COMMENT | Academicians are said to be behind the Malay Dignity Congress next month, although it is probably a Bersatu initiated move to counter the recent Umno-PAS collaboration.
It is all sterile politics again, where Malay leaders will gather to reassure listeners they care about the so-called "Malay problems". With great emotion, they will reaffirm their commitment to defend Malay rights and Islam. It is a recycled 50-year-old narrative that we all have heard before.
It is not my concern if political leaders want to waste their time and money in assembling a large number of people to repeat the things Malays already know.
What irks me, however, is the use of the word "Malay dignity" as the theme of the meeting. Yet again, we have leaders using the words “Malay” and “dignity” in vain.
Dignity is not a label to be attached to a particular ethnic group, there is no Malay dignity or Chinese dignity. It is all about self-respect, pride and nobility of character.
You do not use or parade dignity to sell your politics to the public. Dignity is not for public consumption or proclamation. It is not a shield to attack your political opponents but a trademark of leaders who behave well and nobly.
If this gathering is sincere in upholding “dignity” (or Malay dignity, if that is so important), then this congress should explain to the people the many things the current leaders have failed to do.
For God's sake, say it
They can start by explaining what is the actual understanding among Pakatan Harapan leaders of the transition of power from the current leader to the future leader. Harapan leaders must collectively behave and act with more dignity on this subject. And this requires them to speak with frankness and candour.
Who will be the next prime minister, and when, are important for this new government and the country. It already has become the subject of jokes.
It is absolute nonsense to say that the handover will be sorted out by Harapan leaders in due course. Unless this open-ended agreement was what was agreed in May 2018, Harapan leaders must show courage and dignity to reaffirm, once and for all, the handover date.
At the same time, if there is not going to be any change of leadership to Anwar Ibrahim, then for God's sake, say it. Dignity requires us to speak sincerely and not hide behind subterfuge.
On the other hand, if perhaps Azmin Ali or Khairy Jamaluddin will be the new pick, then let the country know. Don't play games with the people and the future of this country.
I find it baffling that this coterie of reformist leaders are not able to sit down and tell the people what they have agreed. If this subject of transition, a very simple act to do, is too awkward or delicate for them, how can the people expect them to discuss the big issues facing the nation?
Will they have the guts to revolutionise agriculture and spend an adequate amount to help the poor? Will they be contented to use big words like "recalibrating agriculture" and "smart agriculture" without telling us the land reforms they will undertake? Will they tell the oil palm estate owners, who in the last 50 years obtained the best lands in the country, to set aside enough land for others to feed themselves? These are big issues leaders with dignity will deal with.
If leaders have no dignity, they will have no courage to propose policies and measures about making the police force more accountable. They will not dare to ask if the police were responsible for the deaths at Wang Kelian or if the Special Branch was responsible for the disappearance of social activist Amri Che Mat and the evangelist Raymond Koh
Harapan leaders will not have the gumption to ask that Petronas be subject to an oversight parliamentary committee and make sure the public knows what goes on in our most important corporation.
If they have learned something from 1MDB, then they should make sure Petronas is not just answerable to the PM alone, as is the current practice, but conduct itself with greater transparency and let Parliament know of the major decisions they make.
The point is this: since our leaders won the election with a promise to the people that they will act with morals and courage to save the country, can we at least expect from Harapan leaders the willingness to act with dignity?
Dignity requires them to tell the people if Anwar will be PM on the terms agreed to before GE 14.
ZAID IBRAHIM is a former law minister.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.