An egalitarian party ? Whither ?

PArti Gerakan’s leadership is going round the country meeting the grassroot members and getting feedback on how to reform the party, following its dismay showing in the recent general election when the party was totally wiped out in Penang, and won only 2 of its 12 MP seats.

 What the party needs to do actually is just go back to its basic/roots. There is nothing wrong with its ideology, which is to fight for a fair and equitable society for all races. Somewhere along the line, the party has swayed from its ideology and has been hiking on the BN wagon to win in the past.

As a multiracial party, it was the odd man out in the racially based politics of BN. It is therefore not surprising that UMNO has always viewed it as another Chinese based party and used it as a counter play to MCA, a case of divide and rule.

The grassroots has repeatedly urged the leaders to be more vocal since a few years back, when so much of national issues cropped up one after another. The failure to heed the grassroots has resulted in its defeat this time. The leaders should stop blaming UMNO, because if UMNO is the cause, Parti Gerakan is part of the reasons why the country is in such a bad shape today. Gerakan cannot run away from the fact that it is an accomplice, albeit a silent one, on so much of bad governance and abuse of power.

The recent loss is an wake up call and there needs to be a lot of soul searching on why this is so. Why has leadership swayed from its objectives of fighting for an egalitarian society?

This writer , as a grass-root member of this party, has spoken repeatedly out against bad governance. (pls go to the video section for my speeches at the party National delegates’s Conference.)Jeff Ooi, once a Gerakan member was so fed up that he has crossed over.

Where in the past, when people thought of a multiracial party fighting for an egalitarian society, the first thing in mind would be Parti Gerakan, it is a real pity that this role is now being taken over by PKR and DAP. 

Members are upset that the party has swayed from its ideology and objectives. If the party does not go back to its roots, it will soon be irrelevant in Malaysian politics.

I sincerely hope that the central leaders would reform the party and take it back to its roots. Do not just pay lip service or shouting slogans. No more “reinventing”, but a real reform is needed.

I come across an excellent article in The Malaysian Insider about the party and I will post it here for my readers:

A Gerakan elder makes case for party joining opposition

KUALA LUMPUR, March 27 – Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia faces a watershed period in the near future that might be its most significant since joining Barisan Nasional in 1974.

Based on recent statements in the press, the party that was formed to espouse a multiracial and social democratic philosophy to government has floated so far from its founding ideals that it is now no more than a second-rate MCA that was tasked with securing Penang for the ruling coalition.

Now that it has failed, and failed utterly, to maintain the support of Penangites, what does the future hold in store for the beleaguered party?

There are many who believe that the future is bleak and that if the Keng Yaik-Tsu Koon axis is not done away with, the party will drift into oblivion.

In an article in the New Straits Times, political analyst Khoo Kay Peng (formerly with Gerakan think tank Sedar) believes that it must forge ahead with reforms and a new leadership while Tricia Yeoh (Centre of Public Policy Studies) believes that if Gerakan does not carve out a niche for itself, it may soon die a natural death.

Not much later, veteran Gerakan member Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon, formerly a state exco member, published his personal views, saying that it must go back to basics, in its effort to move forward. He even suggested that it should leave BN if reforms cannot be pushed through as “more of the same” was simply not an option if Gerakan wants to survive.

Adding fuel to the fire, Dr Choong Sim Poey, a former central committee member and state assemblyman for what was known as Sungai Nibong (now Batu Uban) replied to Toh’s statement in the NST by saying that the idea of leaving BN was hardly radical and had been mooted repeatedly in closed door meetings since the party joined BN in 1974.

“There were heated discussions even in the ’70s as to whether to join BN due to the differing views between us and Umno,” Dr Choong told The Malaysian Insider in a follow-up interview.

“When we joined we felt that there had to be mutual respect for each other’s points of view as we recognised a lot of weaknesses in Umno. Even then we coined the phrase of being ‘the conscience of BN’. Over the years, there was dissent within the party, there were voices saying that we have to put our foot down, even if we did not leave the coalition we had to speak up against some of the positions taken by Umno,” he said.

The personal revelations of these veterans in the party reveal a stark contrast from what goes on in the heads of its senior membership and the idea that finally goes out to the public. Many say the face of Gerakan that the public knows is that it continuously bows to pressure from Umno.

Toh also told The Malaysian Insider that Gerakan had lost its identity as a multiracial party with all its candidates in the recent elections being Chinese, when actually it was founded by leaders of all races.

“Gerakan has been assigned a mono-ethnic role within BN, which stresses on an ethnic approach. BN’s neo-liberal policies has caused Gerakan to deviate from its proposed social democratic platform.”

Neither Toh nor Dr Choong suggests that Gerakan should leave BN immediately. Dr Choong stated that both Umno and Gerakan are in a state of review and will have to decide on a concrete direction before realising whether their future lies together.

Toh feels that because Gerakan leadership had not been more vocal on issues, it lost the moral authority to demand reforms but it would be to the coalition’s benefit if “all component parties sat down and mulled over whether to dissolve into one multiracial party”.

“I’m not sure if they’ll look at it positively, but by doing so, the issue of disparity between the races won’t arise. The reason people didn’t vote MCA, MIC or Gerakan was because we were seen to be subservient to the all-powerful, domineering and monopolistic control of Umno,” he said, although he admitted that it would take “a big step forward” for such a merger to happen.

Closer to reality, observers feel that Malaysians are finally beginning to accept multiracialism and that while DAP and PKR capitalised on this, Gerakan was not seen as a viable option towards pushing towards this agenda.

“This is where Gerakan could’ve played a useful role but unfortunately, it didn’t lead that movement in its restricted position in BN. We are seen as condoning a racially-based and corrupt administration,” said Toh adding that it was fair that people decided to opt for DAP and PKR since Gerakan had ceded its role as a non-ethnic, social democratic party.

“When I joined Gerakan initially, the positions that were held in early 70s were very similar to the position held by DAP today,” observed Dr Choong. “We compromised that position over the years, feeling that it was more important to stay within BN but it is very clear that the public thinks that we’ve sold out our principles and ideology.”

For Toh, the tough decisions that Gerakan must make now are actually fairly straightforward.

If it cannot be part of a reformed BN, then it must look elsewhere for other parties that are like-minded.

Herein lies the crux of the matter. It would seem that the case for leaving BN is simple. Multiracial reforms, or else… but if it were to leave, then where would it go?

Toh believes that, ideologically speaking, it may find that the best course of action would be to throw in its lot with the opposition coalition.

“This is potentially the beginning of a competitive 2-party system. Whether it will be realised, only time will tell depending on how the opposition behaves and performs. The potential is there and it’s what people want. They don’t want to see concentration of power in one party,” observed Toh.

“Unless Gerakan can bring reforms in BN, then what PKR, DAP and even to some extent what PAS advocates, seems to be closer to Gerakan’s constitution.”

The perils of the Eunuchs

Some time back, Mr Stanley Koh, a frequent writer in Malaysiakini wrote about the history and factional politics in MCA. I find the writings interesting and they  give outsider a rare look into what is happening in this party.

There is one type of politics which is practiced by UMNO, MCA and some of the other parties. This is called the politics of the Eunuchs, or in Mandarin “Huan Guan Zheng Zi”.

Going back to history, in the early 15th century, during the reign of Yong Le Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, China was at its zenith and was able to spend huge sums and resources to send 7 sea expeditions,  led by Admiral Zheng He and spanned over 3 decades,  down to Indian Ocean. Some historians even said that Zheng He was the one who “discovered” America, instead of Columbus.

zheng_he.jpgZheng He – He discovered America?

However, such a rich and strong country met its demise within a relatively short period of 200 years. Why?

Most historians attributed this to what is now known as the ” Eunuch Politics”.

In this type of politics, the emperor would send his men , the eunuchs, out into the courts and mixed with the government ministers and officials. Playing into human psychology of fear, suspicion, and jealousy, these eunuchs initially fanned these emotions and by doing so, created factions within the officials and ministers.

Once there were factions, what each faction would do is to try to out manoeuvre each other and place people from their own factions into positions of influences. Factionalism also meaning frequent realignment of forces, with everyone and every faction trying hard to get into the good books of the eunuchs, so that their factions could gain power and influence over other factions.

No one then cared anymore for the people. What they cared about was their own factional interest. It did not matter how good a person was, the most important criteria in promotion was how loyal that person was. The whole political game became that of placing their own people in positions of importance, even though some of these people might be  useless and corrupted.

Meritocracy died a slow death and in its place, a whole lot of useless ministers were appointed, people who would only praise the emperor and the eunuchs and none would bother to criticise and speak frankly from their hearts. To speak from their hearts would be asking for sure death and destruction, and who would want this type of ending when they could have luxurious and easy lives if they just played to the rules of the day and supported the eunuchs.

This way , of course, the emperor was able to consolidate his absolute power and control. But by doing so, the emperor was also sowing the seeds of destruction for the dynasty. No dynasty could last long without the practice of meritocracy and without good people daring to give frank advice to the emperor.

Slowly, the country became weaker and the ordinary citizens became poorer and poorer. So much so some of them became rebellious and took up arms against the dynasty.

To suppress these rebellions as well as to quell dissent, these eunuchs set up intelligence gathering organisations, the three most famous of which were the “East Factory”, “West Factory”, and the “Jin Yi Hui”. These organisations used unscrupulous ways to gather information and served as the torture chambers to extract forced confessions. Even prime ministers were sacked and removed if they expressed a little bit of independent thinking.

The whole government court was then in a “safe” mode. Everyone tried to play safe. Even walls had ears. So much fears were instilled into the officials that they were really incapacitated. They were interested only to make money, partly to pay to the eunuchs to get into their good books, partly because there was a need to build up their coffers to play faction politics. Corruption became rampant.

Sounds familiar? This was probably the beginning of the so called money politics.

Eunuchs would only put in a good word to the emperor on those who had bribed them, on those who were obedient, and those who had a leash on their necks for the eunuchs to control. Anyone with an independent minds would meet with early demise, some times through creating false incriminatory evidence. Some times , certain private indiscretions were made known to the public- sounds familiar again, the “Chua DVD sex scandals” was along this line.

With this type of control , the dynasty had no real hope but to get weaker and weaker over time. Ultimately, it was embroiled in fighting external threat from the Manchus and internal rebellions at the same time. The dynasty ended when one general opened the gate of the Great Wall and admitted the Manchus.

History serves a guide for posterity. The lesson here is that once the eunuch culture gets entrenched, it would be hard to get rid of it.

In modern context and Malaysian politics, some of personal assistants of leaders have been acting like these eunuchs, even though  they have not been castrated. Their role is to make sure that their boss can consolidate powers, and by playing this type of politics, top leader was able to exercise divide and rule in practically all levels of the political party. Some would use the euphemism that this is “check” and “balance”. But anyone studying politics would agree that this is a classic case of divide and rule, and by playing one faction against another, the top leader’s position became unassailable . Some would be able to sit on the throne for over 20 years. Eunuch politics made a leader strong  and strong leader can further extend the play for the eunuchs, leading to  a vicious cycle. Potential threats from potentially capable leaders were dealt with in the buds and so no one would be strong enough to challenge them.

Some became so strong that they even started a dynasty, grooming kin like sons and brothers, to positions of influences so that these  would be ready to take over , not immediately perhaps, but in the years to come.

Many MCA members have told me about their worry of a dynasty forming. In some years back, they were talking about the father and son dynasty, but now they are talking about the Brotherhood dynasty. The fear among the members are real, because if this culture becomes entrenched , it would deal the a party a even greater blow than an election loss. It would have affected the roots and aims of the party.

Some other parties are practicing this politics to a lesser extent.

Now, many BN component parties are talking about soul searching and going back to the roots. It would be good for the leaders and the grassroots to remember the perils of the politics of the eunuchs, and try to shun this type of practice.

There is no substitute to a clean politics, based on democratic principles, based on ideology and based on the respective party constitution.

There is no substitute for meritocracy, for going back to the people and speaking out on behalf of the people.

After-all, politics is about people. Politicians first and last duty is to serve the interest of the people , not anything else.

Please also read this article of mine published in May 2007 in Malaysiakini : “This is how politics is played”.  It is also one of the all time favourites of this blog.

Misled by own spin stories

Malaysiakini yesterday published an article “Big Mistake in ignoring cyber-campaign”.

One of the reasons that BN leaders have not expected the political tsunami to be so strong is because of their failure to gauge the pulse of the people. This is due to the fact that they themselves, being users of the main media, were misled by the spin stories in the main media.

Though they knew that there were poblems and discontent among the people, they were led to believe that a lot of people would still vote BN.

Call it Karma if you like, but in the end they were conned by their own spin stories.

Even Bukit Bintang was said to be 50-50 ( but anyone working in BB including this blogger knew that BN was going to lose big). Even Penang was said to be safe. But in reality, if they have gone on to the net and read some of the blogs , they would have found that blog intelligence, as reported by Raja Petra in his Malaysia-today site, had mentioned even before nomination that the Barisan rakyat would win more than 80 Parliamentary seats and 5 states.

In the end, he was proven right.

If only there were greater press freedom and the press was able to tell the truth, BN would have known that people are not only angry, people hated some of the leaders of BN government for being so arrogant and being so out of touch.

So it would do the government a lot of good that spin doctors for the main media be removed and a greater press freedom be given. If the press is free and tells the truth, then not only the people will not be misled, the Government leaders, special branch and so on will also not be misled.

recommended readings:

Hear the truth? We need a free press

Reflections in a mirror

Terrengganu, another election looming ?

I refer to the Malaysiakini report on the Terengganu crisis.

In a constitutional monarchy, it is the prerogative of the ruler to appoint a person as Chief of Goverment among a group of elected representatives , who, in the OPINION OF THE RULER, commands the majority support of that group of elected representatives.

The emphasis is on the ruler’s OPINION.  If he thinks person A commands the majority support, while in actual fact, person A may not have such support, it is still not wrong for the ruler to appoint A. It is his opinion that counts. Of course , you may argue that this may be against the spirits of democracy, but democracy itself denotes that Constitution be observed, and observed strictly.

This applies to the Federal government as well as the States government.

If person B has more of the actual support, while A is appointed the Chief of Government, then what B can do is to move a motion of no confidence against A during the sitting of the Parliament or State Assemblies . if the motion is carried, then A has to resign and the ruler will have to look for another person , who, in His personal Opinion again, can command the majority support. He can appoint B, or he can again ignore B and appoint C.

OR, the ruler can dissolve the government and calls for a fresh election.

This is the prerogative of the ruler.

So in the case of Terengganu, the ruler is just exercising his prerogative. BN can either accept the appointed person, or stand to face another state election, in which case, with the oratory and organisational skills of Anwar Ibrahim and the look-good image of the new opposition government in several states, the chances of BN losing even terengganu cannot be ruled out.

Theoretically, if after another election, the samething happens, the ruler can again dissolve the Parliament until such time when the stalemate is solved. 

Does it really matter, Malay or Non Malay ?

I refer to this morning Malaysiakini ‘s report on Selangor exco. The report says that out of the 10 exco, 5 are non Malay, and 4 are women.

I think the fairer sex deserves the positions.

As for the race composition, I would like to think that we should not put too much emphasis on this.

As long as the interest of people irrespective of race can be protected, it really does not matter whether there are 8 Malays or 8 Non Malays, or 10 Malays or 10 NonMalays.

If the exco consists of 8 Non Malays who are committed to help the people irrespective of their ethnic origins,  and can deliver what they set out to do in the next 4 years, just let it be and appoint them. Similarly, if there are 8 Malays who are committed to help all races and can deliver their promises, then appoint all these 8 Malays be exco.

Race, in this modern world, should not be too much of a consideration.

If the whole exco consists of all Non Malays and these non Malays just work for their own selfish interest, I would rather have Malay exco who can really work for the people. Similarly, if the exco consists of all Malays who cannot deliver , then it would be better to have all Non Malays.

What I am trying to say is that race should not be a consideration in the appointment of the exco, but rather what the appointed person can do for the people irrespective of racial background.

What I am trying to say is that we should have 10 best Malaysians to be exco members. If they happen to be from a certain race, so be it.

It really does not matter to the rakyat whether the cat is white or black; as long as it catches mice, it should be reared.

Only through this process, can a true Malaysian Identity be formed and nonracialism be entrenched in our country.

Recommended readings:

Race and nonracialism

Race and noracialism 2

ISA, HIndraf 5, ICPMC and Mongolian Case

I laud the appointment of Zaid Ibrahim as the de facto Minister of Law. He is one of the few sensible voice from UMNO. According to a  Malaysiakini report, he will be  in charge of legal affairs and also tasked to oversee Judicial reform.

                               zaid1.jpg

People will have high expectation of him, considering the state of our judiciary. His will not be an easy task, but I hope that all of us will give him a chance and some time to tackle the rots in the judiciary.

Perhaps, for starter, he can recommend to form a Judicial Commission to oversee the promotion of Judges and legal officers. This will cut out middle men and power brokers like the “it-sounds-like-me, looks-like-me-but-not-me” lawyer.

He could also try to ensure a fair trial for the Mongolian Altantuya’s murder case. Of course, in the name of justice , he could not interfere, but he could have use his influence to make sure that no evidence is being removed ignored and every ‘nook and corner’ in this case is being looked into.

He should, as the de facto law minister, recommend that the draconian Internal Security Act be reviewed and repelled. This is an archaic law formulated to tackle the communist insurgency, which is now history.

Many people argued that even USA is adopting such drastic measure since the 911 incident. But the US situation is very different. They are fighting a war, just like we did in the 50s and 60s when the ISA was formulated. They have instituted a Home Land Defence Dept, just to fight the terrorists war, and the threat is real!!

We, on the other hand,  are not fighting any war nor facing any external threat. Any person who has deemed to have done something wrong should therefor be charged in our courts; we have enough laws to deal with all sorts of misbehaviour.

In this context, I would appeal to the new Law Minister to use his influence to release the Hindraf 5. I know it is the prerogative of the Home Minister, but as a reformist, perhaps he could bring this up in cabinet meeting and push for the release of the Hindraf 5. Charge them in court if they have done wrong, but do not use ISA just to suppress dissent.

Also as the law Minister, I think he should push for the formation of a ICAC or ICPMC to tackle corrupt practices.

I have high hope of him, and I hope I will not be disappointed!

PM under siege

PM is really under siege.

First, Mukhriz wrote an open letter asking PM to resign.

Then Pak Lah said he would leave it to UMNO youth to decide. Yesterday, Malaysiakini reported that UMNO youth has decided not to take action against Mukhriz since this is his personal view. The ball is pushed back to Pak Lah.

Then, Radzi resigned as UMNO and BN Sec Gen. 2 other UMNO leaders refused to accept appointment as deputy ministers by Pak Lah. According to Malaysiakini, they are Tengku Azlan, a member of the Pahang royalty and Anifah Aman, the brother of Sabah Chief MInister.

Then, according to a Malaysiakini BM article , Lima ahli parlimen Umno berontak?, 5 members of Parliament from UMNO is considering to rebel, whatever that means.

In Perlis, PM did not get his wish in the appointment of the new Menteri Besar.

Then, according to Malaysiakini Chinese version, there is discontent among Sabah BN for getting only 2 ministers, no increase from last time, despite the fact that Sabah BN won 24 of the 25 seats.

All these news can only mean one thing. PM is really under siege! For the sake of the country, I hope that this will not lead to any instability.

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