Read the newspaper this morning, a bit on politics. There's this bit about someone from the opposition going on a half-year leave. The supernovas of Malaysian politics have done it again, they grabbed the headlines and generated much interests. Is it a 'leave', a prelude to 'exit', or as some party statements suggest, a 'sabbatical' of sort to will a magic formula of historical proportion that could inspire and unite the bickering and splaying coalition of the opposition. Well, six months is too long for 'leave', or run up to an exit. It may be too short though to sort out long standing problems of the opposition, that have long deep roots in the nations history, the solution of which had alluded a great many leaders and personalities. But then this could well be one of those rare and momentous chapter in history when a political genius and ideologue comes along and leaves his mark on the nation's destiny. Who knows?
To sort out some of my perplexities concerning our opposition and its strange ways, I thought I would hazard a simple history of Pakatan Rakyat just for my own understanding. Now I know this strange brew was concocted out of PAS, DAP and PKR. Each of very different genealogy and pedigree.
PAS was a scion of the old Malay Congress of the 40's and early UMNO. In its early days, its ideology was a blending of Malay nationalism and Islam. Over time it quickly shed its nationalistic flavor in order to distinguish itself from UMNO, and concentrated on its own brand of 'Islam'. Its basic character and orientation remains a very deep seated orthodoxy, symbolized by its staunch vision of an 'Islamic state', openly proclaiming or muting it according to political exigencies.It had tried in its evolution to shed the image of orthodoxy, tempering it with images of 'professional', 'democracy', 'flexibility', 'intellectual', 'inclusiveness', 'universalism', but overall had not been convincing enough to shed or temper its general image of orthodoxy and dogmatism.
DAP is a 'scion' of the pre-separation PAP, and in basic ideology a staunch proponent of the slogan 'Malaysian-Malaysia'. Its idea of what the Malaysian nation ought to be therefore tends to question the Malay roots or origins of Malaysia,with the corollary then of questioning some aspects of the constitution, and more specific provisions pertaining to the Malays. Like PAS, the DAP had attempted to temper its image of chauvinism with the branding of 'democracy', 'multiracialism', 'pluralism', 'inclusiveness', 'political pragmatism', but had not been all too convincing either. Its basic image to many Malaysians remains that of a chauvinistic Chinese party.
PKR has an interesting genealogy or pedigree. It used to be the lilliputian Parti Rakyat. In the past, it was so pathetic that it attracted more sympathy than empathy.Representing the left or socialism, it was burdened with Marxist slogans and terminologies. It was a common joke then that at the end of every fiery and spirited oratory on the campaign trail, party leaders would be asked by perplexed members of the audience pray tell us what is 'bourgeoisie', 'proletariat'. or 'dialectic materialism'? Parti Rakyat could not win a single seat in its entire history. Right to its last days, Parti Rakyat never officially recognised Malaysia.
Then came along an Adviser, who picked up the liliputian party, dusted it, changed its name from Parti Rakyat to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (never mind the 'rakyat' is still there), reoriented it from the historically broad struggle of the' proletariat', 'dialectical materialism', to sort out 'historical contradictions', to rehabilitate the ' bourgeoisie', to challenge capitalism and foreign investment, to a new cause of paving a single path for one individual to Putrajaya. This part of it certainly reminds me of the history of the National Socialist German Workers Party under the leadership of Hitler.
Now to pave the way to Putrajaya, PKR or the former PR ( Parti Rakyat) is too small. It was huge only in its revolutionary dream and historical struggle, and that had been 'bonsai' down. PAS and DAP, the irreconcilable forces and 'basic contradictions' of Malaysian history had to be brought into the act. Why not? They both boast of great resources, party machinery, and powerful emotive appeal. More importantly they were both trying to temper their image and appeal. Hence the convergence of interests and deal. The rest of it, as we all know, is history. Though not quite all the way to Putrajaya yet!
Sophisticated political theories are beyond me. I can only learn from the simple folks. There is this saying, 'gajah sama gajah bertempur, pelanduk mati ditengah-tengah'. A rough translation would be 'elephant and elephant clash, the mouse deer trampled in between'. Can this be a future scenario, when PAS and DAP clash in the long run, with PKR squashed in between? When all PKR's nimbleness and schemes avail naught?
These days I find great solace in one development though. Everyone seems to have gone 'rakyat', be it the opposition or the governing party or coalition. The recent UMNO General Assembly is a clear sign. All the major speeches have gone 'rakyat'. I must say never have the rakyat been this important. The Malay saying 'enggang sama enggang, pipit sama pipit' ( hornbills with hornbills, sparrows with sparrows) had been jettisoned! 'Enggangs' had been told to go to the 'pipits', to be 'pipit' minded. Let us see if indeed the 'enggangs' are capable of this!