FROGS, DONKEYS & MORONIC OXEN:
A Third Force in Malaysian Politics?
By Dr Kua Kia Soong, 23 Dec 2009
“Politicians were mice (politikus)
and the rakyat were bosses
once upon a time –
And now it’s back to same old same old…
That’s twice upon a time!”
Events since the Malaysian peoples’ tsunami on 8 March 2008 have led to a sense of frustration over the performance of Malaysian politicians on both sides of the political divide. All over cyberspace, agitated Malaysian bloggers are questioning the differentia specifica of BN Cola and PR Cola and pondering the necessity for a Third Force in Malaysian politics.
It is tragic yet inevitable that Malaysian politics should so quickly deteriorate into the political circus we see in the West where the voters are given the choice of Democrats or Republicans, Labour or Conservative. As the song goes,
“Laugh about it, shout about it,
When it’s time to choose –
Anyway you look at it you lose!”
Soon after the political tsunami, I wrote about some of the inconsistencies of Malaysian politicians during those days of hope (See Malaysiakini, “Days of Hope: A Checklist for Reform”, 13 March 2008; “MB Squabbles”, 14 March 2008; The Day of a Thousand Apologies, 25 March 2008; Party Hopping, Seat Grabbing and the Politics of Opportunism”, 18 April 2008; “Pointers in the Days of Hope”, 1 May 2008; “Where have all the Principled Politicians & Activists gone?”, 26 August 2008).
Since then we have seen PR frogs jumping into the BN and turning into moronic oxen (“BN leaning independents”!). Another latter day Malaysian oxymoron makes out that May 13 was “naturally orchestrated”! Where do you get these guys!
The latest travesty of the people’s trust was seen when twenty PR Members of Parliament were missing in action when they could have voted out the BN’s budget Bill and won a vote of no confidence against the BN government.
BN now has two KPI ministers! The idea of a minister in charge of KPI is totally laughable since the CEO or head of any organisation is supposed to overlook the KPIs of his or her officers in the first place! Pray, tell me which cabinet in the world has got a KPI minister? First they had a Chinese KPI minister but later they had to have another Malay KPI minister. Will the BN need to have a Malay minister for every other Non-Malay post in the Cabinet?
And who’s watching the KPI in Pakatan Rakyat? That’s what concerns us more since we created the political tsunami that brought them in the first place…
Who Lost the Roadmap to Local Council Elections?
“To bring back elected local councils” was an important plank in the Pakatan Rakyat election manifesto and a popular demand of the Malaysian electorate in many elections including the 2008 general elections. A conference on the Roadmap to Local Government Elections was held on July 26th, 2008 to expedite local government elections through institutional reform towards a democratic system of locally elected representatives. Participants at the one-day conference adopted the following resolutions:“1. the restoration of local elections constitutes an important step forward in reviving democracy, improving the standard of governance and checking the scourge of corruption, excesses and mismanagement presently plaguing the urban population in Malaysia;
2. the restoration of local elections lies clearly within the jurisdiction of the state government, as provided for by the Article 113(4) and Item 4, List II, Schedule 9 in the Federal Constitution. State governments, especially the Pakatan Rakyat ones which have made election promises on reviving local elections, should take immediate steps to formulate state laws to such effect;
3. the Federal Government should, at the same time, initiate consultations with the general public and hold negotiations with the state governments to formulate a comprehensive plan to have local elections that are clean, free, fair and representative.” (The Malaysian Bar)
We’ll soon be into 2010 and there is still no sign of this roadmap to local democracy in either Selangor, Penang, Kedah or Kelantan. We now hear there are component parties in the PR which are against elected local government! Could the culprits please come clean without us having to rely on a Freedom of Information Act?
Whither the Freedom of Information Act?
The reforms we had hoped for are being dragged by politicians’ ponderous feet through the mud of excuses. The Penang Chief Minister tells us they cannot introduce a Freedom of Information Act in the state since their legal officer has advised against it, saying it is ultra vires the Federal Constitution.
Now we know election manifestoes and convention declarations are easier said than done! But since when did the buck stop at a nameless state legal officer? Are not election manifestoes and convention declarations scrutinized by the leaders in the parties before they are heralded?
Thirty Per Cent Women Representation?
The recent PR Convention has called for thirty per cent women representation in parliament. Is this credible when the PKR woman president had to resign recently from a parliamentary seat in order to force a by-election for another man to take over her seat?
Why couldn’t one of the male Chief Ministers in PR resign instead so that Anwar could get back into politics? What makes these male Chief Ministers think they are so indispensable they have to be in the federal parliament as well? Couldn’t they let a woman politician or some other budding leaders have the opportunity to take part at the federal-level politics instead? It reflects the feudal male grabby instinct so prevalent in Malaysian political parties that needs to be reformed.
And when are the component parties in PR going to implement the rudimentary democratic practice of fixing the term of office of their leaders as is done in other democratic countries and even the MCA? Come on, PR parties must surely be more progressive than the MCA!
A Third Force?
Malaysians who have lived under BN authoritarianism for more than fifty years will no doubt rejoice over the peoples’ victory in cutting them down to size. At last! We now have a two-front system. This two-front system is a transitional necessity that civil rights activists had advocated way back in 1986 and almost achieved in 1990 when they entered the political arena.
Those who are familiar with the West will also know that the British and the US people have been going through a political circus rotating Democrat/Republican or Labour/Conservative governments for donkeys’ years. Thus, the Labour Party under Tony Blair implemented the Conservative Party Margaret Thatcher’s economic and social policies and even supported the Iraq war alongside George Bush. The Democrat Obama has sent more troops into Afghanistan than Republican Bush ever did while unemployment in the US also surges. Wherein lays the difference?
Do Malaysians have to go through the next fifty years of this kind of political circus, with BN Cola and PR Cola giving us renditions of the same neoliberal policies?
The euphoria after the 2008 political tsunami is quickly giving way to a realisation that the peoples’ agenda can only be won through a Third Force - an activist movement that continually makes demands outside Parliament in order that the peoples’ interests will be served.
Besides political consistency, this Third Force must champion economic and social policies that benefit the people rather than suck up to big business; policies through which working people can become masters of their fate and not just tools of production; a democratic social order in which workers have a say and control over production and their livelihood.
It is now widely accepted that it was the financial liberalization that led to cross-border speculative capital outflows which have caused the recent international financial crisis. In the West, this financial crisis has resulted in the nationalisation of the big banks and financial institutions, an act which has once and for all exploded the myth that financial institutions need to be privately owned and free of regulation. Likewise, it is a neoliberal myth that all land and industries need to be under private control.
Thus, this Third Force cannot accept the economic policies that perpetuate the sale of national industrial and public resources. It was the repressive rule under Mahathir that cleared the way for the neo-liberal policies that privatised state functions during the Eighties.
Towards Greater Democracy!
This Third Force must reclaim our public domain; nationalize the major means of production under democratic control of the people; universalize citizens’ rights; enlarge our democratic space and support the resistance to neoliberalism by our indigenous peoples, workers and other marginalized groups. Only through democratic planning and control over the allocation of social surplus will we be able to meet the basic needs of all sectors of society and a better standard of living for the 60-70 per cent of the population.
Only then will this Third Force have a zest that is different from BN Cola or PR Cola. Go for it!