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.”


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. A true Malaysian
    Mar 29, 2008 @ 18:11:19

    So long as UMNO want to impose on others in BN, I don’t think it is wise for Gerakan still remain with BN.

    I don’t think UMNO will change their ideology on protecting the Malay’s rights. It is better for
    Gerakan to leave BN so remain ‘relevant’ in Malaysian politics.

    Other parties like MCA, MIC should do likewise to opt out from BN.

    Race based politics is not the way for Malaysian anymore.


  2. Dr Hsu
    Mar 29, 2008 @ 18:15:30

    A true Malaysian, you r right. If UMNO does not reform, and I dont think it will under the present leaders, then there is really no point for Gerakan to remain in BN.

    The ideology of a multiracial party in a race based coalition will also be hijacked away.


  3. VJ
    Mar 29, 2008 @ 22:53:04

    based on umno members protest in PG and S’gor it seems they never will reform . They were telling the whole world not to bring grouses to streets but end up going against their own ideology . How ridiculous !

    MIC/PPP/Gerakan had faced huge setback last election . MCA still floating . Perhaps it’s time for our chinese frenz to kick out MCA as well . Let umno run BN all alone . See if that could make them “realize” the dark side of racial politics .

    Based on recent internal party development , I dont see any chance for MIC to gain momentum ….sayonaro ….


  4. romerz
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 03:50:45

    Everything is coming to a boil in so far as UMNO is concerned (that is if you believe the grapevine). UMNO’s very existence is said will be put to a test come the convening of Parliment in May.

    Whilst the smart play would be to see how the UMNO show plays out, I don’t think Gerakan can afford that luxury anymore.

    It has to be seen to be decisive about its own future and take bold measures and take ‘sides’ for better or worse. Half measures now will not placate the angry rakyat anymore.

    If Gerakan waits until the UMNO dust has settled before deciding on it form, then it will be seen as an opportunist at best or a vulture at worst. Either way, its a no-win situation.

    IMHO, the best course of action will be to leave the BN now (without joining the BR), when its 2 MPs will not make a difference to the federal scene, rather than later when the 2 MPs might become kingmakers. Then all the actions taken by Gerakan will have questions as to their motives and sincerity for representing the rakyat.

    There is still a chance for survival even though its bleak but decisive action must be seen to be taken NOW. Break away from the public perception that Gerakan will not dare to do anything unless UMNO allows it. I may be wrong but I believe there are enough middle-road rakyat who will ensure your survival if you do the right thing now.

    Dr Hsu,

    Since the 12GE, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to alternative news and blogs and I find your views quite similar to mine, the need for change without ignoring the realities.

    If its not asking too much, I would like to talk politics with you over a cup of coffee. Unlike you, I’m not affiliated to any political organizations at the moment but would like to step forward and do my part for the ‘new’ Malaysia. Just unsure what platform I should take.

    You have my email address so if you don’t mind this suggestion of a meet-up, please let me know how to contact you.

    P/s Even though I post my comments in the wee hours of the day, I assure you I’m residing in Penang. Its a case of being an imsoniac and only can have access to the PC without the wife showing a ‘black face’ LOL.


  5. A true Malaysian
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 12:59:51

    Dr. Hsu,

    I think this is the best time for us, Malaysians from Peninsular and East Malaysia to ask ourselves truthfully that whether BN had administered the country well and equitable.

    For East Malaysians, they start to ponder about this question seriously whether they should continue the partnership of Malaysia with BN or alternative front. The alternative front have offered better terms to them.

    So, if ultimately the East Malaysians decided to jump ship to alternative front, I personally won’t feel that it is ‘morally wrong’ to do that, since this is not enticed by monetary rewards to the parliamentarians concerned, but based on equal and just partnership of Malaysian.

    In fact, if this happens, Malaysia as a whole will be benefited because there are vast natural resources that remain untapped in East Malaysia.

    (Note : sorry to deviate my comments from the topic of your posting here)


  6. noyawns
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 15:16:08

    I had long supported the ideals of GERAKAN: a Malaysian Malaysia, and hopefully a forward looking party with good governance.
    But in the last few years, none of these ideals are adhered to: when UMNO tramples all over other components, there is no way a Malaysian Malaysia exists; and good governance – what could Gerakan/other parties do in the face of obvious misgovernance led by UMNO? No peep or protest – therefore, tarred with the samebrush of corruption. So the voters had to tell Gerakan (& MC & MIC) how their presence in BN is only political decor. My family & friends all agreed that we should take the 12PRU as opportunity to force the govt/BN into the open – so as to show its lies of “multiracial, tolerant, progressive” when the truth is “Ketuanan Melayu, Islamization, corrupt, uncompetitive”.
    Gerakan(& MCA) should leave BN. MIC is now irrelevant. Should Gerakan mere into DAP or PKR? Maybe – do so for the country. The stalwarts in Gerakan/MCA know the process of governance and this experience is still new in PKR and DAP – throw your lot with them and help build a new Malaysia -for ALL Malaysians.

    PS: 2 years ago I wrote letters to both MCA and Gerakan telling them this scenario would happen; the 12PRU result is only the culmination od what so many of us have worked for for some years


  7. monsterball
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 08:01:15

    Gerakan has been sucked up by UMNO… be like them…..opportunists and selfish. Fortunately…their trademark…to daringly oppose UMNO ….once a while is still intact.
    There is nothing to study or talk so much within themselves.
    Like True Malaysian said….Gerakan should have pulled out from BN…..long long ago.
    Yet they still lingers on.
    So what to talk of a sure dying party?
    It’s now….selfishness…blinding their eyes to see the truth of it all.
    But I believe no opposition parties will want any of those BN members at all…as there are tons and tons of evidences…getting so many of them…into court for corruptions.
    These 5 years will need powerful oppositions to work for the people and get rid of corruptions.
    I guess…all their efforts will again go down into the drain…if the legal system i still tilting to favour UMNO. That needs to be cleared up first….and that’s not easy……unless the Lingam case is fair and just…and showing Tun Salleh Abbas and few are being knowledge and compensated for the unjust sackings of them.
    But smart one guy in UMNO…is saying Mahathir is histoRy…and the fault is for UMNO to bear now……again twisting the truths… pass the buck to another.
    It was purely Mahathir’s work…..and boy..he also responded by saying…….’That’s politics” ….as is excuse…for sacking them….and putting puppets of his choice.
    What he is also saying …is….that Malaysian PM for 22 years…he played dirty politics…..more than doing good for the country.
    And the signs are there..making him a dictator.
    Mahathir have spoken or simply forget… these few years…all the accusations on him…..yet not one UMNO minister dare to accuse him …..but all will defend Dollah….if Mahathir speaks ill of Dollah.
    That is also the signs of saving their skins..under present PM….not really loving or want to support Dollah….but all need to unite…to save their skins ..from going to jail.
    YET!!…Gerakan …..kept quiet…..knowing Chinese are the biggest sufferers of all these evil deeds.
    YET…Dare not again oppose Hussein who came out with a tell us to shut up.or face the kris….was his message!!
    So we lost money and put dignities….and Gerakan and MCA..and MIC….all kept quiet.
    Malaysians had no protest and let them know…who are their bosses.
    Gerakan…MCA…..MIC have all taste the power of voters.


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