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:
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.”