Monday, September 30, 2013

Our small dreams, our great vision - Liew Chin Tong

Our small dreams, our great vision - Liew Chin Tong

September 30, 2013
Malaysian Insider

From March 8, 2008 until May 5, 2013, we were consumed by a single, overarching goal – to win Putrajaya. After the 13th general election (GE13), the political future has been thrown wide open.

We are determined to take the path of reform, no matter how challenging. Our immediate focus is to realise many of our small dreams, as stepping stones towards the fulfilment of our larger aspirations.
Post GE-13, Umno has been putting the wrong foot forward, moving further and further away from moderate, centrist politics.

In the 14 years in between Mahathir’s February 1991 announcement of Vision 2020 until Hishammuddin’s July 2005 keris-waving incident, Umno enjoyed full non-Malay support.

In the eight years following the keris-waving incident, Umno’s increasingly extremist rhetoric has lost it support from Chinese, Indians, non-Muslim East Malaysians and Christians. Worsening corruption and economic policies that favoured cronies has cost Umno urban Malay support.

If Umno continues to pander to extremism and Pakatan Rakyat’s three parties remain on the middle path, the future political landscape will not stray much from that of 2008 and 2013.

Here’s what would hasten Barisan Nasional’s demise – a sliding domestic economy due to international factors and lack of reforms, plummeting commodity prices including palm oil, and worsening corruption.

However, it is not impossible for Umno to do a complete U-turn. Here’s what could possibly change BN’s fortunes: if Umno were to turn itself around to appear moderate like it did in 1991 by unveiling Vision 2020; if Umno makes efforts to clean up corruption and deal seriously with the problem of the poverty gap.

As for the other parties within the BN coalition, they play a peripheral role hardly worth discussing.
On the other hand, the challenge for Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is whether or not it can continue to remain in centrist ground.

The challenge for PKR’s leadership is whether it can bring about transformation from the ex-Umno generation to the reformasi generation, to create a new political model and to win the trust of the people.

The current challenge for PAS resembles DAP’s situation when it left the 2001 Barisan Alternatif pact. At that time, DAP thought that BN/MCA’s successful propaganda against DAP and PAS’ insistence on Islamic state had eroded DAP’s ground.

In a reverse way, some in PAS feel that Umno and Utusan’s tirade against DAP had eroded PAS’ ground now.

Whether or not PAS can remain as a moderate centrist party is crucially tied to the November party elections.

Here are DAP’s two biggest challenges: first, how to overcome the limitations of race-based politics and open a new political discourse which is acceptable to Malays and East Malaysians.

Second, continue to use PR-ruled states and the performance of our reps to convince the people that we are a forward-thinking, aspirational political party, a viable government-in-waiting.

Regardless of the situation, the lesson from the 2013 elections is this: no matter how BN throws money at voters and exerts pressure on them, Malaysia has changed since 2008.

We have now become a 50-50 society. The government and the opposition are now evenly matched and any election will be closely contested.

One seldom mentioned lesson that PR learnt from 2013 is, state-level politics is more important in the equation than we had previously fathomed.

Especially within the context of Malay politics, state-level politics plays the most important role. PR failed miserably in Kedah, but in neighbouring Penang, our Malay votes increased marginally. PAS doubled its seats in the Selangor State Assembly, and improved its performance in Terengganu.

Simply put, this is the scenario that lies before us: our opponent may move to the centre, and PR may fail to guard the middle ground. However, our society has evolved to the point that the government and opposition are close rivals in terms of strength. In addition, the role of state-level politics is of increasing importance.

In the past five years, we stretched ourselves for one single goal – to win Putrajaya. Moving forward, we need to work on many of our small dreams. These small dreams are really pieces of our larger aspirations and vision, particularly the aspect of community-building.

Although winning federal government remains our biggest aim, but we also need to focus on building up local, state-level, and even city-level politics, economics, and communities. More thought and preparation needs to be put into this aspect.

As long we remain on track with our larger direction, fulfilling our small dreams is the best response and preparation we can have to deal with the current maelstrom – perhaps the chaos before the creation of something greater? – September 30, 2013.

* Liew Chin Tong is the DAP Member of Parliament for Kluang, Johor.

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