Wednesday, March 26, 2008

3 Big Steps to Reform Gerakan

In my earlier post, I have criticized Gerakan for taking the wrong first step to reform the party. Reform is a word often overused and misused.

It is nonsensical for the party leadership to think by being more vocal against both Umno and the Dap-PKR-Pas coalition is enough to take Gerakan through the current storm. Being vocal is necessary but doing it at the time is more effective. Doing it after the political tsunami is useless since both MIC and MCA would probably want to do the same.

How can then Gerakan differentiate itself? Can Gerakan bite if it can't even bark at the right target? Some of its leaders are still barking up the wrong tree.

There are several reasons for the downfall of the party. Firstly, over the years the party has lost its democratic structure and ideological compass. Several division leaders told me that decision made by the party leadership centred around several personalities, often dubbed as the kitchen cabinet and their power brokers.

Pragmatic politics practiced in Gerakan after joining the BN coalition had compromised its original struggle e.g. championing workers' rights, minimum wage, non-racialism and other social causes et cetera. Its diversion from the original ideology proved costly for the party especially in Penang.

Its leadership in the state was seen as weak and ineffective largely due to contesting sectarian interests, fear of antagonising UMNO and an indecisive leadership.

Since the 1995 general election, Gerakan was too preoccupied with electoral victory which it had it easy in the 1995, 1999 and 2004 general elections. These victories did not reflect the true strength of the party especially in Penang. Gerakan was lucky to coattail on several positive trends which benefited the BN coalition at the expense of a weak opposition.

Secondly, complacency and arrogance of power also sipped into the party. Electoral candidates were not picked based on merit and ability. Power brokers played a significant role to help top party leaders to consolidate their power through selective nomination. As a result, the most productive and innovative leaders were left disappointed and disillusioned by the decision.

Unfortunately, we are not going to see the party mending its ways very soon.

Next, the party mindset which was set on electoral victory primarily had cultivated an attitude which is not willing to 'rock the boat'. This is confirmed by the statements made by several leaders after the electoral defeat recently.

In the end, Gerakan leaders will still make a beeline at UMNO's doorsteps. Talks are already there to make one of its leaders in Penang a senator and a deputy minister in the coming months.

If the party is serious at reforming, 3 gigantic steps must be taken. First, cultivate a new and untainted leadership from the ranks of younger leaders. Second, return to its original ideology and break away from a preoccupation of power but not political struggle. Third, get rid of all its power brokers and advisers who are only interested in building dynasties and factions within the party.

Anything less than a total revamp and remaking of a new Gerakan, it will be an utter waste of both time and energy to even talk about making a grand political comeback. The outcome of the recent general election should not be seen as an emotional reaction and protest against UMNO. Voters have long given up on sulking and being emotional.

Ignore their voices of change at your own peril!

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