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Monday, April 14, 2008

Pakatan Rakyat: A Need For Discipline

It is becoming more evident that one of the main challenges for the Pakatan Rakyat – apart from the steep learning curve vis a vis governing the states it captured – is to maintain discipline not just within the individual coalition members but throughout the coalition.

Looking back, one of the factors that led to voters rejecting the Barisan was the perceived double-speak or even hypocrisy of the leadership. To a large extent, this perception was fueled by the way in which senior cabinet and party members, Nazri and Zainuddin in particular, kept making statements that were not only counter to logic and reason but also to any reasonable scheme of due governance. These statements, made as they were by such senior officials, became statements of the Prime Minister in the minds of many.

This is not unreasonable. Much in the same way, the very positive positions being taken by Zaid at the moments are making some consider the possibility that we may actually be seeing the start of reform. It is common sense; conduct of delegates reflect on leadership.

It is apparent therefore that leadership of both the Barisan and the Pakatan must ensure that positions being taken publicly on matters of governance must be consistent with the declared policy of the administration. Inconsistency can in no way lend to confidence, creating as it does ambiguity and uncertainty in its wake.

I note that the leadership of Pakatan Rakyat has issued a statement that leaders and members of the Pakatan are to stop expressing views contradicting those that have been mutually agreed upon (‘Pakatan not forum for personal views’, NST, 13.04.2008). The statement is reported to have declared, amongst other things, that “Although there have been individuals who expressed views different from the agreed agenda of Pakatan Rakyat, those views are clearly personal. They do not represent that of any of the parties in Pakatan Rakyat”.

The fact that the leadership of the Pakatan Rakyat has had to issue a statement to my mind points conclusively to there being a problem with persons of influence in the coalition feeling either the need or it being thier right to make statements which reflect on the coalition as well as the political parties to which they belong. This is problematic, especially during these early post-Election and Pakatan Rakyat times. Statements made without due consideration to the common agenda of the Pakatan Rakyat or the way in which these statements will be misunderstood will give opportunity to detractors to undermine confidence.

This is particularly so in matters pertaining to the administration of Islamic affairs. Statements made at any level suggestive of a desire to entrench or widen Islamic rule in the public sphere are destructive not only of the currently fragile commitment of the voter base to political change, their having in their minds taken a huge risk in shifting their support, but also the delicate but crucial balance between the coalition members of the Pakatan Rakyat. Religion is a personal matter and the last fifteen years of Islamization trends have left this country deeply divided and raw.

I appreciate that there will always be a need for the leadership of a political party to appeal to their own membership either to shore up confidence or to increase influence. This is a fact of political life. And were Malaysia to be where it was prior to March 8th, there would be no concern.

However, things have changed. We have the beginnings of a new trend in democracy. Much hinges on the success of the Pakatan Rakyat and care must be taken to not make a difficult situation even more so. The moderation of expressions of opinion is therefore vital. UMNO learnt the hard way that the publicizing of sensationalist rhetoric intended for internal consumption could and would boomerang. The same will happen to the Pakatan Rakyat.

We have recently read of the exchanges by PAS, through Tok Guru Nik Aziz, and DAP, through Karpal Singh. These have resulted in the media characterizing Karpal Singh as being anti-Islam in the eyes of Nik Aziz. In an article published in The Star on 07.04.2008 (MB: Karpal belittling PAS), the PAS spiritual leader is quoted as saying “I want to know what is wrong with Islam and where does he disagree with Islam.

Even if the reporting has not been fair, and there is nothing to suggest that this has been the case, the fact remains that statements like these will be used to feed a perception and create mistrust. As I understand it, Karpal Singh is merely attempting to establish that the constitutional framework of this nation is a secular one. Nik Aziz may be attempting to argue that there is nothing objectionable about the value base of the nation being an Islamic one, and he may be right. The exchange is one that need not have taken place in the public arena.

In the same vein, a recent article appearing in Harakah (Selangor pergiat dakwah, wujud surau di pasar malan, tani), in effect, represents Dato’ Dr Hasan Ali, exco member of the Selangor State government responsible for amongst other things religious affairs and Malay adat, as having developed a close working relationship with the Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (JAIS) aimed at allowing for greater efforts in aid of promoting and propagating the Islamic faith in the state of Selangor. This will, according to the article, include the establishment of ‘moral policing’ enforcement frameworks.

Again, even if the article was intended for internal purpose and is a statement of aspiration, the messaging has had a wider impact and will continue to do so. They will create an impression that PAS has ambushed those who took a chance on it, even it’s co-coalition members, where this is not the case.

It is evident that this state of affairs must be addressed. While it is apparent that there is a need on the part of the coalition members to build greater understanding of their respective priorities and value bases, and that more attention needs to be paid to improve public relations, there is also a need to obtain and ensure the commitment of the individual party members to the common agenda of the coalition. This can only be achieved if these members understand the important of discipline on their part, not only for the purposes of their own political parties but to the coalition as a whole. In the minds of those who observe, personal views may be seen as being views of the coalition. Further, where those views are inconsistent with the coalition agenda, it will be perceived as being a breaking of ranks.

That cannot be good, not just for the Pakatan Rakyat, but this nation.



Anonymous said...

MIS - I agree with you, the PR leaders cannot be giving statements which could be use by BN to batu api the rakyats as well as the PR coalition.

PR leaders - please get your act together, all fights and disagreements must be resolve behind close doors before it gets to print or the public. If possible, through a main PR communications body before each leaders shoots of his/her mouth and shoots the coalition.

Please, please - remember this coalition is still in its infancy and is extremely fragile - be humble and prudent to work closely and keep the coalition strong and healthy.

REMEMBER - the BN hyenas are watching at the sidelines waiting to kill, so don't even for one moment ease up on your defence.

United the Coalition stand, divided it will FALL !!

The rakyats is hoping that you will NOT FALL.

Anonymous said...

This is a piece of timely advice to all those in the Perkatan Rakyat. Perception is everything!

If the directive put out yesterday by the top leaders of the PKR/DAP/PAS, and this friendly advice are ignored, then troubles, conflicts and disputes will plague the coalition till its unavoidable demise.

Anonymous said...

When Discipline had never been the daily standing stone from the Government to Politicians,
How can this be demanded Straight Away!

Discipline should give priority to Duty and Obligation before any personal view!
Or any view must be identified as personal or official when speaking in an occasion which can be confused!

Should Tourism Minister talks about
BN and non-BN states when promoting Tourism for Malaysia?
Why should so many Islamic Departments be set-up instead of Religious Department to take care of all?

Should PM and Ministers be talking about Parties instead of each and every job of their Departments?

If Duties and Obligation are blended with Politics in every occasions, will anyone talk strict about their jobs and so their responsibility to Rakyat!

Discipline will be an empty word when Priority is never on Obligations and Responsibility!
Same goes to Professionals!

Is it discipline when a senior lawyer in Penang called up police to chase his clients off his office when he refused to carry out his obligations and duty!

Talking Disciplines in Malaysia, it is a great disappointment in many levels!!

Anonymous said...

While the exchanges between Nik Aziz and Karpal Singh do reflect 'democratic conversation' in that disagreement has its place (in the larger scheme of things) in problem-solving in issues of public concern, particularly religion, the fragility of the moment does dictates that (for the opposition coalition) solidarity be the overriding necessity.


the indie story said...

Dengan Izin dan Budi Bicara Tuan Punya Blog yang dikasihi,

Foto-Foto Terkini "PERHIMPUNAN RAKSASA RAKYAT DI DEWAN SULTAN SULAIMAN", KG. BARU, KL. Tarikh:14hb. April / Masa: 8.30pm - 10.30pm (Sejarah Tercipta!)

Foto-Foto Eksklusif Hanya Daripada


Old Fart said...

I used to say BN MPs needed to say just about anything solong as they got mentioned in the press the next day to fill up their media exposure quota.

Looks like this disease has now moved on to some in PAS and DAP as well. They should surely know what they say on these matters will get picked up and reported.

Anonymous said...

Yes & No!!
Yes, Discipline is needed!
No, because the enforcement of Discipline in many cases had been Zero!
Especially when Government Officers are talking Politics more than Duties and Obligations of their positions.

Had Discipline been firmly hold by the Bar Council?
Or, how come a solicitor bluntly denying the obligation of Developer is not investigated?
Or even stopped forwarding explanation from the Respondent to the Claimant?
How come a Solicitor repeatedly staying away from pressing the counter-party to provide Suggest Statement of Facts & Issues for more than 2 years?
How come a Senior solicitor bully with clients for the last 10-20 years with payment received but work undone or dragging in courts to have no investigation from Bar Council?

If the highest Discipline cannot be observed by the Governing Body - Bar Council. Who can Govern the Discipline for Politicians?

We have Laws that Taller than Mans!
But, even RC failed with Lingam!!
and Bar Council no show!!

Discipline will become Paper Toy even if it could ever be put onto paper!!

Had Agenda of PR been approved by any AGM or EGM of their Parties?

Discipline not only has to do with Priority, Duties and Obligations but also Proper Procedures!

Who will be willing to fight against Discipline?
When fairness of even house buyers has no way to fight in Malaysia for the last 20years, what else can the judiciary system works?

Human Rights had gone except Politics!

Andy said...

PR has only 1 term (5 or less years) to prove that they can perform. Many are sceptical if they are able to make effective changes (since this IS the 1st time that so many state govts have fallen). To enter to the endless divisive race debate, is to step into the shoes of mistakes of BN. Firm focus and action is appreciated, while fruitless debates ending in division (with no possible solution)is a suicide mission for the PR.

To sustain the success of this General Election, I sincerely hope that PR can do what they preach -- deliver.