Maybe Pakatan Harapan Should Disband Itself

Posted on December 26, 2015




It is that season of the year again when UMNO is having its annual general assembly and we hear the usual racial rhetorics that is to be expected of a race-based party. But more and more, religion has been roped in to spice up the occasion and indeed the party (pun intended).

At this year’s general assembly, the supreme leader of the party is even called “the Chosen One of Allah (sic)” by a delegate. Perhaps it is an attempt to elevate him to a status in keeping with the new sweeping power that would be coming to him through the National Security Council (NSC) Bill?

It is clear to all casual observers that the two cards left for the dominant party in the ruling coalition to play are race and religion and you can be sure they will play them to the max in the run-up to the 14th General Election (GE14) with even so-called moderates in the party going racial and religious to win votes.

The Malay-Muslim population will constantly be told that their race and religion are being insulted and are under threat by the DAP/Chinese/Christian (any combination will do) and that only the “chosen one” and his party can save them.

As irrational and irresponsible as it is, the script for Barisan Nasional to win GE14 is simple: Islam and the Malay/Bumiputra race are under-threat and the enemy is DAP.

If the above is true, what should Pakatan Harapan do to counter their opponent’s insidious tactics if they are still harbouring hopes of capturing Putrajaya? May I suggest three rather brutal anti-dote to the toxic scheme of UMNO.

Firstly, uphold the position of Islam as stated in the Federal Constitution but articulate clearly an alternative interpretation of it that is more inclusive, more just and more compassionate based on the maqasid syariah or the intent of the syariah.

My simple understanding of maqasid syariah is that Islamic laws in the Quran and the Hadith should be interpreted not just literally but by the original intent or spirit when it was written. The goals of maqasid is the preservation of faith, life, lineage, reason and property. Recent scholars have suggested two more goals, the preservation of freedom and justice.  Such interpretations are not inconsistent with universal values held by all people, with or without faith.

Secondly, come out with an alternative to the pro-Malay/Bumiputra New Economic Policy (NEP) that stress on empowerment rather than entitlement and that truly helps the Malay/Bumiputra who are in need of help by placing a social cap on it. The rich Bumiputra doesn’t need any help, just the majority who are still stuck at the bottom 40 percent of income-earners. I have addressed this in my previous article – Malays Will Still Vote UMNO in GE14.

Thirdly, and this is perhaps the bitterest part of the anti-dote, disband Pakatan Harapan (PH). The irony is this. The seemingly strongest partner of the Opposition coalition, the DAP, is also the weakest link. It is weak because it can be easily tarnished as a Chinese party and that it is firmly secular in position. Secular would of course be wrongly defined as anti-religion/anti-Islam.

Facing a party like UMNO that is desperate to cling on to power using race and religion, and who has the might of wealth, the control of public institutions  and of mainstream media, it is all too easy to make the case that Islam and the Malays are under-threat if you vote opposition. Using the analogy of boxing, it would only be expected that once a weak area in your opponent is identified, you would keep hammering at it until the whole body collapses. DAP is the weak spot, the bogeyman.

So rather than going head-on with Barisan Nasional as one united formal coalition, Pakatan Harapan may be better off to disband itself and let the different parties in opposition to BN’s rule, fight in their own chosen constituencies on a loose electoral pact to avoid three or multi-cornered contestations.

The electoral pact should also include East Malaysian parties that share a common policy framework that incorporates a new vision of Islam, an alternative to the NEP that really work and a commitment to reform the public institutions and restore their independence.

Using fear and threats to win votes are so negative but in the absence of a real alternative, it may be the only option. The Rakyat still holds the keys to Putrajaya. Give us a bold vision for the future and ideas that would really uplift our standard of living. Give us hope and we will give you our votes.