Thursday, July 15, 2010

The PKR Packer and Pecker

It is interesting to observe a phenomenon unfolding in our politics. More specifically it afflicts PKR, which bills itselfs as a ‘multiracial’ party. Quite a number of its leaders and prominent members had left the party, in great disillusionment going by their public statements. A significant feature in this abandonment of the party is that they had made it a mission to denounce and discredit PKR totally. Some of their statements pertain to the integrity of PKR’s leadership, while others impinged really on the question of the viability of multiracial politics in our nation. Of course here I am not talking of the desirabilty or the virtue of multiracial politics, but whether as a nation we are ready for it. For a fact, Malayan or Malaysian politics had always been inter-communal, where ethnic based parties negotiate their interests with other parties representing other ethnic groups. It is as if we still much prefer to articulate and negotiate our interests as good neighbours, nevertheless as separate and autonomous entities. We are not ready ye to live under one roof where we negotiate and articluate issues openly.

Within Malaysian political history, a multiracial tag always evokes a sense of novelty, adventurism, foolhardiness or boldness, an approach out of temper from an otherwise ethnically determined political tradition. This is not to say there is a lack of political parties putting on the badge of ‘multiracial party’, when in truth, in terms of membership and ideology, they are no exempt to the dictates and political exigency of enthnicity. There had been few historically noteworthy attempts at multiracial party, which however failed, eventually succumbing to the realism of ethnicity. I could mention the attempt of Dato Onn Jaafar, who after failing to open up the membership of UMNO to multiracialism, left UMNO to form the multi-racial IMP. The IMP experiment failed to the dismay of Dato Onn, who was deserted by the non-Malay leaders and their supporters, upon whom Dato Onn was counting upon. They chose to develop MCA, in coaliton with UMNO, forming a basis for the formation of the Alliance, running on the principle of inter-communl co-operation and articulation. Realising the reality of etnicity in Malayan or Malaysian politics, Dato Onn did a round-about turn and ended his political career in Parti Negara, essentially a Malay based party. Another multiracial experiment that quickly succumbed to etnicity was the original Gerakan. Born on multiracial platform and ideology, Gerakan very quickly mutated into an ethnic based political party, a far cry from its early days.

Ideologically, PKR cannot be said to have a strong foundation in multiracialism. The party was formed essentially around the personality, some will say ‘cult’, of Anwar Ibrahim and related issues. Anwar Ibrahim himself was a late bloomer in terms of multiracial politics. All his politics prior to his dismissal as DPM can only be described as ‘ethnic’, going back a long way to his campus days, ABIM movement, as well UMNO. At the point of its formation, the party could not boast of well known public figures or personalities noted collectively for their multiracial ideals or political ideology. The supporters of Parti Sosialis Rakyat and Anwar’s supporters of ABIM mould who swelled the ranks of PKR were likewise quite relatively new comers to multiracial politics or philosophies. There are grounds to suspect that the non-Malay component of PKR ‘s membership were also relatively lacking in multiracial tradition and experience, which is really the norm in Malaysian history and political tradition. The party organ too can be said to be sadly lacking in its pronouncement and propagation of its multiracial credo, beyond whipping discontent over ethnic or religiously sensitive issues. In sum, PKR cannot be said to have a credible multiracial ideology or profile.

Despite its lack of multiracial tradition or preparation, PKR gives itself the ominous task of balancing or neutralising political parties which have a long tradition of ethnic or communal politics, namely DAP and PAS. This is by no means an easy task when PKR itself lacks the power of conviction in terms of multiracial tradition and credo. This is akin to a weak pole balancing two weights beyond its capability, or an antidote being weaker than the counter venom. In the end the strain may prove too much and something has to give.

We know several prominent leaders and members of PKR had packed off and then pecked hard at their former party. It is as if the thinking had reverted to ethnic consideration as an imperative of Malaysian politics. It is as water finding its natural level. The interview given by MP Zainuddin Nordin several months ago was most illustrative. Pointedly he blamed the DAP for all the strains and frictions faced by Pakatan Rakyat. He accused the DAP of sabotaging by-election by withdrawing support whenever needed most. Openly he said that the PKR doesn’t need the DAP and its support. Neither do the support of non-Malay MP’s crucial. He rationalised that Muslim MP’s constitute the majority in parliament . They can rule the country if only they could unite, instead of being disunited. He underscored his differences with the party over the issue of the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims. MP Zainuddin had also recounted his differences with PKR over its vaccilation in championing Islam as part of the party's official programme. When subjected to the disciplinary machinary of the party, he insisted to be judged only by an all Muslims disciplinary committee

Since leaving PKR, the packers and peckers have been accorded much publicity and airtime. As foes of PKR and Pakatan, collectively they are more formidable than even some BN cabinet members. Being insiders once and privy to many going-ons, their attacks on PKR are scathing and credible. One packer a least has turned main witness for the prosecution in the on going sodomy trial of Anwar Ibrahim. MP Zainuddin had been most vocal,while others like MP Zahrain had been no less lethal. At one point MP Zainuddin denounced the PKR and Pakatan leaders rather dismissively ‘ adakan orang macam ini yang kita hendak menubuh kerajaan!’( How can we expect such people to form the goverment!) . He had also dismissed Anwar's interview with international press, attacking the Malaysian judiciary, as unprincipled and conradictory, using the Malaysian judiaciary when it suits him fine to sue people, but denouncing the judiciary when he is on trial. He had criticised DAP’s and Pakatan’s tendency to regard all internal critics as ‘turncoats’ and ‘ bought overs by UMNO’ .

Several days ago I read in the press, a Selangor BN division is organising a lecture series for the PKR packers and peckers in Selangor, to convince the public why PKR is wrong for the state. Tacitly this is a recognition of sort of their effectiveness compared to some cabinet members or BN leaders in debunking or handling the opposition. Quite often it can be said that some statements of cabinet members are definite turn- off when marshalling support for the BN. Perhaps they should leave the campaingning to the packers and peckers?On my part. I find the phenomenon interesting.I wonder would there be more PKR packer-peckers in the future?