Tunku Abdul Aziz: "The electorate owes PR nothing. The truth is that Pakatan Rakyat owes its supporters everything."
This is a timely reminder from a reluctant politician and a fine gentleman. PR must start to live up to the people's expectations or perish in the next general election. Like a few other concerned and credible Malaysians, Tunku Aziz had decided to join the DAP and was immediately made its Vice-President because he had wanted to strengthen the multiracial image of the Chinese based opposition party.
Similarly, other politicians such as Dr Toh Kin Woon, Dr Tan Kee Kwong, Lee Kah Choon, Zaid Ibrahim and Chua Jui Ming had thrown their weight behind this newly minted coalition because they too wanted the two-party system to succeed.
A number of us, political analysts and observers, had at times overstepped our neutrality and urged our readers to support candidates from the coalition because we wanted it to become a viable alternative to the problem riddled, racist, corrupted and lacklustre Barisan Nasional/UMNO.
DAP, PKR and PAS did not win many state and parliamentary seats in the last general election on the popularity and credibility of their parties and leaders alone. Hadi Awang, Lim Kit Siang and Wan Azizah had shown their vulnerability in elections.
PR was a by-product of the 308 general election. On its own, the three parties had failed to sustain their cooperation. Many of us still remembered the disastrous 1999 general election for several top leaders in DAP. Both Kit Siang and Karpal Singh were defeated by lesser known opponents.
Kit Siang, who has reminded the coalition of the risk of becoming a 'one-term wonder', had pulled out his party from the 1999 alliance and contested independently in 2004. As a result, the opposition cohesiveness and its electoral pact was not fully achieved.
Both Kit Siang and Karpal were returned to the parliament after being left out for a term. Since then, both of them were convinced that working with PAS is detrimental to the DAP. Kit Siang had refused to support a PAS assemblyman as a new Perak menteri besar until the DAP Perak acted autonomously to endorse PAS Nizar.
It was not easy for Kit to have a change of heart. He must have seen something a number of his colleagues did not.
Today, the 3 parties are sharing power in 3 state governments and have just ironed out some details to make this coalition official. This outcome, which would not have been possible since the 1999 GE, should be celebrated as a first step towards the creation of a sustainable alternative coalition to check on the excesses and misdeeds of BN.
The post-2008 PR was created by the people especially those who were fed-up with the arrogance, power abuse, corruption and mediocrity in BN. The voters willingness to accept all three - PAS, DAP and PKR - had given both PAS and DAP the courage to collaborate and formalize their political partnership.
It was not achieved through the diplomatic efforts of Kit Siang or Hadi Awang. It was mind blowing that the latter was so keen to engage UMNO in a Malay-Muslim unity talk when there was no treat to the Malay-Muslim community.
A pertinent question to ask the PR leaders is how much progress has this coalition made in the last 20 months? Has an official power sharing structure being formulated to ease their cooperation in the PR governed states?
Has the coalition informed or explained to their supporters how they intend to govern this country differently from BN?
Is PR truly a Malaysian Malaysia coalition or is it also being bogged down by the same race and religious issues faced by the BN?
Over the last couple of months, I am sad to inform them that we have witnessed the same race and religious sentiments being played out in the coalition. From the banning of an open beer sales in convenient stores, protests against several concerts to some totally senseless and irrational statements and petty quarrels, the coalition has began to court attacks from BN supporters and leaders that this is a marriage of convenience and a weak and shallow partnership.
The fact that factions in both PAS and PKR which are so willing to cooperate and engage UMNO in a unity talk has chipped off our confidence in the coalition. Has PR moved beyond the race-based model or is it still housing and sheltering many closet race and religious extremists/nationalists? Is PR being trapped in the same ethno-religious hour glass that it was trying to break?
I was asked by a top national leader of a PR component party why I did not praise his effort to appoint an Indian Malaysian to a top post in his administration. A praise should not come from the fact that the person was from a minority race but it should come from his performance and capability. I am prepared to lavish my praises on him but can the leader provide me with the details of his adviser's achievement apart from his racial identity?
I have also encountered a change of behaviour of some PR leaders who cannot take the limelight of top positions and their newly acquired political influence and remain humble and engaging. Some have turned arrogant, inaccessible and irresponsible. Badrul of Port Klang, Zulkifli Nordin, the Perak 'kataks' and a few more had given the coalition a bad name.
An opposition MP had claimed that I had blackmailed a state government but had refused to show proof or retract his statement and offer an apology when it was clear that he had made a mistake. I was not to be his only victim. He had done a similar thing to other individuals and organisations.
A lack of discipline, clear direction, leadership vision and an effective and efficient team is hampering some of PR controlled state governments.
Some of the newly elected representatives are still hoping for a lack of choice or the non-Malays anger and dissatisfaction of UMNO to keep their seats and support in the next general election.
The unpredictability of Indian voters should serve as an early warning to these dreamers. They should depend on their own ability to lead, govern and serve to retain their seats instead of the weaknesses of their opponents.
There is a thing that our policy makers should learn and learn fast - don't just do something, do it really really well. The same malaise and mediocrity are still seen in all PR led states.
PR leaders and members should take note of the alarm bell sounded by Tunku Abdul Aziz before it is too late. The goodwill is fast depleting. I had warned them as early as the mid-2009.
An elected position can be taken back by the people easily, by a stroke of pen, when the time is ripe.