COMMENT I have always been intrigued by the story of Katniss Everdeen, a protagonist of ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy written by Suzanne Collins; not because of the complicated ‘love triangle’; but for what she represents politically to her people in their struggle to break free from a corrupt and unjust regime.
The symbol of Mockingjay
Mockingjay, a hybrid bird, a progeny from the fusion of Jabberbay and nature’s species, Mockingbird. Jabberbay, an apparatus of Capitol, is a genetically modified breed that spied on the people and picks up any dissenting voices to be charged under the sedition law. Sounds familiar?
Over the years, Mockingjay was born. It has the ability to memorise and sing beautiful melodies. Mockingjay soon became a reminder to the people that through unity, perseverance and courage beautiful things may arise. This new breed represents the symbol of hope, survival and anti-oppression to the poor and tyrannised.
Katniss Everdeen embodies such virtues that represents the Mockingjay symbol - when others would take a backseat or were afraid, she stood up against the oppressive regime and fought against them with courage and conviction. She inspires the people to embark on this struggle with courage, righteousness and unity.
Reformasi as symbol of unity and political maturity
I believe ‘Reformasi’ is our Mockingjay. A symbol of hope to all Malaysians and a stern reminder of the importance of staying united and strong in the fight against an oppressive regime of Umno and Barisan Nasional.
Reformasi was the turning point in Malaysian politics especially post-independence. A political epiphany to millions of Malaysians - that they can choose to no longer be shackled and tied up to the oppressive and corrupt systems; that Malaysians have a strong alternative to displace Barisan Nasional (BN) from its more than half a century-old throne.
Reformasi was also a catalyst that saw a more organised and strategic alliance of different political parties in Malaysia known as the Barisan Alternatif (BA) comprising of Parti Keadilan Nasional, Parti Rakyat Malaysia, Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) - formulating a straight, one on one fight between the opposition and the ruling regime of Umno and Barisan Nasional.
That year in 1999, under the Barisan Alternatif coalition, PAS won the most seats amongst the opposition parties and this remains as their record until the present day as the highest number of seats PAS has ever won in any election.
In 2008, reaping the fruits of the Reformasi movement and a political tsunami by the opposition electoral pact (capturing five state governments and denying BN’s two-thirds majority), Pakatan Rakyat was formed as a common platform, a feat that was never thought possible.
And in the subsequent general election in 2013, Pakatan Rakyat remained victorious with the overwhelming support of almost 52 percent of Malaysians, albeit it failed to win more parliamentary seats than their political counterpart mainly due to the practice of gerrymandering.
But any marriage of convenience was never meant to last forever. The opposition electoral pact or coalition since the past two years, especially after the betrayal of PAS (contesting in seats meant for PKR), the messy ‘Kajang Move'’and hudud fiasco, the opposition are in constant decline, with diminishing trust and lack of ingenious strategies.
The upsetting defeat in the Sarawak state elections and the stunt in the recent twin by-elections in Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar that saw four-cornered and three-way fights respectively between giant political parties namely BN, PAS and Pakatan Harapan prove that the opposition block will only be on the losing end due to the split in votes among the opposition supporters.
It should be noted that this happened amid the serious political crisis that has been hovering over the BN president and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak with the 1MDB and RM4.2 billion donation scandals. These scandals should have given great opportunity for the opposition to capitalize on the mass disapproval towards Najib’s administration and the rampant corruption that would soon become Najib’s only legacy, into winning votes.
If we could learn anything from the Reformasi movement, is that it would be wise for the opposition to stand as one entity, the very least to have an electoral pact into the 14th general election, facing the Barisan Nasional coalition in a straight fight. Only then, the opposition would be a serious challenger and sensible alternative for the people to choose and rest their hopes to bring real reform in Malaysia.
Who is Malaysia’s Katniss Everdeen?
In the novel, Katniss never became the leader that everyone said she was predestined to be. She remained until the end the source of inspiration and courage that others draw from to continue the fight. She became part of the political propaganda by becoming the face and spokesperson of the movement to draw support from the common people.
Katniss Everdeen could be anyone of us. Those who believe in the struggle and the fight against the corrupted and oppressive BN regime and are not afraid to stand up for what is right and able to inspire people to follow her or his lead are worthy to become Malaysia’s own Katniss Everdeen.
And we have seen far too many times of individuals emerging from the crowd to become the icon of Reformasi, whom are never afraid to uphold the spirit of democracy and to stand against the injustice and oppression and to inspire others. I am talking about honourable Malaysian citizens like Anne Ooi (better known as Mak Cik Bersih), Adam Adli, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Azmi Sharom and many more.
We should also seriously consider for new leadership to lead the struggle for reform. We shall not narrow our minds to believing that there could only be one individual to save us all and refrain others to bring new ideas and strength to the cause or even provide a new leadership to the cause. Everyone has a part to contribute.
The strength of Pakatan Harapan should lie on the understanding that unity against Barisan Nasioanl is the key to enable a change of regime and for a systemic change to start. We as the opposition have to provide leadership to the people.
A leadership that is able to unite us all and upholds the principles of Reformasi - the Mockingjay - and inspire the people especially the youth to answer to the call for reform and systemic change in this country in order to save Malaysia.
If we (opposition parties) are serious to be an alternative to Umno-led Barisan Nasional, let us answer these couple of questions before starting our campaign asking for the people’s support; will it be a straight fight between the opposition and Barisan Nasional come the 14th general election? and, Who is the one prime minister candidate from the opposition?
DR AFIF BAHARDIN is Penang state government exco member for Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries, Health and Rural Development and PKR Youth deputy chief.