The announcement by Acting UMNO President Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan that the party and PAS would form a committee and opposition caucus in Parliament finally confirms—despite years of denials by leaders from both sides—that the two are in an alliance.
Mohamad even went as far as to describe the alliance as a “marriage”. I had declared them “married” as far back as in the Seri Setia by-election in August 2018 after all the “courtship” that emerged after the fall of Pakatan Rakyat. But with the revelation of the deals that PAS leadership took with UMNO involving monetary compensation, it seems that this is less a “marriage” but a commercial arrangement involving a willing donor and willing recipient.
After months, if not years of colluding and enabling each other—UMNO and PAS are now essentially one and the same.
It is unclear what benefit, if any, the new arrangement will bring to the wider Malay community given that both parties have lately seemed more concerned with jockeying for political power, justifying alleged past wrongdoings and attempting to stir communal feelings.
The two parties have only provided tired rhetorics without any clear alternatives, and have whittled down to become more like regional rather than national parties.
Their former leaders, in contrast, including Dato’ Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak, Dr Burhanuddin Helmy, Dato’ Ustaz Fadzil Noor and Tuan Guru Dato’ Bentara Setia Nik Abdul Aziz Mat, were towering Malaysians and Malays who upheld not only multiracial cooperation, but also the highest standards of integrity in public life.
The actions of today’s crop of UMNO and PAS leaders, as well as their so-called “marriage”, mean that both parties have turned their backs on the spirit as well as legacies of their former icons.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Pakatan Harapan has suffered yet another by-election defeat, this time in Semenyih.
I congratulate Barisan Nasional on their victory. I also want to thank the Pakatan Harapan team in Semenyih for their hard work and hope that this setback will not dampen their spirits.
This is now the second defeat Pakatan Harapan has suffered and the first time we have lost a seat since the 2018 General Elections.
I have stressed many times that our government will succeed or fail based on our management of the economy, as well as our stewardship of the institutional reform process.
At the same time, the lack of clarity over our government’s goals, vision for the country and who will be its future leadership have also hampered our work. We must remember, we have agreed to the Pakatan Harapan consensus on this matter.
It has also weakened the confidence of voters in us. When leaders have no clarity and when there is no clarity who is leading, the county drifts and the people suffer.
This latest defeat highlights that we cannot afford to be complacent any longer, or avoid addressing the difficult questions and tasks ahead. Pakatan Harapan’s leaders must tackle crucial questions over cost of living in a substantive manner.
It must also make government more responsive to the needs of the rakyat and combat corruption as well as impunity relentlessly. The promises outlined in our 2018 manifesto must be adhered to and realized as soon as possible.
Reform can and must be people-centred. That is to only way it will succeed.
Cameron Highlands and Semenyih are clear warnings for Pakatan Harapan: we must deliver or be voted out.
It is as simple as that.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Last week, I was invited by Syed Kamall MEP, from the Conservatives to be a panellist at the European Muslim World Democracy Forum. My session was on human capital and education looking specifically on women and youths.
I began by talking about how Malaysia’s NEP stabilised its society and helped to create a Bumiputera middle-class.
This middle-class arguably assisted the movement for political change and reform in Malaysia, especially for parties like Parti Keadilan Rakyat.
However, there are certain anomalies that need to be addressed:
The problems that initiatives like the NEP created, such as corruption, but also entitlement.
Also, economic empowerment has not necessarily prevented youths—whatever their faith—from becoming radicalized. There have been countless terrorists, extremists and radicals from middle-class backgrounds.
The first problem can be addressed by continuing to pursue democracy and good governance in Muslim societies. It is wrong to say that these things are in any way inimical to the teachings of Islam.
The challenge is for politicians to win support and buy-in for these principles among Muslim constituents. This is the challenge facing Pakatan right now. But this is not a problem unique to Muslim polities. Look how American voters continuously tolerate corrupt Republican and even Democratic politicians in some states.
This issue hence requires nuance. Progressive politicians must show that good governance will benefit all peoples—both majority and minorities—as well as protect their dignity and status.
But economic justice is just one piece of the puzzle. Radicalisation among educated and middle-class youth often happens not because they feel poor or oppressed, but because they want meaning in their lives.
The key is persuading young people that voting, being in political parties and civil society as well as participating in policy debates can not only improve their economies, but also make their societies more equal, improve their sense of self-worth and genuinely build their nations.
What needs to happen is that the political class has to: a. Reduce the barriers to entry for politics for younger figures. b. Recognize that youth-driven political causes like environmentalism and universal basic income must now be in the mainstream of political discourse. c. Not scoff or trivialise the influence of social media on politics. We must fight against fake news, of course—but also recognize that Twitter, Instagram and Facebook etc. are serious factors in our democracies.
It is certainly not right for European countries to seek to clamp down on immigration or multiculturalism. We live in a world now where every country is being judged via the 24/7 news cycle and social media.
The West needs to live up to its own values—and it must also have confidence in its own civilization. It should not fear what immigrants do to their values: if Western civilization was really that strong, noble, enlightened and tolerant—all peoples who encounter it would embrace it regardless of their background.
I believe this can be the case. Alienation happens—both among Westerners and immigrants—when the West’s leaders engage in hypocrisy, double-standards or fail to live up to their ideals.
This is something that Asia also must live up to—including Muslim societies and also emerging powers like China – look at the situation of the detention of over a million Uyghurs.
We need all societies to remain open and to also be confident of themselves. At the end of the day, this can only happen with both justice at home and justice abroad.
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.