A commentator from Penang who has voted for Gerakan for the past few elections, romerz, emailed me about an article on Gerakan in Gerakan Youth leader Lim SI Pin’s blog. I thought it would be good if I comment in my ow blog about my views of Gerakan , given that I have written a few articles on these.
A party’s roots is in its ideology. Gerakan’s ideology is to fight for a fair and equal society where not only every race but every individual regardless of race, sex or creed will have an equal opportunity in education, employment, socio-economic fields, etc.
It aims to promote an egalitarian society and it is basically a social democratic party.
Under these ideals, the party advocates helping the unfortunate and the poor , not along any racial or religious lines, but rather on social strata and on a ‘needs’ basis.
As correctly pointed in Lim’s blog, Gerakan joined BN mainly to bring Development to the Penang people. In the aftermath of May 13, it also wanted to reduce political friction and promote conciliation among the races. It was in fact one of the founders of BN. It has to be noted that UMNO at that time was a much better respected party than now and money politics, as is practiced in UMNO nowadays, had not reared itsugly head yet.
Even then, ideology of Gerakan and most of the BN component parties were very different. Gerakan is a socialist party, whereas the big brothers of BN, namely UMNO,MCA and MIC, are all race based parties; and none are social democrats.
But it was possible then, in the early seventies and in the aftermath of May 13, for the people to buy the reasons that Gerakan could shelf its ideals of a fair and equitable society for a short term, joined BN and be supportive of the affirmative action based on race, to enable the Malays to catch up in almost all sectors. But this support was not intended to be more than a short term. Tun DR Lim CHong Eu was said not to favour any extension of the NEP beyond its original designated term. (Unfortunately, Tun Lim lost in 1990 election and retired from politics just before the NEP was supposed to come to an end). In exchange for that shelving of Gerakan’s ideals, Gerakan managed to bring development to Penang and improved the living standard as well as the economy of Penang people.
The leaders then also hoped that by being part of the ruling BN, Gerakan could exert its influence and corrected whatever anomalies from inside.
If Gerakan has a strong voice and is in a position to dictate terms within BN, it could try and change the direction of the whole coalition. Unfortunately, Gerakan is only a small party with not enough clout to really change the direction of this coalition, and in the process, instead of trying to change the other component parties, Gerakan’s ideology was hijacked and the perception was that it has become just another Chinese based party , maybe one with a better conscience than the rest, but nevertheless, one that is impotent to bring about any significant policy change .
So in reality, Gerakan has become a square peg in a round hole. How could a square peg function in a round hole? or put it another way, how can Gerakan exert its ideology within such environment? To continue to hope so, after more than 3 decades inside BN without any success to change BN, is really to lie to one’s own self and conscience. Only when the leaders can break out of this self denial cocoon, can there be objective re-evaluation of the future direction of the party.
Gerakan was truly multiracial in its early days. Alas, it is no longer so. The whole mutliracial and nonracial approach has to be sacrificed under BN’s emphasis of race and the skewed NEP. How to recruit Malay members when the big brother is a Malay based party which views such an act as stepping over its boundary?
As I told one top leader of the party, no matter how good is the reform undertaken by Gerakan, if it still sticks to UMNO, it is signing its own death sentence, given that UMNO’s present culture will only lead it slowly into a self destructive mode. In a way, just one racist remark from UMNO will negate all the good works done by Gerakan, no matter how hard Gerakan tries to reform and change.
By its association with UMNO, Gerakan will go the way UMNO is heading. And To expect UMNo to change when a culture of rot has set in is akin to hope for a habitual gambler to quit gambling.
Pakatan is not so rosy, too. I thought Anwar was an Old wine in a new bottle. But I have to give credit to him for realising many people’s dream of a two-party system, albeit an imperfect one at the moment. But with many of PAS ‘s members still harbouring hopes of an Islamic State, Pakatan can exist only because of the existence of a common enemy, UMNO. If that common enemy is no more a force to be reckoned with, Pakatan will start to have cracks and fissures sooner or later.
So the best option is still a third force, where it can be free to advance its ideology. It needs, of course, to attract people of caliber from all races. It needs to practise what it preaches. A small party in the middle of 2 more or less equally matched coalition fronts, contrary to what many people think, will not split the 2 party system and will be able to exert its influence far greater than its size. By adroitly using its leverage of support, it will actually be able to exert much more influence than if it remains inside either front. And if the party can be managed well as an independent force, it should not be worried about 3 cornered fights come the next round.
(There are many examples of a small third force with great influence… in the West, In UK and Germany).