LETTER | The headline in The Star yesterday (March 10), ‘Let’s keep the unity’, is a significant call to shun extremism in a context where new political cooperation has emerged between PAS and Umno in the name of Malay-Muslim unity.
As stated in the content, the handshakes between PAS and Umno have been strong in recent days - and so are the fears of a racial divide in the country. On the other hand, there have been calls by intellectuals, academicians and Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) for age-old legacies to be cast aside so that a truly united Malaysia can be realised.
While it is true that colonial legacies of insecurity continue to haunt Malaysia, which has various complex reasons from social economic disparity that has roots in the British divide and rule policy, to racial and religious identity, the truth is the political culture and praxis in Malaysia has been basically rooted in the end justify the means type of politics.
It is obvious that there has been lack of analysis among intellectuals on the moral aspects of Malaysian politics being accepted on calls for the Pakatan Harapan government to raise the bar of governance to counter extremist PAS and Umno propaganda.
The end justifies the means politics could be seen in history and the political situation that we find ourselves in the country, if one is truly is discerning. For example, Umno, in spite of its flaws, played a vital part under Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra to come up with power-sharing arrangements (under the Alliance coalition) with MIC and MCA, which led to independence.
After the May 13, 1969, incident, under the leadership of Abul Razak Hussein, the grand inclusive Barisan National coalition was formed, which included PAS. This was done with unity in mind after the tragic May 13 incident. During this time, Umno was a party that respected the inclusive dimension of governing and this brought about the legacy of peace and stability, unlike other nations that achieved independence at the same time and which were engulfed in civil war and violence.
Things only began to change during the period of Islamic resurgence in the middle 70s, and when Dr Mahathir Mohamad took over the reins in the 80s. He wanted to counter PAS, and so the end justifies the means politics were part and parcel of his administration. In the later stages of Mahathir’s premiership, he declared that Malaysia was indeed an Islamic state under Umno. From there on, religious extremism has been empowered and any politician who failed to accommodate the extremist forces could be regarded as a political liability.
If one looks at the current political cooperation between PAS and Umno, there is nothing more than to portray themselves as champions of Islam, which they believe would help them to assume the leadership of the country as soon as possible or in the next general election, since the Malays make 65 percent of the population.
In this quest, there were political games played out by PAS in trying to create a rift between Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim by claiming there is a possible coup against Mahathir’s leadership. This is done to show there is a possibility that the all-Malay Bersatu could be part of the alliance that includes PAS and Umno, with the intention of eliminating DAP and PKR, which have multi-racial members, from governing. No evidence of coup was provided that shows the politics of the end justifies the means was used unashamedly.
'It is power that is important'
For Umno, issues like Islamic state or theocracy are something that could be dealt with later. It is power that is important. As for PAS leaders, they have condoned lying, if it is justified in the name of so-called religious struggles. One wonders whether the current PAS is a secular or religious party, since lying is not condoned by any religious leaders who tend to preserve the integrity of their religion. Even secular leaders, as seen in certain Nordic countries, have better moral integrity than the current PAS leaders, where they do not tolerate corruption and have greater compassion for their fellow citizens.
As for Harapan, the end justifies the means also played a part in its drive to power. Previously when Pakatan Rakyat was formed among PKR, DAP and PAS, it was a marriage of convenience, even though there was an effort to work towards common issues.
PAS, as a religiously inclined political party dominated by the ulama, has always propagated an Islamic state, and such underlining ideology was ignored by DAP and PKR because coming to power was more important than what happens to governance after coalition comes to power. The current difficulties faced by the Harapan government in fulfilling its manifesto are also consequences of end justifies the means politics, where unrealistic promises were made just to win the general election. There were times when its political leader declared that if he assumes power, he will immediately bring down the price of petrol.
Therefore, the current concern on the political relationship between PAS and Umno is not merely about disunity that it would entail. It is also vital to take into consideration the immoral politics of end justifies the means of both government and the opposition parties whose obsession for power dominates their actions, which will be detrimental to the country in the long run.
It is vital for the Malaysian electorate to hold their politicians accountable for their end justifies the means approach to politics. It is a tall order, indeed, since the politics of tribalism, fear and insecurity have been accepted by the majority in an ethnically- and religiously-inclined society.
To counter this end justifies the means politics, it is vital for a new front in Malaysia that is focused on service rather than political affiliations. Pope Francis in his address to Catholic politicians in Latin America asserted that what makes a politician is not party affiliation, but dedication to promoting the common good, particularly through listening to and empowering people who are often overlooked.
It is time that the politics of race and religion, which has all the characteristics of the end justifies the means, is replaced by politics of service, which is an authentic means that serves the end - which is the common good. Ethno-religious politics does not serve the common good and it should be rejected for the lie it propagates.
RONALD BENJAMIN is the executive secretary of the Association for Community and Dialogue.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.