Negotiating with PAS makes no strategic sense

S Thayaparan

Modified 31 Aug 2017, 4:18 am

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
― Nelson Mandela

COMMENT | The opposition are slaves to the 'avoiding three-cornered fights' meme. I get that the data favours the strategy of avoiding three-cornered fights, but this idea only makes sense if it means denying BN allies in Parliament. It makes no sense if it means helping potential BN allies retain power, or potentially enabling opposition-held states to be destabilised from within.

Furthermore, this idea that denying BN a two-thirds majority somehow constrains the regime because they are unable to make constitutional amendments is misleading. The current Umno regime has put forth legislation that further sustains their power and erodes individual liberties and they did this without needing the magical two-thirds majority.

Nobody cared when Chairman Najib made his NSC debut – “A couple of days ago the National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016 came into force. Did anyone, besides the usual suspects, bother to read the bill? Did anyone really care? When the Act came into force, a BBC newscaster asked a local pollster if there was any opposition to it and the response was that they were concerns raised by ‘civil society’ because of the dodgy record of the Umno regime. How quaint, I thought.”

And let us assume that Umno/BN needed a two-thirds majority that would erode our rights and to enhance the position of the “Malays” and “Islam.” By “our”, I mean anyone who does not ascribe to the “bangsa dan agamaweltanschauung that is mainstream Malay politics.

Does anyone really think that Umno would not be able to muster the requisite support from Malay members of opposition parties who tell us (and their non-Malay supporters remain quiet) that they always have to prove that they are Malay and Islam enough for their base?

Malaysian politics is so screwed up that rational people, regardless of religion or ethnicity, can never be sure that the progressive forces in this country would not succumb to racial or religious politics just to remain relevant. The argument is that by remaining relevant, our rights would be protected, but every time opportunities to defend those rights arise, these people's champions cave in to business-as-usual politics.

Speaking for nobody else, my objections with working with PAS is not because they are an Islamic party. It is not that because they are anti-DAP or Amanah or Bersatu. It is because they are not independent. You can be Islamic and despise the ideologies and political personalities of your coalition partners if you have a common opponent that you wish to overthrow.

This is old ground for me. From the beginning, I articulated the agenda and the folly of “negotiating” with PAS – “A few months ago, I quoted what some PAS insiders said to me – ‘What he (PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang) hopes to achieve, according to some PAS insiders who spoke to me, is rule by proxy. To make sufficient gains into the federal system by supporting Umno thereby generating the perception that PAS has a de jure, if not de facto role, in the government.’

“Of course, that near perfect political animal – and I mean this as a compliment, by the way – PKR deputy president Azmin Ali finds it difficult to negotiate with PAS. ‘We have to swallow our pride and put the interest of the nation before the party’s interests,’ he says, not realising that this is what makes PKR and Harapan sound weaker than they actually are.”

And therein lies the rub. Is Umno the common political opponent they wish to overthrow or is Umno the sub rosa political partner they wish to enable...

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