Trouble in Perak
The Perak fiasco, although it is tempting to see it as a ‘victory’ for Umno and Barisan Nasional or as a “defeat” for Pakatan Rakyat, is really a general indictment of Malaysia’s political class. No one really emerges well from this cynical, torrid affair.
On the one hand, serious questions have been raised about Anwar Ibrahim’s management of his coalition and his political modus operandi in general. The general consensus is that Anwar was the “father” of the practice of crossovers in Malaysia - hence the events in Sabah in 1995 when he was still in Umno. The initial defection of Dato’ Nassaruddin, the Bota State Assemblymen to Pakatan seemed to confirm our worst suspicions that the Pakatan leader is still amenable to such tactics.
His ambition has cost his coalition dearly and it is quite right to question his ability to lead the Opposition, to say nothing about become Prime Minister. Anwar clearly has a lot of fences to mend with the DAP and PAS, as well as the public.
Nonetheless, the three former Pakatan ADUNs are guilty of a terrible betrayal of trust and deserve to be vilified and ostracised for letting down the voters. It cannot be denied that Pakatan did win Perak back on 8 March - they had a clear (though bare) majority in the State Assembly and won the popular vote by 43,095 ballots - at the Federal level the margin of votes was slightly larger at 57,732 votes. The defecting MPs have clearly gone against the will of the people who elected them in the first place.
On the other, Umno and Barisan Nasional have also signalled to Malaysians that they clearly aren’t interested in reforming their back-room style of politics. By relying on crossovers, Umno has secured power without reform. This is the kind of victory Umno likes - the kind of victory that requires no sacrifice or changes in its practices.
As we all know, what Umno circles imagine to be the “will of the people' is hardly a good indication of the sentiment on the ground. Umno may have re-taken Perak but their action is a debacle, a series of events that have created mountains of ill-will, resentment and anger that will damage the party of Merdeka.
Barisan Nasional - whose reputation is already in tatters and whose perceived integrity is virtually zero, will not benefit from the shenanigans in Perak- it’s a public-relations disaster and it really won’t be worth it in the long run. The fallacious argument of 'but Anwar started it' is irrelevant- why should they stoop to his level if it is indeed true that they are the more moral of the two?
As far as I can see neither the Barisan Nasional nor Umno have attempted to reform themselves. Instead, introspection and reflection have been replaced by the backroom deal-making of the past. Furthermore, it is not clear if the new administration, which will be dominated by the latter, can adequately reflect the state’s diverse demographics.
Even more disturbing is the fact that events in Perak have also raised important questions about the monarchy and its role in our democracy. There will be a lot of anger (not all of it justified) directed against the Perak Royal House and the implications are troubling.
Most non-Malays will feel dismayed and appalled by the transition. Try as we might, it is also impossible see what happened as anything other than the Sultan coming down on the side of the Malay establishment against the newer and far more dynamic forces of the modernist Ullama, young professional Malays and the working class.
It is also disturbing to think that in choosing to be so deeply involved in the formation of this State Govt, the Royal House has essentially assumed the responsibility for the new state government. The opponents of constitutional monarchy in this country, from both the right- and left-wing spectrums, will have another case study to bolster their arguments.
The royal house of Perak - which has been famed for its scrupulous independence- has essentially chosen to hitch its reputation to an Umno-led administration. While the former can take credit for its successes, the blame or ill-will any failures will also be laid at its door.
Had the Sultan decided to dissolve the State Legislature and call for an election he would have been passing the challenge of forming the state govt to the people. The responsibility for success and/or failure would have remained with the people of Perak.
Now, the future credibility of the Perak crown rests on the ability of the new Umno MB to govern a restive state. The odds are long and hard given the party’s endemic lack of human capital and horrible in-fighting.
The net result of all this, and it pains me to say it, could be significant damage to the constitutional and political institutions that have served Malaysians herein to so well. (By KARIM RASLAN/ MySinchew)