Pakatan Harapan Must Return To Its Roots

Malaysiakini, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, 15 Feb 2019,

This week, seven former Umno MPs joined Bersatu. Bersatu has also declared its entry into Sabah, contrary to its pledge before the 2018 election.

I have consistently said that I am against this—and many of my colleagues in Pakatan Harapan feel the same way.

Let us focus on the challenges facing us in the present and how to move forward into the future. One thing that we need to do is to be willing to listen to all arguments—including the ones we don’t necessarily agree with.

It has been argued that these defectors are needed to shore-up Malay support for Harapan.
It has also been argued that the move is necessary to counter the emerging Umno-PAS alliance, which is allegedly increasingly popular on social media as well as to strengthen our coalition’s standing in rural areas — such as the East Coast and Northern Peninsula.

It is true that Harapan did not win the popular vote in the last election—garnering only 48.31% of it. Indeed, much of the 50.79% of the vote that Barisan Nasional and PAS won was from Malays in the East coast and Northern Peninsula Malaysia as well as from Muslim Bumiputeras in Sarawak.

And it does appear that Malay sentiment towards Harapan is not exactly glowing. Although much of this is driven by the shrill and manufactured voices of Umno and PAS surrogates, there is genuine concern among many Malays that the community is under threat: both politically and socio-economically.

Defections will not guarantee Malay support

But is taking in defectors from Umno the best way to assuage these concerns?

Why can’t the various components of Harapan evolve so that we can, finally, access, engage and win the support of all Malaysians, including the rural Malays?

Why do some of our leaders seem intent on taking short-cuts, rather than the path of hard (but ultimately rewarding) work? Have we totally abandoned the idea of bipartisanship?

Why do some Harapan leaders assume that the Malay community will necessarily be impressed by taking in these defectors? Is the rural Malay community that monolithic? Is quantity really that more important in governance and politics rather than quality?

But if taking in defectors is not the way, how should Harapan resolve its “Malay dilemma”?

One way is to double-down on conservative Malay politics, including turning back on reform because it will allegedly weaken the community. This is the path that PAS has taken. That was their choice to make and theirs alone, but it also means they are no longer the party of Dr Burhanuddin al Helmy, Fadzil Noor and Nik Aziz Nik Mat.

The alternative is to stick to the progressive, inclusive promises we made via the Buku Harapan.

Our GE14 campaign manifesto was a document that all Harapan parties agreed to. But it was also a platform that addressed the aspirations and problems of all segments of Malaysian society, including the Malays.

The Buku Harapan can be executed. We couldn’t deliver all of the 100 day promises—but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be realised. The same applies to the other pledges.

Some things may need to be sequenced, but they must be done if the country is to survive and thrive. We should not simply cast the Buku Harapan aside due to political exigencies.

Harapan won because it gave Malaysians hope

It is cynical and disingenuous to say that Harapan won only because of the 1MDB scandal and the anger towards Najib Razak. That’s simply not true.

Our critics—but also our own leaders, legislators and supporters—should give us more credit than that.

Malaysians voted for us not only out of anger over BN’s scandals and mismanagement, but because Harapan had a better vision for the future of the country. They voted for us because Harapan gave them hope.

What I am saying is this: Harapan should learn to take “yes” for an answer.

Malaysians gave us an adequate majority on May 9

There is no need to worry about our parliamentary majority (which is adequate to govern). Unless some quarters have some political calculations to undermine the Harapan consensus.

As I have said many times, a two-thirds majority is sometimes more trouble than it is worth.

It is only moral and just that constitutional amendments—when they become necessary—be done via a bipartisan consensus, by talking and working with the Opposition and civil society.

Harapan should roll up our sleeves and get down to the business of governing the country. And “governing”, means reforming our economy and making it work for all Malaysians.

Malays will benefit from progressive politics

Part of this involves winning over the Malays to the idea that progressive politics and governance is in their interest. And it is.

Who makes up the majority of the urban poor? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of low-wage earners? The Malays.

Who makes up the majority of the petty traders struggling to earn a living? The Malays.

Whose families are the majority of those struggling to service high household debts? The Malays.

Who are the majority of smallholders struggling from low commodity prices and delays in government payments? The Malays.

Delivering an economy that solves the plight of these segments of society, even in a non-racial manner, will do more to win over Malay voters than trying to outflank Umno and PAS on the right – or luring opposition crossovers.

The voters in these constituencies did not vote for Harapan. They knowingly chose the vision that BN and PAS had for Malaysia. Their MPs moving over to Harapan will not likely make them feel any differently.

Instead, solving the bread-and-butter-issues of the voters will go a long way in addressing their racial and religious insecurities.

Harapan should trust the Constitution

We must also learn to trust our Constitution and our system of governance, even as we repair both from decades of abuse.

Setting up the latest incarnation of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) is the Prime Minister’s prerogative and so is its composition — although there were some interesting omissions.

The members who were selected are distinguished and respected in their several fields — one wishes them every success.

But the NEAC’s emergence has — fairly or unfairly — led to speculation over the performance of the Cabinet. There are perceptions — again, fairly or unfairly —that attempts are being made to circumvent the normal process of Cabinet-based governance in the management of Malaysia’s economy.

It is easy to dismiss these criticisms as grouses, but they have a real impact on how voters view this current Pakatan Harapan government.

If we lead, the people will follow

I hope this is something that the leaders of our government and alliance will take into account moving forward, especially when dealing with defectors and in how the administration’s agenda is to be executed.

The ends do not justify the means. Like it or not, processes sometimes matter as much as outcomes.

Malaysia needs solutions that work for the many, not the few. We need policies for these day and age. Too often we seem to be indicating of going back to the economic prescriptions of Old Malaysia.

Sticking to the spirit of Buku Harapan is the way forward.

This will go a long way towards winning over Malay fence sitters and not side-line our non-Malay and politically liberal supporters.

While Umno and PAS embark on a journey rightwards, we should not dance to their tune.

But we must allow them the space to be a functioning Opposition that keeps us in check.

That is what leadership is. Pakatan doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Let’s be sure of who we are, what we want to do and where we want to go. If we are sincere, the people — including the Malays — will follow.

Lessons From The Cameron Highlands By-Election

The Cameron Highlands by-election has come to an end. The results were not what Pakatan Harapan and our supporters wanted. However, the people have spoken and we must respect their choice.

I thank our candidate and the team in Cameron Highlands. I hope that they, as well as the rest of Pakatan harapan, remain unbowed and that they gain second wind.

The alleged use of racial rhetoric by certain quarters during the campaign is highly disturbing. The relevant authorities should investigate and take stern action if the claims are proven to be true. Moreover, Malaysian voters must ask themselves whether the country or any community is truly well-served by such ugly, unscrupulous acts.

Nevertheless, when all is said and done, the ultimate responsibility for the defeat rests with Pakatan Harapan.
The biggest shortcoming was our inability to articulate a vision for a better future for the Malaysians of Cameron Highlands and the rest of the country.

We have yet to show Malaysians why voting for us will lead to a more equitable and inclusive economy for everyone.

Malaysia’s B40s and M40s cannot live on rhetoric and gestures alone—they need tangible benefits.

We have to measure ourselves against the Buku Harapan. Even when we cannot fully implement the policies in the manifesto, it should reflect the philosophy of delivering for the many and not the few.

In the days, weeks, months and years ahead—Pakatan Harapan will need a strong and clear narrative to persuade Malaysians that we deserve to continue in office.

It is a message that we must all support. Pakatan Harapan will fail if we do not speak with one voice.

And we need to start delivering to the people, especially in terms of the economy.

This is all the more crucial as it is clear that UMNO and PAS have now come together. Their “flirtation” has now metastasized into full-blown collusion. They are now basically one and the same.

The Cameron Highlands result should spur Pakatan Harapan to work even harder, especially with the Semenyih by-election on the horizon.


Allegations By WSJ That Najib Pursued A Pro-China Foreign Policy To Cover Up The 1MDB Scandal Must Be Investigated

The Wall Street Journal has alleged that officials from China told their Malaysian counterparts that it would use its influence to persuade other countries to drop 1MDB-related investigations in return for stakes in Malaysian railway and pipeline projects for the Belt and Road Initiative.
It was also alleged that China offered to bug the Hong Kong homes and offices of WSJ reporters working on the 1MDB story.

More worryingly, it was also claimed that “secret talks” were held “…to let Chinese navy ships dock at two Malaysian ports”, although this apparently did not come to pass.

The report also noted that the Prime Minister at the time, Najib Razak had voiced support for China’s position in the South China Sea dispute.

If these allegations are true, it would suggest that the actions of the previous administration had seriously compromised Malaysia’s sovereignty and neutrality to protect certain political actors.

These claims must hence be thoroughly investigated, and stern legal action should be taken against the perpetrators if warranted.

Moreover, the government of the People’s Republic of China must come clean over whether these allegations are true or not. Merely denying by saying China does not interfere in the affairs of other countries is not sufficient.

I also hope that the Malaysian government will take positive steps to defend our legitimate rights over the South China Sea in light of these revelations.


Responding To The Announcement Of The New KEADILAN MPP Lineup

Upon the announcement of the new KEADILAN Central Leadership Council (MPP) line-up, Deputy President Azmin Ali has voiced out that the appointments were not made in the party’s best interests as it would hinder KEADILAN from moving forward.

Earlier in November, during the party’s National Congress, KEADILAN President Anwar Ibrahim had stated that he would incorporate the best talents from across the spectrum of the party including Rafizi Ramli who lost narrowly to Azmin in the race for the Deputy Presidency.

At that time, Azmin affirmed that he was willing to give his full support to Anwar as well as Rafizi to strengthen the party. Azmin further added that he believed that Rafizi had a substantial role to play in order to ensure the party’s leadership was inclusive.

The appointments made by Anwar were made in the presence of the MPP and it took into account all views of the MPP. Undeniably, Azmin and many from his camp had won positions in the recent elections. However, Rafizi not only lost by a narrow margin but won in many divisions. A good leader would make sure to join these forces together.

Among those that were newly appointed, some were openly with Azmin, some with Rafizi and some were not part of either camp. From Azmin’s camp, this includes newly appointed Vice President and Saratok MP Ali Biju as well as Strategic Director Dr Mansor Othman.

Dr Edmund Santhara Kumar, who won as an MPP under Azmin’s camp, was appointed as Deputy Secretary General.

Two other personalities from Azmin’s camp – Shamsul Iskandar, who was the losing Vice President candidate with the highest vote was appointed as Information Chief while Lee Khai Loon, the losing MPP candidate with the highest vote was appointed to the MPP.

To represent the Kadazandusun Murut (KDM) community, Raymond Ahuar was given a position as the Muslim Bumiputera community are represented with Rahimah Majid in the MPP while Dr Christina Liew, a Chinese, is the Chairperson for KEADILAN Sabah.

At the same time, Faizal Sanusi, formerly Leader of PRM Youth prior to the merger with Parti Keadilan, and subsequently KEADILAN Youth Deputy Leader who is not associated with any camp, was also appointed.

The party’s Political Bureau had also cautioned the Women’s wing for announcing the appointment of State Women’s Chiefs prior to the appointment of State Chairpersons. The Standing Order clearly states that the appointment can only be done by the Leader of the Women’s wing after consulting the State Chairpersons and Division Women’s Chiefs.

Ultimately, the rakyat wants KEADILAN and Pakatan Harapan to focus on pursuing reforms and implementing the manifesto now. The time has certainly come for us to make that agenda – particularly on propelling economic growth and creating a more equal economy – our utmost priority.

KEADILAN should certainly be proud of its diverse and capable leadership from all over the nation, both men and women, old and young—as what was reflected in yesterday’s appointment. The party is open to diverse views within the party as part and parcel of democracy but we believe in harnessing that diversity for the good of the country.

Let’s all focus on rallying behind the new leadership lineup and serving the rakyat.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD won as a member of the MPP and was appointed as the Organising Secretary for KEADILAN. He is also the MP for Setiawangsa. His bestselling book on the elections, ‘9 May 2018: Notes from the Frontline’ is available in major bookshops as well as online at

My Speech At The ‘9 May 2018: Notes from the Frontline’ Book Launch

Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad speaks at the launch of his book ‘9 May 2018: Notes from the Frontline’ by Anwar Ibrahim.

The book is available at major bookshops and online at for RM25.

9 May 2018 has now etched its place in Malaysia’s history as the day that the Barisan Nasional was finally brought down after 61 years in power. For Nik Nazmi 9 May 2018 was also a personal milestone, it was his first time standing in a general election at the federal level. At GE14 he stood for the Parliamentary seat of Setiawangsa, the only seat in Kuala Lumpur that Barisan Nasional had never lost, but in GE14 they finally did, as seats across the country swung towards Pakatan Harapan.

How did this happen? How did a coalition of parties which fell apart after GE13 manage to rebuild and take on a government willing to use all of the tools it could to hold onto power? In 9 May 2018 – Notes from the Frontline Nik Nazmi gives his behind the scenes take on the political developments in the opposition coalition from the disappointment of GE13 to the ecstasy of GE14.

Recalling the fall of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition and the founding of Pakatan Harapan he also gives first-hand experiences of the back room politics, the party conferences, the development of INVOKE, working with then former PM Mahathir Mohamad, as well as insight into the campaigns he worked on in Selangor and Setiawangsa, and in marginal seats from Perlis to Sabah.

More than anything 9 May 2018 – Notes from the Frontline is a first-hand account of what it was like to witness the birth of a New Malaysia.

On The Frontline | The Star Online

by Martin Vengadesan, The Star Online

AT 36, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is a relative veteran with a decade’s service as Seri Setia assemblyman under his belt.

Now a newly-elected MP for Setiawangsa in the Federal parliament, he has not been able to resist turning briefly to an old love – that of writing.

He’s just published an account of the May 9 elections to go along with previous works such as Moving Forward: Malays for the 21st Century (2009) and Coming of Age: A Decade of Essays 2001–2011 (2011).

He spoke to Sunday Star recently about why he feels compelled to write his latest book, May 9: Notes From the Frontline.

“Before I became a political activist, and I became one at 19, I was already a writer. I had started writing in online portals, in newspapers and blogs. With the historic change in 2018, I thought that it’s useful that I write things down, because it’s still new, still fresh, the euphoria is still there. Even though it’s getting a little more tricky for the government, the excitement is still there,” he says.

He’s aware that there’s been a fair number of books about the election results and the related 1MDB scandal. However, he is convinced that his book will have something different to offer.

“I have written based on what I experienced on the ground and also in party conferences, backroom, behind the scenes. In politics people only see statements and external communications, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I am not saying that I am telling everything. It’s not a tell-all, because it’s still new and there are some things that I can’t reveal,” he says.

“It’s not about airing dirty laundry. There are certain things in which I don’t name names. People need to know why differences occurred, even how we in PKR could accept Dr Mahathir. People need to understand the story of how the compromise for the greater good happened.”

Because it’s such a fresh event, Nik Nazmi didn’t have a lot of time to sit on his draft.

“I started writing at the end of May, and by September my draft was completed. Then I shared it with some close associates who helped me edit. Four months is fast, but I wanted to capture the mood. Our nation is going through various stages and now that the honeymoon phase is ending, it’s the best time to publish the book. Hopefully, it’s not too late for mine to grab some attention.”

He cites former PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali and former US president Barack Obama as key influences.

“Dr Syed was my dad’s junior in university in Singapore. He was a progressive leader in Parti Rakyat Malaysia and then PKR, and despite being an academic, he writes in an accessible way.

“In his most recent book the People’s History of Malaysia, he wrote about how Tok Janggut and Datuk Bahaman (Malay warriors fighting the British in 19th century Malaya) can be related to our modern life.

“I also think the way President Obama wrote about his problems of identity in The Audacity of Hope really captured the imagination.”

Nik Nazmi doesn’t pretend that he foresaw the dramatic change coming.

“Most pollsters did not give us a chance, saying that Barisan Nasional would pull through. And privately some of their leaders were talking about regaining the two-thirds majority that they enjoyed before 2008.

“On the other hand, Invoke and Rafizi Ramli had consistently been saying that Barisan would lose the election since December last year. Not many believed them; even I had a hard time to believe them.

“When I was campaigning, when people asked ‘Are you sure you can win?’, I was cautious, because I didn’t want to be disappointed.”

He contrasts it with 2013, when people were confident that there would be a change of government but it didn’t happen.

“This time, however, it was beneath the surface, and issues like wages, jobs and corruption really came to the fore. You got the sense people wanted change.

“I wasn’t just a candidate during the election, I was also the Pakatan Harapan Youth leader, so I went down to the ground from Perlis to Sabah, and you could really feel the mood of change.”

With great power, comes great responsibility and Nik Nazmi is keenly aware that the Pakatan government is under pressure to deliver and has not totally covered itself in glory.

“Expectations are sky high. There was a lot of speculation about Cabinet positions, but I think it’s turned out to be good that I am a backbencher because the task facing the first Cabinet is immense.

“I think we need to move beyond the issues of the past. Yes, there are wrongs that need to be exposed so that we learn and the people who are responsible for crimes are punished, but most want to move forward and look at issues like the economy and protecting our unity and peace, which can be very fragile,” he notes.

He concedes that while Pakatan won a majority of seats in GE14, it did not win a majority of the Malay votes.

“Pakatan Harapan parties won no seats in Kelantan and Terengganu and there are large swathes of Malay areas in Perlis, northern Perak and Pahang in which we were not impressive,” he says. “We have popularity in the south and west coast but if it’s not handled well, the country may be more divided.”

Another thing that could affect the popularity of the government among young voters is the constant U-turns over the issue of PTPTN repayments. Nik Nazmi believes that this could saddle the coalition with a lot of problems.

“Ultimately, our election manifesto was written without access to statistics, but even it is not 100% implementable, we should try to deliver as much as we promised. We also have to recognise that higher wages, better jobs and better housing are more important to the rakyat than institutional reforms, electoral reforms and transparency.”

“Even my generation, which was the first recipient of the PTPTN, we need to understand the circumstances (of why they are having difficulty paying back their loans).

“Yes, we took the loans, we agreed to the debt, but then, we are earning very little, and the percentage of unemployment for fresh graduates is higher than for people who do not go to university!

“The degree is sold as a ticket to a better life, but when it’s not delivering that, there is a lot of frustration.”

He nonetheless commends the unlimited travel pass – at RM100 and RM50 a month – that the government launched recently to reduce the cost of living for the people.

“It was the Pakatan Harapan Youth who pushed for the universal transportation pass. To be fair to the previous government, they have improved public transport but costs were still prohibitive. Networks are much better now than they were 10-20 years ago and by lowering the cost, the hope is that public transport usage will increase and that is something that is really important for the younger generation. I know it’s not universal because it’s very Klang Valley-central, but we will work to broaden it,” he says.

Despite his youth, Nik Nazmi is no political novice. He has served in various roles in the last 10 years in Selangor, from political secretary to the mentri besar and a member of the state Exco to Deputy Speaker.

“When I was running as a 26-year-old in Seri Setia in 2008, I had to fight hard to convince the voters to cast their ballot for such an inexperienced guy.

“Now I have had that experience and had the opportunity to work with GLCs, I can carry out specific projects in my constituency. The demographic in my new area includes a big group of urban poor and we need to carry out education initiatives there. I started the Mentari project in Seri Setia to offer tuition to children and build a low cost library in my kawasan. This is where the Federal Territories can emulate Selangor because the Selangor library has done very well,” he shares.

Another factor that has undermined the euphoria of the GE victory is the bruising electoral process that PKR had undergone recently. Surprisingly, Nik Nazmi wouldn’t have it any other way.

“If you look at party history since 2010, we have had a lot of colourful contests. Datuk Seri Azmin Ali vs Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, when we started one man, one vote. In 2014, it was a three-way contest with Azmin, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim and Saifuddin Nasution, now it’s Azmin and Rafizi.

“I actually think it’s healthy. It’s not usual in Malaysia, where in parties like Umno there is usually a lot done behind closed doors with a succession plan. But this comes at a cost, because there is no contest of ideas, so are people being promoted because of their capabilities or because they can protect the interests of their predecessor? At the end of the day the party loses its vitality.

“Still, I do accept that PKR can take it too far. I am all for demo­cracy and openness but now it’s all over and done with, let’s focus on delivering. We are capable of uniting and coming back stronger. We are now the most successful multi-racial party in Malaysia’s history,” he says.

Nik Nazmi admits he is far too busy for his liking.

“I have a bad habit of buying books and not having the time to read them. I used to read very fast, but the lack of free time now, and the distraction of smartphone and WhatsApp, have left me lagging behind,” laments the father of one son, Nik Ilhan, seven.

He is also a foodie, says Nik Nazmi, confessing that it is “bad” for him as a politician.

“It’s because people always give you the best food! On my Instagram I use #nikmakan when I go looking for food.”

To relax, Nik Nazmi likes watching television too, when he can.

“Comedies like Modern Family, I find to be great escapism. I do watch a few series like Elementary, and political drama House of Cards – until it became too real and a bit depressing, since I am already living in that world,” he quips.

But as many may already know, football is the young politician’s big love.

“I am a huge, huge Liverpool fan,” he raves.

“And although locally I am running for the KLFA (Kuala Lumpur Football Association) deputy presidency, as a fan I also follow Kelantan and Selangor, which is a long story.”