Barisan Nasional is coalition of many independent parties. Some are raced based , like UMNO, MCA, and MIC. SOme are supposed to be multiracial, like Gerakan, PPP and most of the parties in Sarawak and Sabah,
It is in fact a loose coalition. There is no BN party constitution or a common ideology governing the coalition. Each component party has its own constitution which lays out how each party is to be run, disciplinary matters regarding each party, membership, party election and so on. Each party also has its own ideology. For example, Gerakan’s ideology is to fight for a fair and equal society in a nonracial manner, whereas the race based parties stress on the protection of the rights of the race the party represents–UMNo will fight for the rights of the Malays and MCA that of the Chinese and MIC that of the Indians.
The membership and structure of each party is also very different. So it is quite correct to say that BN is a loose coalition and is not a single party.
Because of this, disciplinary matters are left to the individual party. Gerakan has its own disciplinary Board. MCA has its own and UMNO has its own. UMNO’s disciplinary board cannot interfere with the disciplinary matters of Gerakan, and Gerakan’s cannot interfere with disciplinary matters of MCA.
The rules are supposed to be clear cut, so that theoretically there should be no interference of one party into the affairs of another party.
However, in practice, one party is above all others, and that is UMNO. UMNO extends hegemony over all the others, so much so a former President of Gerakan , in a recent interview , said that all the component parties are like beggars. Coming from the mouth of a former president of a component party and a former minister for over 2 decades, this cannot be wrong, even though the grassroots of the component parties were never told of this before.
What was often told to the grassroots by leaders of these parties was that the leaders of these parties are fighting very hard inside the BN council meetings or the cabinet, but nothing was said of the begging inside BN council or the cabinet. Grassroots were also often told that all component parties are basically equal.
Last month, I have blogged and written a few posts on Lee Kah Choon who was roped in by the new Penang Government to help bring investments to Penang people. Please refer to this post: The Ball is at Gerakan’s foot. (which received a hits of over 5000 on the first 2 days of postings, besides being listed in Malaysia-today and published as a letter in Malaysiakini). This is a position like that of a civil service, and Lee’s acceptance had in no way of hurting Parti Gerakan.
A politician’s first loyalty should be to the people. If by taking up the directorship of PDC (which is not a political appointment), Lee is able to contribute to the developemnt of Penang, then no one should stop him from doing so. Sometimes, politicians must be prepared to go above partisan politics. This is especially true now that the country is facing so much of problems. The politicians should do more serious work and play less politics.
He was, however, forced to resign because after his acceptance of the positions, Najib asked what Gerakan was going to do in Lee’s case, and Gerakan subsequently issued a show cause letter. The rest is of course history.
Now, a similar case has arisen. This time it involves Dr Tan Kee Kwong, who is the Gerakan Kuala Lumpur Chairman. He was invited to be the Co Chairman of a Task force to oversee Land matters in Selangor. This is an administrative position, again like that of a civil service. This position would have enabled him to tackle the problems faced by land owners in Selangor and increase the efficiency of the Land offices, which will translate to a saving of time and money for the land owning Raykat. There will be thousands and thousands of beneficiaries, if Land offices can be made more efficient .
So, who will benefit? The people will benefit. Even the non Land owners will benefit, because whatever cost that can be saved can be channeled to development of the State.
Political parties exist because of the people. Without the people , there is no party. This is the most basic fact. So, in helping to chair a task force which can help thousands of people solve their headaches and nightmares regarding land matters, why should disciplinary action be taken against him? Why can’t leaders of political parties be less partisan and work more for the people?
Parti Gerakan leaders have publicly stated that they would go back to basic and go back to the people. Well, this is the best opportunity in fact to prove to the people that it is in fact going back to the people, by allowing its members to hold non political administrative position to help the people. To do otherwise will give a perception that the promise to go back to the people is only lip service..
The first person to ask that action be taken against Dr Tan is not from Gerakan, but a party outside Gerakan and he is Dato Seri Najib, the deputy President of UMNO.. If you have understood the setup of BN, then you will know that all parties are supposed to be equal and that each party is supposed to take care of its own members.
What has UMNO got to do with Gerakan? This is an internal affairs of Gerakan. Gerakan has its own set of leaders, its own set of rules and regulations, its own constitution , and its own disciplinary board. The party is big enough to take care of its own problems and its members. Why should UMNO once again show its hegemonic streak in asking a non UMNO member to resign from his own party, when it is none of UMNO’s business?
The last election saw the trend of the people abandoning Gerakan and voting for Pakatan Rakyat, mainly because of the perception that a vote for Gerakan or MCA is a vote for UMNO.
Is this perception really true? Gerakan leaders often tell their grassroots about how hard they fight inside BN council and cabinet for the people’s interest, and that a vote for Gerakan does not translate into a vote for UMNO. However, by immediately issuing a show cause letters in both Lee’s and Dr Tan’s case after Najib commented, they have inadvertently confirmed the perception that a vote for Gerakan is indeed a vote for UMNO and that UMNO is still dictating the terms for Gerakan. This is one of the main reasons the party lost so badly in the recent General Election.
The party wants to reform, but reform starts with action and not from the lips.
No amount of brain storming or playing lip service to reform will endear the party to the people again, if this perception that Gerakan is doing UMNo’s bidding is not gotten rid of.
How to get rid of this perception?
I have mentioned many times to the party leaders that one way is to leave BN and be an own independent third force, where the party can support good policies of either Pakatan or BN, and criticise bad policies of either coalition.
The party leadership apparently is not ready to make this jump. OK. That will leave the second option. Stand up to UMNO and tell them to mind their own business. Stand up to them and say Gerakan is truly for the people and supports whatever is good for the people. Do not take action against members working for the benefits of the people.
Only by standing up to UMNO and show the people that Gerakan is made of tough materials, the perception of a vote for Gerakan is a vote for UMNO can be changed. What is the risk? I don’t see any risk at all… BN cannot afford to kick Gerakan out, because that would mean losing critical support when Anwar is threatening to entice 30 MPs to cross over.
In fact , by standing up to UMNO and exert its own right as a rightful and equal partner to UMNO, and by shielding its members from criticism from UMNO, it can endear itself to the people once again and prove to the people that this party is indeed keen to go back to the people, to go back to its ideology and go back to its grassroots.