Friday, December 18, 2015

Suffering Slings and Arrows: Why Keadilan talk to PAS

My Fellow Malaysians, Friends and Colleagues,

I am grateful for the kind invitation to attend Selayang DAP’s fundraising dinner tonight.

I thank all of you for your generous support to fund our struggle for a better Malaysia. As you are all aware we don’t get 2.6 billion ringgit donations. So we are thankful for your contributions which we treasure very much. They are more valuable than any funding from an Arab donor.

Many ask why is Dr Wan Azizah, Azmin Ali, Rafizi and other Keadilan leaders talking to PAS? I have read the comments in the social media; we are power-crazy, we want to get to Putrajaya so much we throw away our principles, we are prepared to make a deal with the devil. This is my personal view of the answers to these questions.

I agree one must never compromise on principles. I like to explain that we have not forsaken our principles. There is a difference between a political coalition and an electoral pact.

A political coalition is an agreement for cooperation between different political parties with a common political agenda and policy. Upon winning the elections the coalition will form the government and implement the common policy.

An electoral pact on the other hand is an agreement amongst political parties with different policies usually opposition parties agreeing not to contest against each other to ensure a one-to-one fight with the ruling party. Upon winning each party maintains its own policies.

DAP, Keadilan and Amanah have formed a political coalition, Pakatan Harapan. Upon winning the elections these three parties shall form the Government and implement the Common Policy Framework. This Government will not include PAS. They have reneged on the concept of the welfare state and put back into the front burner their avowed objective of establishing an Islamic State. They do not share our Common Policy Framework. It is however, proposed that Pakatan Harapan have an electoral pact with PAS.

Why do we Keadilan want to suffer the slings and arrows, endure whips and scorns by continuing to engage PAS? Is it true we are so afraid of losing, we must have PAS on our side? Have we no pride and dignity?

It is our leader, Anwar Ibrahim whom Hadi Awang gave a tongue lashing and dressing down. Hadi got Anwar to go all the way to Terengganu where he scolded him for 45 minutes like a school teacher dressing down a schoolboy. Anwar told us that he had never been scolded like that. Do you think Anwar Ibrahim, former acting Prime Minister, former Deputy Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, International Statesman, has no dignity, no pride?

It is our President, Dr Wan Azizah that Hadi humiliated. Hadi said she is not qualified to be the Menteri Besar. You think she is not hurt? You think she has no feelings? It is blood like yours and mine that runs through her veins.

You think our leaders and Keadilan members are not angry? It is our Leader and our President who were insulted. It is our party against which Hadi put up 7 candidates. He called our candidate “pill kuda.” It is our party that lost in the three corner fights. Do you think we don’t know why and who is responsible for our parliament candidates losing in Kelantan while PAS won all the state seats in the same parliament constituencies? Why then do we still want to engage PAS?

It is because Anwar realises that if we want our country to change we must avoid three corner fights. Three-corner fights only benefit UMNO/BN as seen in Kota Damasara in the last election. It is because Wan Azizah realises that if we really want a better life for our children we have to engage PAS. We cannot allow our intuitions and emotions to blind us. It is so easy to say fight but it is very difficult to hold back and think through. What are the alternatives if we do not engage with PAS? What is the cost and benefit if Pakatan harapan does not have an electoral understanding with PAS?  

Firstly: as Gobind Singh just told you Najib Tun Razak has enacted more repressive and oppressive Acts than any other prime minister. We are not a democracy. Democracy allows motions of no confidence to be debated. The opposition leader of South Africa visited Malaysia recently. He filed a motion of no confidence against the president. The vote failed but at least it was allowed to be debated. Here it is buried at the bottom of the agenda.

We are under an oppressive and repressive authoritarian regime. They use all means fair and foul (mostly foul) to retain power. Myanmar just completed its elections. International observers reported it was a free and fair election. The results prove it. There is no free and fair election here. Our Parliament just approved delineation of 10 new state seats in Sarawak which is designed to ensure BN remains in power.

Those who condemn us talk about not compromising principles. That we should fight according to the rules. You cannot fight using the Queensbury Rules against an opponent who breaks every rule in the book. They will amend the Constitution to change the parliamentary boundaries if they can get back the two-thirds majority. In the last Parliament sitting, some of the PAS MPs who were absent or abstained from voting on critical bills, looked quite lost sitting with the opposition. If the 15 PAS MPs cross over, BN will regain the two-thirds majority. We have to engage with them so BN does not get the two thirds and changed the parliament boundaries to keep BN in power for forever.

Secondly: don’t get carried away with the success of people power toppling authoritarian regimes. In the Philippines Corazon Aquino defeated Ferdinand Marcos in 1985 because the various opposition parties got together to support her. In Kenya the opposition leaders formed the National Rainbow Coalition to support Mwai Kibaki to win over the regime-sponsored candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta.

For every one successful opposition coalition defeating an incumbent authoritarian regime there are many more spectacular failures due to the inability of the opposition to come together. In South Korea, neither Kim Dae Jung nor Kim Young Sam was willing to yield in the quest to become president, allowing the regime candidate, Roh Tae Woo to win the 1988 election with only 36% of the vote.

One must remember that authoritarian regimes uses repression, oppression, and other brutal methods. They ban political parties, jail the opposition, suspend basic civil rights, imposed restrictions to prevent coordination and mobilization by groups and individuals.

Voters would only dare to switch their support from the existing regime if there is a unified opposition coalition they believe can form the next government. No one would like to be visited by reprisals from a vengeful autocrat in daring to vote for a fragmented opposition.

No regime change ever occurred without the opposition uniting and coordinating their efforts.  
Thirdly: we must not forget the demographics. In 1970 our population was made up of 44.32% Malays, 34.34% Chinese, 8.99% Indians, 11.89% non-Malay Bumiputras, 0.67% others. In 2010, the percentage of Malays increased to 55.07%, Chinese reduced to 24.34%, Indians dropped to 7.35%, non-Malay Bumiputras maintained at 11.94% and 1.3% others. For GE13, 52.63% of the voters were Malays, 29.68% Chinese, 7.31% Indians, 8.96% non-Malay Bumiputras and 1.43% others. It is clear that Malay voters will be the deciding force in the coming elections.

More importantly for Peninsula Malaysia, out of 165 parliament seats, BN won 66 out of 81 rural seats, 14 out of 44 semi-urban seats but only 5 out of 40 urban seats. Upon looking at the ethnic majority, BN won 77 out of 114 Malay majority seats while DAP nil, Keadilan 17 and PAS 20. There are only 22 Chinese majority seats and DAP won all of them. There are no Indian majority seats. There are 29 mixed seats, DAP won 9, Keadilan 11, PAS 1 and BN 8. We do not include Sabah and Sarawak because there are different considerations involved.

It is clear we can win all the urban Chinese seats and all the mixed seats but if we cannot win the Malay majority seats we cannot form the Government. We have to win a substantial number of the 114 Malay-majority constituencies.

However, the trend is against us, despite the corruption and the high costs of living, Malay support for BN increased from 57% in GE12 to 59% in GE13 while Malay support for PR dropped from 32% to 30%. A swing in the Malay votes of 15% in Kedah and 11% in Perak was sufficient for BN to take back these two states. A 10% swing in Malay support is needed. If Pakatan Harapan obtains 40% of the Malay votes, we can form the Government but we will not win GE14 if the Malay votes are split three ways.

Fourthly: time is against us. Some say forget PAS, work on winning Malay support for the next election, if we do not win this forthcoming one then the one following. Due to the demographics, I mentioned earlier, Chinese population from 32.8% in 1983 dropped to less than 25% in 2013 and is projected to drop further to 20% by 2030, while the Malay and Bumiputra ethnic community is growing at a faster rate than the others. The number of Chinese majority seats are dwindling with each election. There were 26 Chinese majority seats in GE12 but only 22 in GE13. Serdang, Rasah, Kluang and Taiping have become mixed seats when previously they were Chinese majority seats. Lumut has become a Malay-majority seat and Raub is close to becoming a Malay-majority seat with 49.8%. With this trend UMNO will obviously focus more on Ketuanan Melayu and their brand of political Islamism to maintain Malay support. They will retain their stranglehold on power unless there is a change in the mind set and strategy by the opposition. The window of opportunity is closing by the day.

Fifthly: in engaging PAS, we are not seeking to win over Hadi Awang, we are seeking to win the hearts and minds of the voters in 114 rural Malay-majority seats while holding on to the gains we have made. We have to win over the 47% Malays who voted for PAS in the last election, the 1 million members, their families, friends and supporters.

We cannot close the door and allow PAS to dictate the narrative. They are saying they were kicked out of Pakatan because they are defending the race and religion. Hadi’s hudud bill is even further down the agenda than Kak Wan’s motion of no confidence. Now he says wants to be UMNO’s adviser.

We want to show that even while the door remains open, Hadi prefers to play catching-catching with Najib, dancing under the coconut tree like some Bollywood movie. No one will be surprised when they catch each other just before GE14 but we want the Malay voters to see their champion for what he really is.

We will have to draw the line sometime with PAS but until then we have to give Hadi enough rope to show he is pushing PAS into the arms of UMNO not because of race or religion but politics. His rejection of an electoral pact with us will reveal it is not a refusal due to principle but is mere intransigence on his part. We have to create the environment for Keadilan and Amanah to explain that not all that have been said by the others lead to Malay salvation on this earth or hereafter.  

Therefore we are engaging with PAS not because we are compromising our principles. We are engaging with them out of principled prudence. By negotiating for a one-on-one contest we are not giving up any principles. Instead we are seeking to attain a higher principle of bringing our nation closer to a multiracial, multi-religious and inclusive society. There is a time to fight and there is a time to talk. Whether to talk is often a conflict between principle and pragmatism.

An example is Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned for twenty-three years. He always refused to negotiate with the regime. However, in 1985 he asked himself whether it was time to change his strategy. If he did not start a dialogue soon, both sides would be plunged into a dark night of oppression, violence and war. In 1989 Nelson Mandela met with F.W. de Klerk. By 1990 Nelson Mandela was released. The parties were able to agree to a new constitution which guaranteed equal rights for blacks and whites.

It is difficult dealing with someone who has deliberately inflicted harm on us and is intending to do so, it is our intuitive and emotional response to fight back. A Havard Law School professor, Robert Mnookin asked “Should you bargain with the Devil?” He said if he is to give a one sentence answer it is “Not always but it is more often than we feel like it.”

Anwar Ibrahim, Wan Azizah, Azmin Ali, Rafizi and Keadilan realise as leaders, we have an obligation to engage in rational analysis. We don’t have the right to act solely on our gut feelings or personal moral beliefs. We have to think things through, to consider the costs and benefits of the alternatives. It is a painful choice between principle and pragmatism. To what extent should we focus on looking backwards to seek satisfaction for past wrongs and to what extend should we focus on the future to seek a just resolution. It is a bitter pill to swallow. We swallow our pride not because we have done anything wrong but for the greater good to move the nation forward.

In closing, a quote from Andrew Carnegei:
 “The morality of compromise sounds contradictory. Compromise is usually a sign of weakness, or an admission of defeat. Strong men don’t compromise, it is said, and principles should never be compromised. I shall argue that strong men, conversely, know when to compromise and that all principles can be compromise to serve a greater principle.”

Thank you.

William Leong
MP Selayang
Member Majlis Pimpinan Pusat
Parti Keadilan Rakyat  
17 December 2015