The Last Thing Dap Or Harapan Needs Is A Gag Order

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” – Antonio Gramsci, Prison NotebooksYou know what the real crisis in Harapan is? The fact that more Pakatan Harapan politicians do not speak up. If DAP members follow the “internal memo” by Lim Kit Siang urging them to voice their grievances through the proper channels – especially when these concern other coalition partners – this would sound its death knell

Part of this is optics. As a political party which has accused the MCA of being “running dogs” for their Malay partners, the sight of your own members mewling in the corner does not look good. Better to yap in the open even if it means getting return fire than becoming what you claimed would never happen to DAP
Secondly, it is cathartic. The people who voted for Harapan wanted change. They were told that this could happen even though the coalition was partnering with the main architect of old Malaysia. When the grand poohbah starts acting up, the sight of politicians putting up a fight is exactly what a dejected base needs
So when DAP central executive committee member Ronnie Liu, for instance, warns of creeping Mahatharism, and gets blowback from Bersatu members, or when Klang MP Charles Santiago (photo) – who like Second Deputy Penang Chief Minister P Ramamsamy is becoming the conscience of Harapan – does a very public tango with the old maverick, this is a good thing. It means that there are politicians in Harapan who want a New Malaysia as opposed to a Neo-Malaysia
In fact, this is what is keeping the Harapan flame alive, which is slowly sputtering out. Some people ask what is going on with Harapan. The answer is simple. That manifestowhich some people want to burn is not worth the paper it is printed on
Nobody really had a plan – if the old maverick is to be believed – because they did not believe they could win. So all those reforms that everyone bought into – including this writer, who not only endorsed Mahathir but also Harapan – have only ourselves to blame
But this does not mean that the game is over. You can still reform the system even though you did not think you would win. The problem is that politicians who want to do something are being stymied by those who are afraid to drain the swamp and worry about the return of Umno. Don't they realise that they are slowly replacing Umno with Umno
Part of this was the political narrative and take-no-prisoners dialectic of the then-Harapan opposition. Where everything the Umno regime did was going to destroy Malaysia, and post-election the narrative has been “well maybe not really destroy Malaysia, especially if we can work it out” type ploys that has angered a vocal section of the base
Take the Lynas backpedalling, for instance. Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok (photo), after jumping on the Lynas bandwagon, says this about the extension – "Isn't that enough to tell you that we gave a chance to Lynas to improve and fulfil the conditions?”Really? Can you imagine if Kok had said this before the election? Maybe saying something like this, putting forward a nuanced argument would have mitigated the feelings of betrayal that some people have about Lynas. Instead, the Harapan opposition implied that the Najib regime was complicit in the possible deaths of Malaysians due to radioactive waste
So bravo to those seven DAP members – Lee Chin Chen (Bilut), Young Syefura Othman (Ketari), Kamache Doray Rajoo (Sabai), Chow Yu Hui (Tras), Chiong Yoke Kong (Tanah Rata), Woo Chee Wan (Mentakab) and Leong Yu Man (Triang) – who did the right thing and spoke truth to power. At least if the mandarins in Putrajaya do not want to fulfil their commitments, there are DAP members who are making their stand clear
This is important. Maybe it will not change anything and God knows, the next racial and religious provocations will push broken promises to the background, but at least people who vote for the DAP still have some hope that there are politicians in the party who will honour what they say they will do
Whatever your view of Lynas, what Bentong MP Wong Tack is doing is correct. Holding the government of the day – one that he is a part of – to account. The only way out of this for Harapan is to admit that their propaganda on Lynas was wrong, and to work with detractors to correct whatever dangers this project brings to Malaysia and be transparent in the process
Part of this is the supporters of the old maverick who jumped on board Harapan and now want things to go back to how it used to be. The so-called power sharing formula, which was not really about sharing but was in reality about acquiescence. The role the MCA used to play with Umno. The narrative that non-Malays should be grateful that they have a place in this country and it is always about compromise, which means the non-Malays have to step aside and play along to the greater agenda of keeping the Malays in a single party through various social and economic policies
R Nadeswaran in his last column wrote, “We, the people, wait for the answers with bated breath”. This is the question to ask. When politicians state their stand, either because they are forced to or because of their principles, they are answering the questions the rakyat is asking
Asking people to conform to party politics or party discipline is what screwed up old Malaysia and it is what is screwing up New Malaysia. If the best thing that this New Malaysia has to offer is that politicians are bucking party politics and not toeing the establishment line and voicing what the rakyat who voted for them want of a new Malaysia, this would be one of the better moments of the Harapan regime
It is unproductive laying the blame squarely on Mahathir. In fact, this is what the MCA and MIC did, with S Samy Vellu in an interview with Malaysiakini going so far as to say that the old maverick made unilateral decisions and did not give a damn about the cabinet
What is important is that politicians stand up to him and what they believe in. Asking people to channel their grievances through proper channels is exactly what the old maverick wants. This is a stratagem from the Old Malaysia playbook
My advice to politicians from Harapan who want to create a new Malaysia or at the very least plant the seeds of a new Malaysia, is do not be quiet. Be vocal about it even if it means going against the party and the government. This is especially important for the younger elected representatives of Harapan
Don’t worry about losing elections. That’s beyond your control and the fact is, you thought you would lose the last election. Maybe if you did something, young people or people who had never bothered to vote before, would feel inspired to vote, instead of thinking nothing ever changes
Besides the political terrain for the moment means that power would be disused, and who knows if the far right can organise anything beyond marching in the streets because of the blunders the Harapan government makes and not the by any strategic brilliance of the far right
Do not worry about offending your coalition partners. Do you think Bersatu Youth cares if it offends its coalition partners or disrupts the grassroots and activists that political parties use? If they are doing something that you believe is Old Malaysia, do not be sucked into that mess
In other words, speak up for Malaysians who voted for you and not just your political party
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he is one of the founding members of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan. - Mkini

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