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The party that changed the country's political discourse

Sim Tze Tzin  |  Published:  |  Modified:

MP SPEAKS | Most Malaysians grew up in a racially polarised political order, one that was founded based on race and religion.

Umno represented the Malays, MCA represented the Chinese, MIC represented the Indians, and PAS represented conservative Muslims. Sabahan and Sarawakian political parties modelled themselves after their peninsular counterparts.

Leaders saw themselves as champions of their respective ethnic groups, and negotiated their rights and divided the economic pie along ethnic lines.

Multiracial political parties uniting various ethnic groups under one banner had failed many times.

Under such a political environment, the birth of the multiracial Keadilan (later PKR) in 1999, brought a breeze of fresh air into Malaysian politics. 

Its founders, including Anwar Ibrahim, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mohamed Azmin Ali, Tian Chua, Xavier Jayakumar and Saifuddin Nasution Ismail were idealists. 

They embarked on a new political discourse to build a nation with "justice for all." 

In terms of economic policies, PKR stands for affirmative action based on needs, not race. It was a road less travelled. Pundits at that time were sceptical. Most people thought it would not survive in such a racially divided political environment.

However, this idealism inspired a generation of young leaders to join the struggle. This generation of outstanding young political leaders, such as Nurul Izzah Anwar, Rafizi Ramli, Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin, Chang Lih Kang, Afif Bahardin and many more grew up in a multiracial environment believing in more inclusive moderate agendas. 

They see themselves as the leaders for all Malaysians. They work together every day, forging an understanding of differences, and working together to find common ground. 

Multiracial leaders in PKR at all levels, from its central leadership to state and grassroots leaders, work in such an environment on a daily basis.

Twenty years later, the country's political order has changed. 

Multiracial politics with moderate, inclusive agendas have become the mainstay of political discourse. 

On the other end of the political spectrum, the politics of race and religion remains a formidable contender. But even this is hotly contested by the thriving multiracial discourse.

PKR is now the largest party in Parliament. It is a pivotal party in Pakatan Harapan. The party’s reform agenda is shaping the national reform agenda. 

And the young generation of multiracial leaders are now holding positions at all levels of government, from federal to state to local levels. Their multiracial idealism will shape the politics and policies of Malaysia.

PKR is a success story that successfully challenged the status quo and brought changes into Malaysian politics. 

On its 20th anniversary, we must continue to believe in our idealism and stay the course to change the political discourse of our country. 

The work is becoming increasingly difficult, but, I firmly believe that justice will prevail and idealism will win in the end.

Happy birthday, PKR.

SIM TZE TZIN is the MP for Bayan Baru.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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