 59, executive director of PAS Research Centre.

* Anthony Loke Siew Fook, 38, Seremban MP and DAP national organising secretary.

* Zairil Khir Johari, 32, Bukti Bendera MP, DAP Assistant National Publicity Secretary and CEO of Penang Institute.

* Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, 59, lawyer and patron of Negara-ku.

* Hanipa Maidin, 46, Sepang MP (PAS).

* M. Kulasegaran, 58, Ipoh Barat MP and DAP national vice-chairman.

* Mohd Azmin Haziq, 45, general manager of private company.

* Ropinah Abdul Hamid, 51, consultant.

TMI: Do you still believe in the Pakatan Rakyat as a coalition?

Surendran: It has been an immensely successful history-making coalition – breaking BN’s two-thirds majority in two successive general elections and winning several states. (PR) did this against the odds. PR has brought Malaysia closer than ever before to a two-party system.

Ambiga: PR had for the first time provided the people with a clear alternative to the party in power. This means that for the first time, we had a shot at multi-party democracy, something that we all aspire to. Since 2008, the opposition has had a real presence in Parliament and they have certainly asked pertinent and searching questions in Parliament and have held the government accountable on many issues.

Zairil: Yes, the only way to effect change and reform in Malaysia is through the polls, and we cannot hope to win without a credible and strong alternative that represents all Malaysians.

Mujahid: I believe in PR’s commitment to break racial politics and it has a good track record based on that. PR also made inroads in implementing part of their manifesto in Penang, Selangor and Kelantan. As for now, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just the few leaders on top exchanging bullets, especially PAS and DAP. The second layer of leaders have to keep on with PR’s hope for a better Malaysia.

Maria: As far as Bersih 2.0 is concerned, we are only keen on who will advance the electoral and democratic reform in Malaysia. We will work with any individual, party and organisation who will support our clean and fair elections and reform agenda. In most of our public activities and rallies we have always invited all political parties, regardless.

Dzulkefly: PR may have its problems and they are neither frivolous nor easy to solve, mind you. But that’s in the nature of coalition politics as in an organisational behaviour in the discipline of organisational development. You see that in a single party or organisation and you should expect a lot worse in a coalition of political parties.

Mohd Azmin Haziq: Yes, because the Barisan Nasional (BN) is really dominant, we need to balance our politics.

Ropinah: Yes, if they can be together with all their differences. If they cannot work out their differences, they (should still) stand together but everybody can have their own differences.

TMI: What is the best solution to the strained ties between the parties now?

Mujahid: Ceasefire, agree to disagree, sit down, focus on bigger issues and be honest.

Kulasegaran: Challenging and difficult issues are best discussed and sorted out internally.

Nurul Izzah: This is a challenging moment for the PR leadership council – and I hope that leaders across the spectrum understand the underpinning importance of strengthening the council regardless of the challenges. Each one will be tested on putting aside differences which naturally exists and focus on our common principles for a better Malaysia.

Loke: All three parties (should) reaffirm our commitment to the common policy framework and stick by it. We can put aside all the differences if PAS agrees not to pursue the hudud agenda without PR consensus.

Sim: At this point, Pakatan is using a top-down approach. Grassroots and young leaders do not have institutions to work together. (We must build) PR institutions from federal level to state level to branch level down to the “ranting” and village committee level. Get the young leaders to work together in political projects together. They must be instituted to meet monthly. Build trust and comradeship and deliver political projects together. This will strengthen PR to be a truly modern political coalition.

Zairil: The leadership of all three parties must meet to resolve it behind closed doors. There is no use making our disagreements public.

Hanipa: The top leaders of Pakatan need to frequently meet and discuss (matters).

Ambiga: The present problems in the coalition were almost predictable yet we had hoped they could have resolved their differences. This is of concern to me as some of the differences between PAS and the other parties appear to be fundamental.

In my view, the coalition stood on a platform to win the people’s votes and I and many others feel that PAS has deviated from this platform. If that is the case, my view is that they should part company amicably as the present squabbles are damaging the credibility of the coalition.

PAS should do the honourable thing although I am not clear if the leadership does speak for all the members. And there is no shame in it as it is normal to have differences of opinion. But it also means that they have to call it quits when the partnership is not working.

Dzulkefly: Iron out the acrimonious issues behind closed doors and announce it later to the entire rakyat. The rakyat do not want to know that you have unresolved problems. They are only interested in what you have to offer them as solutions.

Mohd Azmin Haziq: I think that is normal because at times, there are some issues or dissatisfaction.

Ropinah: They must always meet and discuss rather than talking to the media.

TMI: Who do you think can be prime minister if Pakatan wins the next general elections?

Mujahid: Surely the more important question is how PR is going to win and end Barisan Nasional’s (BN) hegemony and lead the country. “How” is more relevant than “‘who” right now.

Sim: Our one and only PM candidate is Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Maria: Whoever becomes the PM, we will continue to push for our electoral and democractic reforms so that there is a level playing field and principles of human rights and freedom, especially (so that the) one-person-one-vote-one value (principle) will be upheld.

Nurul Izzah: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as strongly agreed by the PR council. This stand has been repeatedly made known by PR.

Dzulkefly: The important thing is that when we have decided on the person, he must be in a position to serve and assume the role of a premier and not be locked behind bars.

Loke: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is still the best choice.

Hanipa: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Kulasegaran: Anwar is the preferred choice. There are equally many other capable leaders in the PR too.

Mohd Azmin Haziq: Right now, I can see Azmin (Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali), I think he is like the voice of the new generation.

Ropinah: Somebody from PAS, Dr Dzulkefly (Ahmad) or (vice-president Datuk) Tuan Ibrahim (Tuan Man).

TMI: What do you think Malaysians want? A liberal democracy or a conservative theocracy?

Kulasegaran: In a multicultural, religious and language situation, a liberal democracy is the long term win-win policy for all.

Hanipa: Democracy without abandoning the religious values.

Ambiga: I believe that Malaysians (and people all over the world) want peace, harmony and happiness and freedom, including freedom from fear. They also want a place where their children have a chance at a future. In my view, the only way this is possible is if we support democracy and respect our fundamental freedoms. That is how our Federal Constitution is drafted and that is all we need to build our future.

Zairil: There is no doubt that Malaysians believe in democracy. In fact, 52% of them supported change in the last GE. It is the government that does not support democratic aspirations by denying the people their choice of government through gerrymandering and other electoral manipulations to ensure they remain in power at any cost.

Loke: Malaysians want a clean and fair government which upholds democratic principles. The position of Islam as the religion of the federation will never be questioned and the freedom of other religions must be guaranteed. We are not for a conservative theocracy, for sure.

Nurul Izzah: I do not see it as (one) ideology over another. At the end of the day we want to serve the objective of democracy, the objective of Shariah, by providing a government that serves social justice to its people covering all aspects of life. A government that can provide this will be voted in. For now, all eyes will remain glued to the decision that PAS finally takes.

Surendran: Malaysians of all races want the same thing – a properly functioning democracy where the fundamental liberties promised in our constitution are upheld and the laws are fairly and impartially executed.

Maria: I want an equal, non-discriminatory, and democratic Malaysia – and democracy is not about establishing a theocratic or authoritarian state. The democracy that I am speaking of is also not just about individual rights and freedoms but will include the collective will of the people and communities where it will transform existing systems, processes and institutions to counteract or remove injustices, marginalisation and inequalities.

Mujahid: Malaysians want a strong civil state with democracy as its base. Liberal or conservative are labels which are not absolute. Is holding to values and religion conservative? Are absolute freedoms intruding on other peoples sensitivities liberal? But then is it a liberal economy or social liberal? But a civil state in reference to our national context is my choice of state.

Mohd Azmin Haziq: A liberal democracy.

Ropinah: Malaysia will benefit if it is ruled by conservative theocracy, moral standards will go up rather than deteriorate. Corruption can go to zero. – January 31, 2015.
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  1. #1 by boh-liao on Saturday, 31 January 2015 - 2:36 pm

    Most rakyat believe: PR, soon RIP!

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