Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quo vadis Pakatan

The Malaysian Insider’s Pakatan still green despite looming polls, say analysts stated:

…political analysts have said Pakatan Rakyat (PR) remains at best a work in progress. While the federal opposition is expected to pose a serious challenge to the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), ill-defined policies and a vague common platform provide few clues to voters as to what a PR administration will look like they said.

There is some truth in this report, in that there is no common Pakatan platform yet (other than to topple BN), nor indications on how a Pakatan government would rule in the event it comes to power.

As a coalition which claims to be the alternative government in waiting, it has for a start failed in the simple matter of establishing a shadow cabinet, as I posted in Shadow Cabinet.

I then wrote (extracts): The real answer why it hasn’t done so is the coalition fears the component parties won’t be able to agree to a distribution of ministerial portfolios. […] Quite frankly, I don’t consider you fit to take over the business of the government of the day if you cannot even resolve this power sharing now!

The reality is Pakatan is a very loose coalition, with each political member a sovereign political party and only two having some idea of where they want to politically go. There is strength is a loose coalition but at the same there would be weaknesses.

The weaknesses are obvious and collectively the subject of The Malaysian Insider’s article.

However, the strength is that such a coalition does not function like the BN, where UMNO is ‘THE’ only real sovereign party and the rest mere ‘subordinate’ branches of UMNO.

Take a simple example - the MCA has to submit its list of election candidates to the UMNO president for approval. While UMNO is no doubt the BN's primus inter pares (first among equals), for MCA to seek UMNO's approval would be going beyond the understanding of primus inter pares. Only subordinates seek approval from a superior.

MCA members live under the sad illusion or dream that their party stands as an equal or even junior partner, instead of the reality it is nothing more than a ‘subordinate’ of UMNO (and not a partner). I hope MCA members understand the difference between a ‘junior partner’ and a ‘subordinate’.

So, what kind of coalition is this other than a one-party (UMNO) conglomerate with Indian and Chinese-based ‘branches’, not unlike PAS’ non-Muslim supporters.

OK, back to our subject, the Pakatan Rakyat coalition. Notwithstanding the criticism of its ‘ill-defined policies’, two of Pakatan’s component parties do have clear visions as to what they are politically striving for.

PAS obviously aims for an Islamic State. However, since 2008 and a series of subsequent by-elections it understands that non-Muslim support is crucial to many of its candidates winning the election, so there is political profit to make themselves acceptable to non-Muslims in order to gain their backing.

Today, even UMNO Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin made the unpopular message (to his Youth camp) about the importance of the non-Malay voters – see Malaysiakini’s Khairy: Relying on the Malay vote alone will lose us seats. Khairy believes 50 federal seats hang on the support of the 'sepet mata - kaki botol' sector while I was informed PAS hopes to gain 64 seats through the same targeted voters.

Though there is always a (not at all discounted) fear that PAS will eventually renege on its promises to the non-Muslims, because theocratic states, especially Muslim ones, don’t have a good record of being tolerant to other religions or non-Muslims, let me tell MCA about recent worrying news for their members and wannabe candidates which I learnt from a sweetie who has just returned from Malaysia.

She recounted how Chinese Penangites and Kedahans have openly expressed to her their scorn for MCA members as only caring for their own pockets while neglecting the interests of the Chinese community, and their preparedness to vote for the traditionally feared party, PAS, to bring the BN down. Isn't this feeling similar to the case of many non-Malays rallying around the original Anwar Ibrahim's reformasi banner even though they knew of him as one of the most unpleasant and aggressive UMNO leaders?

I have my views about the long term reliability of PAS as a Pakatan partner but I shall hold them back for a wee while.

Meanwhile, the DAP continues on its track for a secular government of good provenance, accountability, and meritocracy, though without ignoring the requirement for affirmative action but one which should be based on needs rather than ethnicity. This explains why the well-off (and of course wannabe well-off) in UMNO are against asset-tested access to the largess of the NEP. The DAP is not perfect, but like PAS, it does have a vision, platform, policies and clear cut objectives.

We finally come to PKR. The main weakness in Pakatan lies not so much in PKR as a party but in its (former UMNO) leadership.

As many of my anwarista detractors know, I have for years lamented quite regularly about PKR (and its earlier incarnation KeADILan) and its non-reform single-issue objective, namely, to secure the release of an incarcerated Anwar Ibrahim. For credibility and public support it claimed political reforms as its policy, though its KeADILan leaders including and especially Anwar Ibrahim (right up to the moment when he was booted out of UMNO) had shown no credible record of political reforms whatsoever.

But nonetheless a frustrated public, weary of decades of increasing BN corruption and arrogance and thus ripe for political proselytizing, eagerly adopted its battle cry and claimed cause. Today the non-Muslim element of the frustrated public has now included supporting PAS as part of its cause to topple BN.

Just a question, did any remarkable reforms from PKR happen since Anwar's release or even post March 2008? Just recall 916 and its shameful frog d’etat.

Obviously for Pakatan’s 82 to defeat 140, Anwar claimed he had the jump-over numbers, and he wasn’t even embarrassed by that most non-reformasi cheating of the voters.

Just imagine how a voter would feel, if after voting for Party X, sees her representative changing allegiance to Party Y? C’mon, you know that feeling because you too felt it when the Perak DUN changed hands. Didn’t you curse the Whore of Jelapang and her erstwhile PKR fellow defectors? Yet you have the hypocrisy to condemn those frogs? Only Karpal Singh and kaytee have that right wakakaka!

Though Anwar wasn’t able to change his UMNO spots, as explicitly demonstrated by 916, far too many still believe in his pseudo-reformasi.

Today Anwar Ibrahim is in trouble again and the party (perhaps minus the PRM component) has very comfortably reverted to its original raison d’etre, that of struggling for just Anwar Ibrahim (and his favourites) but quite frankly, never for or about the rakyat. It’s a familiar, comfortable, convenient and simplified struggle because it avoids or delays the difficult job of evolving good higher policies for the interests of the nation and rakyat, and to show it has become a party quite different from its mother party, UMNO!

Zaid Ibrahim succinctly brought this PKR problem to the surface when he said, as reported in The Malaysian Insider’s Zaid says ‘unworthy’ to focus solely on saving Anwar where he wrote:

Our coalition partners deserve better from us. Whilst we need to secure justice for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim there are so many more injustices facing the people of this nation that require our attention. […] The party needed to pay attention to those they sought to represent. […] The people were clamouring for economic and social justice and the right to be treated with respect and dignity.

It is unworthy of us to reduce this party to a one-issue party. It is unworthy for those we seek to represent. […] We are not merely the party of reformasi but also of reform. My interest is in that future.

While other candidates harp on their ability to protect Anwar, I believe he has mustered the best legal team to protect him.

I too care about him and his family but above all it is the struggle and interests of the people that is paramount. And I know that the party members will be able to make that distinction.

I don't know about his hope that '... party members will be able to make that distinction', because I have no doubt that right now Zaid is being excoriated by the anwarista pack for making the above statement - a most statesman-like advice for the future of the PKR party, but alas, obviously one which didn’t recognize the exalted position of the anwaristas' demigod.

But as I've said, the anwaristas can’t help it because if we recall, PKR has its political genesis as a single-issue (cultist) party. It was never about reforms. Obviously Zaid sees what most non-anwaristas see as well, that the commitment of a political party cannot be based on, nor confined only to the interests of one single personality.

Just as a reminder that, very unlike Anwar Ibrahim who was thrown out of UMNO, screaming and taking to the streets to show his petulance at being denied his UMNO ‘inheritance, Zaid Ibrahim resigned as a minister and left UMNO voluntarily – for more see my post Do you truly know Zaid Ibrahim?

Zaid wants to change PKR’s pseudo-refomasi cause. It’s just telling what he advised party members:

… PKR needed to be consistent in its policies together with its PR partners of PAS and DAP. Leaders in both PKR and PR must always place the nation’s interest above all else. There needs to be a consensus on what we stand for as a group ...

Can Zaid change PKR’s UMNO-ish mentality and save the coalition for its due place in Putrajaya, or will he fail because of PKR sectorian interests, for Pakatan to be let down by that party in its blind obedience to Anwar Ibrahim's personal interests, his single burning obsession, to sit on the high altar of the Malaysian PM-ship, regardless?


  1. Power belongs to the people and cannot be 'shared'. Also no minister should hold a seat more than 2 terms with caveats on immediate re-election if irregularities occur within that ministry at any time. This means we will not have to put up with Ministerial b.s. while they are free to do whatever they want with their 'power' until their term ends.

    This is still unaddressed and must be written into laws empowering the Rakyat. There is no immediate sacking clause which must be exercisable by the Rakyat rather than a party or coalition supremo.

    The law must reflect the power of the people to remove offending ministers or the people will be beholden to a new coalition, a situation no different from BN now! Also the same as my earlier post, how about the Minister's post itself be held by academics who muct obtain the approval of all MPs and *RETIRED* top echelon Bureaucrats before any project can be rubberstamped?

    This way conflict of interest can be guarded against. Thank you Ktemoc for being a proactive blog owner. Some YBs even the current supremos of various political parties are given to Elegant Silences as it is and refuse to engage critical questions.

    I know, having experienced the sheer distance and arrogance in person, and am full aware of the intent in maintaining and continuing the gulf between Rakyat and MP.

    Thus we must not give them wide powers or Ministerial posts as well. It is prejudicial to good governance and only benefits vested interests, if not relatives then at the very least proxies like that Sand Mining Ronnie Liu case, or the patronage politics and seen in PKR elections lately. Political party culture is very weak and self serving as it is, with apartheid hovering in the background to boot!

    No Ministerial posts for Political party heads, simply to keep the people safe.

  2. The stronger the separation of powers, the stronger the voice and safeguards for the Rakyat. This is the gist of 3rd Force ethic envisioned and in formation.

  3. Anon of 10:43 PM, October 20, 2010 - as I wrote in an earlier post 'Shadow Cabinet', democratic practice is about people's power - the people select/elect their representatives. At the end of every term the people can re-exercise their choices again, as was demonstrated on 08 March 08 - many ministers lost their seats and thus their mandate to represent their constituencies, because the people had enough of them.

    OTOH, academicians are not the people's representatives and therefore unaccountable to the rakyat, as demonstrated by our biadap civil servants and sometimes feral police, MACC and the judiciary. Besides, what's so great about a PhD as evident by the numerous Malaysian PhDs who can't even get a job.

    In a mature and practising democracy, a two-party state so to speak, there's balance in politics and control by voters. But here in Malaysia, even the EC's and judiciary's neutrality are in doubt.

    So the first task is to restore democracy, separation of powers (judiciary must be independent of the executive) and a neutral professional civil service.

    What you propose is equivalent to the religious majlis in Iran (clerics instead of academicians), which can even override politicians like President Ahmadnejid. That's not democracy!

  4. ktemoc,
    Wow! What a long writeup! Being a favourite of Yes, Prime Minister, the broadcaster advised PM to keep short because viewers would miss up the gist of the message.
    Because of that I might have to spend considerable amount of time debating & engaging you...The smartie because not all you say is correct.
    By the way the notion of having by elections after MPs jump comes from one man, LKY. That brings you & me to the gist of the problem.

    It's easy to put heaps of problems on few people. However, while you have provided certain solutions, however due to the complexities & plenty permutations, as far as for PKR as concerned, PKR leadership must demonstrate certain qualities especially on leadership. Few fellas have demonstrated such leaderships. Deng Xiao Peng & LKY are models whom we should look up to.

    Have you watched Li Ao's comment? He would tell you the entire different views about leadership. I have long admired Zaid Ibrahim. I admired his integrity & honesty. However, I am a bit dismayed over the choice of words he used.

    There is nothing wrong whacking your leader. Who the hell is Anwar Ibrahim? However, I have high expectation on Zaid Ibrahim. There are ways of projecting your manifestos. Unfortunately, Zaid's comment demonstrate a leader who's less patience, not tactful. Not magninamous.
    No need to say the obvious that PKR must break out the Anwar's coccoon. Kaytee, I bet with my !beep! hair, most PKR members ain't as naive & blind obediance as you think. Even, Anwar knows that....Why Anwar does not stand for President?

    Among 3 fella, I am sorry to say Zaid has yet to demonstate the Oomphs! Wow! factor why we must follow him. Seriously, till now, Zaid is more well suited to play the role of a Thinker/Drummer.
    Rajaratnam is untouchable in PAP's old guard. Yet, Rajaratnam knows his role. Read! The Men in White! If Azmin can demonstrate his skills of being as good as Toh Chin Chye to PAP, & demosntrate the ability of choosing the right person for right job. LKY chose Rajaratnam to be Minister of Culture & David Marshall, one of his nemesis to be Ambassador to France....Azmin may well be on the way to become DP for PKR & leading PR to Putrajaya....

    And only if Azmin demonstrates the qualities....Zaid too can do that....If only if....With the choice of words & actions so far, hmmm.....
    You know Nat Tan's not entirely wrong though I don't but the Wormtongue thingy.....

    On second note, what happen to Tan Keng Liang's supporters?

  5. 1) academicians are not the people's representatives and therefore unaccountable to the rakyat,

    As suggested, they are qualified to propose projects/developments that they are trained in, and in turn let the representatives of each party vote, WITH retired top level bureaucrats voting as well.

    If you give politicians carte blanc as a group, there will be no checks and balances - this will result in MEGA PROJECTS if certyain politicians are so inclined. Bureaucrats having experience and academics having know how must temper the decision making.

    Why is this wrong?

    2) In a mature and practising democracy, a two-party state so to speak, there's balance in politics and control by voters.

    If you leave the intelligensia and the administrators to base decisions on populism, the country can and will fail as well. What you suggest allows politicians to make decisions without consultations with experts or experienced administrators.

    Politicians are but politicians, they are not qualified academically or have experience in running a country.

    3) What you propose is equivalent to the religious majlis in Iran (clerics instead of academicians), which can even override politicians like President Ahmadnejid. That's not democracy!

    Why is that not democracy? Layers of experts who are from the intelligensia of the Rakyat do have a right advise and mold decisions which cannot be made by politicians alone.

    How can you insist that unless politicians ALONE with no others allowed (such as academics who are also Rakyat, and retired bureaucrats who are also Rakyat) to have a hand in decision making before various political parties to vote on, we will nto have democracy? It is even less democratic because more people are involved?

    4) So the first task is to restore democracy, separation of powers (judiciary must be independent of the executive) and a neutral professional civil service.

    Are you not aware that what I suggest is exactly separation of powers? Judiciary being independent of executive is fine but out of place, never mind that AND a neutral civil service mentioned in this manner, I take to be a disempowered one im deference to politicians alone?

    Especially on no.4, are you kidding me? Please explain your logic if you can? You sound like a pro-political power hegemony shill.

    Why do you think academics and retired bureaucrats sharing decision making processes with politicians on an equal vote basis are wrong?

    The point is to disempower politicians and you are intent on empowering them. Is this correct? More people means more difficult to bribe, more open discussion.

    You want politicians to decide everything, with any feedback from experts and experienced Rakyat being totally ignored at the politician's will?

    I smell a dinosaur minded shill somewhere . . .

  6. @Anon 4:06 AM, Oct 21, 2010

    About this issue of appointing academicians to head the various ministries......perhaps we could take a leaf from the Americans ?

    I don't see Pres Obama being their President taking on the posts of Finance Minister cum Home Minister ? I am not too sure, but do all the American politicians upon being elected get to head their various ministries ? If not, then this separation of powers as seen in the States that you're concerned about seems to be working out pretty well.

    Our bunch of Ministers heading the various portfolios are clueless about the tasks at hand and the beauty of this is that they even get rotated to other other ministry/ies as though it is a sort of promotion exercise ! Take for example our very own PM himself..... from the education ministry (?) then to the military. Are we talking about the best man for the job or is it just as a figurehead ?

    Bad as it is if the politician is just being placed to head the ministry as a decorative figurehead, the worst of it is their version of new broom sweeps clean..... i.e sapu all the 'commissions' and 'side incomes' with such alarcity while their staff ( overstaff to the brim) will be the ones left to their own devices to carry out their so-called job.

  7. The US presidential system is different from our Westminster system, which is practised by numerous Commonwealth nations like Britain, India, Australia, NZ, many African and even European nations, and of course Singapore. Malaysia and even those non-monarchial nations practising Westminster democracy do not elect a president directly.

    In the Westminster system, the cabinet (not the appointed president or heritary/appointed king/queen) is the highest political power in the land. Why, you may ask? Because the cabinet may only be made up from elected members of the party which commands the confidence of the elected represenatatives, who have been elected by THE PEOPLE.

    We have to decide what system we want but we cannot have a Westminster system and demand a US presidential type Administration or an Iranian type Majlis. But note, even a US presidential system depends on the president who is also elected by THE PEOPLE.

    Thus, regardless of which system, the people's power is obvious and manifested in their elected representatives, either as the elected President or in the Westminister system, the cabinet - the only sore point in Malaysia is the Senate back door (in other nations like Australia and indeed the USA, even the Senate comprises members elected by the people.

    If a minister is bad, just remember that he/she was elected. If the voters still continue to elect him/her, it means THE PEOPLE still want him/her, suckers as they may be. But it reflects THE PEOPLE's power and democracy.

    What you propose (appointing academicians to ministerial positions as a rule/norm) can only exists under a dictatorship, the kind favoured by Dr M or the Iranian theocratic system (and in an unrepresentative-unelected way, sneakily through the back door of the Malaysian Senate). I won't willingly have this dictatorship where our nation is ruled by a cabinet comprising unelected ministers. The rakyat will be deprived of their democratic rights.

  8. Ktemoc & anons,
    Watch! Power to the Power in Yes, Prime Minister episodes.
    This anon might resembles Sir Humphery Appleby who thinks that they knows best. Politicians have their interest too. Hence, the preservation of the imperfect system. Hehehe, to the extent, Agnes Morehouse agrees.
    However to that beloved Anon, even civil servants & academicians prefered the old system. Jim Hacker also says, "

    In private industry if you screw things up you get the boot; in the civil service if you screw things up I get the boot! "

    Once you have finished watching the whole episodes of Yes Ministers & Prime Ministers. You know why Anwar prefers Azmin. Hahahaha!

  9. " we cannot have a Westminster system and demand a US presidential type Administration . . . What you propose can only exists under a dictatorship,"

    We certainly can. This is a NEW SYSTEM neither Westminster nor US. This is a Separation of Powers System. How can what I propose be a dictatorship simply because separation of powers is even greater? I don't like your insistence on politicians being given all the power. Your logic is flawed.

    " it means THE PEOPLE still want him/her, suckers as they may be. But it reflects THE PEOPLE's power and democracy."

    Won't we even try to educate against that *sucker* ism you mention? That is as good a reason as to retain the focus of too much power on 1 individual to ensure as many as possible are involved in decision making.

    How could you support the hegemonic aspects of the Westminster or US system instead of attempting to improve on and dismantle them? Not exactly on the people's side are we?

  10. Nice one, Ktemoc, but careful there, or else Latheefa Koya may be issuing press releases bashing you for attacking Anwar, as the anwaristas are well known for doing.

  11. Who says we need to accept any system as it is and not amend accordingly if abusive or if it can be improved? Any why do you insist more votes from larger numbers of citizens means dictatorship?

    Bureaucrats had worked for dcades to get where they were and are citizens too. Academics had also studied and experienced so much, and are also citizens. Whats so underserving or dictatorlike as opposed to an unskilled politician good at demogoguery or manipulating the masses getting a Minister's post as a 'reward'?

    Power to academics and bureaucrats will protect the citizens from all powerful politicians but you just insist it is dictatorship. Those bureaucrats and academics earned their way to where they are and deserve to have a say, not politicians with no training or experience in the appropriate fields. You are a believer in mindless Populism then Ktemoc.

    This is a a 'People's Power System' and you unfortunately have thrown your lot in with the dinosaurs. Thus another regretably authoritarian spectrum of citizen reveals itself.