Thursday, August 27, 2009

PAS wins. Who lost?

(Photo: The STAR)

Fantastic! PAS wins Permatang Pasir. As I see it, that's ominous for two reasons: one good, the other bad


It spells good news that PR’s election sweep back in March last year was no lucky fluke. It marked an important milestone for the rakyat. Riding on the IT wave and torrents of discontent, Malaysians found their much suppressed voice, and together discovered there was significantly large numbers to their cry for change.

Ordinary rakyat want a nation to be proud of, not one shaped by the shrill rhetoric of ketuanan melayu and religion. Sure, the threats unnerved and unsettled. Because the institutions and instruments of government, the civil service, and judiciary, remain in the clutches of the ruling powers, we know they still hold the trump card. And certainly the warped logic of race and religion has not lost its appeal among a particular segment of Malaysia’s diverse populace, and they too appear to number in the tens of thousands, even millions.

Yet, looking back on the run-up to the Permatang Pasir by-election and the convincing win by PAS, it is now clear: those who continued to spew racist bile and religious venom, who supported divisive politics, were really a small bitter troupe of diehards whose small minds could not understand the big picture.

On the contrary, the voices for change were much, much, more than the small pockets of dissent that BN made us out to be. We were more than the usual coterie of NGOs and social activist misfits that UMNO gleefully tarred in their pathetic MSM.

We were not the handful of intellectual idealists locked away in musty ivory towers. We were not servile, decadent westernized myopics who did not understand Malaysian realities. We were Malays, Chinese, Indians, dan lain-lain who, in spite of inherent prejudices and mutual suspicions, believed there could still be a future together in the land we were born. We were none of the above and all of the above. We were the voice of a silent majority who nevertheless muted these fears, rose above petty communalism, and spoke loudly with our votes.

Yes, we had had enough of the way BN and its UMNO chiefs who ran roughshod over the shared aspirations of millions who desired a better Malaysia. Enough looting! Enough segregation! And deep in our heart of hearts, our longing for ONE Malaysia for ALL Malaysians under the rule of the highest authority in the land - the Federal Constitution, remains undiminished.

So yes, the Permatang Pasir by-election victory by PAS and PR is an ominous sign that the countdown to BN’s demise is ringing out clearer than ever. Fantastic!


PAS’s win is either a thumbs up for the conservatives or the so-called Erdogans. Dressed in the same garbs, most people out there can't tell one from the other anyway. However you see it, it is surely true that the victory is getting to some of their leaders’ heads. PAS is beginning to imagine that PR had better march to the beating of their drum; that by virtue of their clout and religious credentials, they alone have the divine mandate to govern. Or at least, among the disparate coalition of infidels, beer drinkers, concert idolizers and neo-liberal muslims, above all PAS believes they alone have cleaner hands.

And this is ominous for the future of an opposition coalition so delicately held together by the charisma of one man.

PR had better decide here and now how long more Malaysia will remain schizophrenic. Anwar has apparently modified his stance and does not want to label Malaysia Islamic but he neither wants to be PM of a decidedly ‘secular’ state. But the rakyat who cast their votes for PR deserve better than a stance or an opinion or a public statement. We’re simple folks who may not always know what is it that we have lost – money, freedoms, rights, justice, public trust, etc – but we pretty much have an idea who has taken them away. So please, don’t squander our votes.

We want PR to return the Federal Constitution to its position of authority, and please quit the bellyaching semantic pranks of the past. You can fool some people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.

Tell us to our faces: will Malaysia become a nation where Michael Learns To Rock is banned out of respect for Islamist sensitivities? Should non-Muslims rejoice that Muslims are barred from a Black Eyed Peas concert? Will we become a nation of flogged women? Is moral policing now de rigueur? Are Bar Council forum-wrecking antics by the Zulkifli Nordins of this world to be tolerated now? Is the khalwat busting regiment of PAS suddenly acceptable because it’s dressed in PR clothes? Are we too far down the slippery slope already to count on PR to set things right? Or have we all been duped?

PAS may have won, but unless and until everyone in the opposition coalition put their house in order, PR has lost. Pakatan Rakyat has only one chance. You blow it, and we all pay.

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