By Chandra Muzaffar

Principles the key, not personalities and parties

I am pleased that in An open note for Dr Chandra Muzaffar, Choo Sing Chye does not resort to the vile and vulgar vitriolic of so many commentators in cyber media.

His quotes from one of my earlier books are also accurate - unlike some who invent or distort the writings of the targeted person in order to tarnish him.

However, when one quotes from someone else's writings it is also important to provide the context.

Many of my commentaries in ‘Challenges and Choices in Malaysian Politics and Society' were responses to specific episodes.

Choo has also been somewhat selective in his quotes. While it is true that as the president of a reform group, I was mostly concerned with the actions of the wielders of state power, I was also critical in the books of PAS and the DAP.

In fact, Choo recognises this. He says that, "You didn't speak for the Opposition, nor the BN government but you spoke eloquently for the poor and (sic) injustices."

This is the crux and core of the matter. Our fidelity should be to the principle of justice, not to a personality or a party.

When I joined the Anwar movement in 1998, it was not because of Anwar the man but because of the injustice done to him. For taking a principled stand, I paid the price. I lost my university job.

Three years later when I left Parti Keadilan Nasional, it was because my conscience could not accept the wrongdoings in the party.

I was not prepared to acquiesce with money politics in the party; the manipulation of communal sentiments in pursuit of political objectives; the utter lack of transparency in the financial management of the party; and the cosy relationship that Keadilan's de facto leader had cultivated with certain elements in Washington.

It was while I was in Keadilan and as coordinator of the Barisan Alternatif (BA) comprising Keadilan, PAS, DAP and Parti Rakyat, that I realised that the ideological chasm that separates PAS and DAP on fundamental issues such as the role of Islam in society and the identity of the nation is unbridgeable.

I organised a few sessions among the leaders of the BA to try to address these issues but there was little progress.

It is because their differences are insurmountable, that PAS and DAP need Keadilan, specifically Anwar, as a link.

Anwar in turn needs both parties to shore up his position. Through DAP, PAS gains some Chinese support while through PAS, DAP secures some Malay support.

PAS discovered the value of a link to DAP via Anwar in the 1999 general election when it captured 27 parliamentary seats, its best performance ever.

DAP, on the other hand, realised the efficacy of a link to PAS mediated by Anwar in the 2008 general election when it won 28 parliamentary seats, a figure that it had not reached before.

So it is a case of PAS and DAP using one another. Indeed, everyone is using everyone else in the Pakatan.

Pakatan is a totally opportunistic inter-party grouping that has one overwhelming aim: to take over Putrajaya.

Of course, like other parties elsewhere seeking power, Pakatan's rhetoric is all about fighting corruption and ensuring good governance.

Unlike other coalitions in Malaysian politics, it has no common belief-system that holds it together.

Even the Socialist Front of the sixties, comprising the Parti Rakyat and the Labour Party, had some ideological bond. When the Alliance was formed in 1954, achieving Merdeka was its all-consuming goal.

In 1974, the Barisan Nasional committed itself to development and national unity. Indeed, the Pakatan is not even a coalition in the sense in which the term is understood. It has no common symbol; no common flag; no common structure of authority.

When a citizen alerts his fellow citizens to the inherent pitfalls of an inter-party grouping like Pakatan, isn't he doing his duty to his nation?

Why should he be accused of betraying his "egalitarian idealism" when he speaks the truth about those who are lusting for power?

After all, didn't I in ‘Challenges and Choices' ask the honest question, "Will it (PAS) ever be able to realise its potential of becoming the leader of an alternative coalition of parties to the Barisan as long as it persists with its goal of establishing an Islamic State defined on the basis of traditional theology?" (p.123)


CHANDRA MUZAFFAR is the chairperson of the board of trustees of Yayasan 1Malaysia.