If it ‘agrees to disagree’ so often, can Pakatan ever rule Malaysia?

by Sheridan Mahavera
The Malaysian Insider
9 February 2015

The fact that Pakatan Rakyat needs a special meeting to trash out differences on whether to have local council elections is an admission that they have found another critical issue where they have to “agree to disagree”.

Analysts said this raised questions of whether the six-year-old coalition was cohesive enough and ready to rule this country, as local council elections, unlike hudud, were in their common manifesto.

Hudud, the Kelantan Shariah criminal law, is special because it was passed in 1993 by the PAS-dominated state government and preceded PR’s formation in 2008.

Local government elections, some PR leaders said, were agreed upon by all coalition partners in the 2013 in its common policy framework, which is a manifesto of sorts.

So if these three parties are fighting over something they had already agreed upon as a coalition, one wonders what other points of agreement they are going to fight about if it took over federal power in the 14th general election.

“If this internal turmoil keeps going on, one wonders if they really are ready to replace Barisan Nasional,” said political scientist Dr Maszlee Malik.

Different mentalities

To be fair, said PAS leader Youth chief Suhaizan Kaiat, local government elections were not specifically mentioned in the policy framework.

“What was agreed to was ‘strengthening democracy at the local level’,” said Suhaizan, when met after the PR presidential council meeting yesterday.

The council meeting, which was done against a backdrop of acrimony between PAS and DAP, decided that the coalition would hold a series of special meetings to discuss local government elections and the Kelantan hudud bill.

This follows weeks of PAS and DAP leaders trading barbs over local council polls.

The debate hit a raw nerve when PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said that such a move would worsen ethnic divisions and lead to another May 13 race riot.

Suhaizan said there were differences of opinion among the leadership over whether to implement local council polls.

While some like Hadi and PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali said PAS did not agree, others like former Terengganu state executive councillor Datuk Abdul Mutalib Embong and Sepang MP Hanipa Maidin supported it.

Maszlee, who is an assistant professor at the International Islamic University, said this difference of opinion reflected the contrasting mentalities between PAS leaders.

Maszlee said Hadi’s opinion of local council polls and the way he looked at it from a racial lens was the minority view in PAS.

Hadi’s exclusivist mentality was not just common among PAS leaders, Maszlee said. It developed in other older PR leaders who became politically conscious and active when their parties were operating on their own.

Younger PR leaders, especially those who became active after the 1998 reformasi era, have internalised coalition politics and were comfortable working through their parties’ different ideologies, he said.

“The younger leaders are more mature. The racial argument against local council polls is baseless. It is only Hadi’s opinion,” said Maszlee.

This difference in mentality among PAS leaders Maszlee said, was even present in the Kelantan hudud issue.

“There is a debate on what is the priority. The mega floods left Kelantan devastated and some leaders believe that this (issue) should be dealt with first.”

A unified vision

Those different worldviews also lead to different visions for what PR leaders want the coalition to stand for and what kind of Malaysia it wants to shape if it wins federal power.

Hudud and local government elections are inter-connected issues, said another political analyst Dr Wong Chin-Huat.

“One vision is more democratisation of the state and more Islamisation at the social level, where people become more pious individually.

“The other is an Islamisation of the state, through religious laws. You choose pious leaders to rule over everyone else and this reduces the need for more democracy,” said Wong, who is heads of Political and Social Analysis of the Penang Institute.

With hudud, Wong said, it was too important and its effects far-reaching to just leave it to the PR presidential council to work it out.

To allow Kelantan to do it would change federal-state power relations, relations behind different classes of citizens and ultimately the shape of the country.

“For instance, when Sabah and Sarawak formed Malaysia together with the peninsula in 1963, they did not agree to have such laws. So you have to take into account their views.

“And also the views of non-Muslims, because what happens when a crime involves a non-Muslim victim and a Muslim perpetrator?

“The debate about this must be civil, rational and inclusive and can’t just involve PR leaders but the whole society,” said Wong.

To settle these differences and finally reach a unified vision for PR, Maszlee said, required a mentality missing from PR’s old guard.

“I believe that people like Hadi, (DAP parliamentary leader) Lim Kit Siang and even (PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim should step down and let the newer generation shape the PR.”

More importantly, Wong said, PR had to convince society to believe in its unified vision first before the coalition implemented it politically.

“For instance, if you implement Shariah law before there is societal change to accept it, society will reject it. Which is why a debate and decision on it must involve all citizens.” – February 9, 2015.

  1. #1 by good coolie on Monday, 9 February 2015 - 11:27 pm

    PAS and DAP have been sincere in their stand with the former proposing and the latter opposing imposition of Islamic Law. PKR is silent for strategic reasons but it opposes implementation of Islamic law for the moment, and therefore opposes the forthcoming tabling of the Bill. Now, UMNO is lying: call its bluff!
    (As for MIC and MCA they are irrelevant, lets not talk about them).

  2. #2 by good coolie on Monday, 9 February 2015 - 11:31 pm

    Pakatan should stop “agreeing to disagree”. Reverse the trend by “disagreeing to agree”. But before the next elections, it will be in Pakatan’s interest to “agreeing to agree” or “disagreeing to disagree”.

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