Joceline Tan’s political analysis in the Sunday Star this week seems even more upside-down than usual. After a headline that asks Pakatan Rakyat “to face real issues”, the bulk of the column goes on merely to run down Anwar Ibrahim, avoiding any discussion of any issues except one: how to win the next election.
The hook for the headline had come from a comment by Merdeka Centre’s Ibrahim Suffian who said, not unreasonably, that “Pakatan has to move beyond personal issues affecting Anwar”.
Umno politicians Wan Farid Wan Salleh, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, and Faizal Tajuddin are also quoted, lumped together with unnamed Umno moderates “fed-up with the way national politics seemed to revolve around one man”. (It was not known if they were asked why the Barisan Nasional also seems to revolve around one man.) They also apparently know there “is a new political landscape out there”.
There is indeed a new political landscape, but not “out there” (waiting, by implication, to be discovered). It’s already all around us.
But that was not discussed, perhaps because already well established, or it was more convenient to ignore the four states not under Barisan Nasional domination who show no sign of going under just yet; the burgeoning number of young people willing to take up social and political issues, as distinct from party politics; a more assertive population in general, more aware of itself; and urbanisation that has dissipated the electoral franchise of half the population living in distorted election districts.
All about winning elections
Ibrahim Suffian’s comment was the only one that took cognizance of those matters.
The rest of the column, though, was about only one issue other than Anwar: how to win the next election. Even so, that took up only 171 words of the 1,789-word column.
- “The election is going to be decided by the fence-sitters and their chief concern is issues affecting the stomach” — Tan Jo Hann of Subang Jaya town council;
- The question in the mind of a large number of those voting in the next general election will be: “What’s in it for me?” “The big challenge is how to communicate with the (rural) Malay electorate” — Raja Petra Kamarudin;
- “Other immediate concerns would be … the first-time voters, articulating the success stories of the Pakatan states (and) substantive issues like cost of living and whether election promises have been fulfilled” — Ibrahim Suffian.
Are there other issues of more import? They would not be found in the 40-plus paragraphs devoted to Anwar. Of course there was the one paragraph near-obligatory and almost by the way, to boost Najib, placed towards the end to state that he “has shown that he deserves to be up there.” Paradoxically, the column ends with an unnamed “political insider” saying “Najib is not fighting Anwar. He is battling the urban inclination for change.”
What about Barisan Nasional issues?
If that was so, it came after a lengthy exposition of how concerned the BN (and by extension Najib) is about a man they all say is not the issue.
If the Pakatan Rakyat must face up to real issues (which of course it must, but which are not explained), there is a corollary: the Barisan Nasional itself must similarly face up to its own issues, such as:
- the struggle for dominance in Umno, between Najib, Muhyiddin, and Mahathir and allied and minor factions;
- the hardening Umno stance on Malay rights, privileges and power;
- the growing racial and religious intolerance to which Umno leaders acquiesce by turning a blind eye;
- Umno’s indifference to minority rights and minority BN parties, particularly the MCA, Gerakan and MIC, leaving BN looking less and less multiracial; and
- growing urban disaffection arising from Umno-driven government politicies.
Of those, the only issues of concern to the common citizen would be the growing racial and religious intolerance propagated by Umno sub-contractors; and government and economic policies driven by the Umno factions’ concerns with power and money and how to share it among themselves and their cronies.
Unresolved systemic issues
The other major social and political issues still remain unresolved largely because they are systemic. Corruption and misuse of public funds, and cronyism and sweetheart deals in public projects; state institutions that are politically subservient and with little sign of neutrality; a politically-influenced education system that teaches but does not educate; a mass media that sells political and commercial propaganda and deprives the many of the news and information that they need; and an increasingly capitalistic economic system biased towards big business.
Perhaps Umno and BN leaders are gambling that a population that has known no other system has come to accept the way things are; that the people have internalised Umno’s philosophies and will accept the occasional sacrificial goat while dozing their way to the polling station.
Pakatan Rakyat leaders, on the other hand, have not gone much further, beyond indulging in sniping and counter-sniping, occasionally going off half-cocked, and trumpeting their continued existence in the four states. Questions remain unasked about the effectiveness of their governments, and their commitment to reform even within the areas they control. They have yet to show that Pakatan politicians in power will remain as committed to service beyond self as when they were out of power and that they will not similarly dip their hands in the till.
The ultimate question
There is the still the unresolved issue of whether the coalition has any mechanism by which it will remain cohesive and credible, and not merely, as it seems at present, a disparate group of strong, ambitious and driven personalities with differing interests living under a common roof.
In trying to move attention away from Anwar Ibrahim, BN politicians are serving a reminder of his centrality in Pakatan Rakyat affairs.
But by doing so, they also raise the unasked question: is there a Pakatan Rakyat without Anwar Ibrahim?
- Even Dr M thinks Najib will lose but a debate with Anwar is still vital (hornbillunleashed.wordpress.com)
- Ketuanan Melayu is UMNO’s lifeblood (dinmerican.wordpress.com)
- UMNO-BN determined to end Anwar Ibrahim’s Political Ambitions (dinmerican.wordpress.com)
- Focus on Putrajaya, says Anwar (dinmerican.wordpress.com)