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“We call upon all Malaysians, irrespective of race, religion, political situation, creed or parties, young and old, to join us in saving Malaysia from the government headed by Najib Razak. We must rid ourselves of Najib as prime minister. If he’s allowed to go on, the damage will be worse and worse.”
- Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Pakatan Harapan leader
COMMENT | To my Malay comrades, old and new, this article is for you. I am not fishing for votes for Pakatan Harapan. Indeed, this will be the only time I will do this.
Never has the Umno hegemon been so afraid of losing political power. They are doing everything possible to mute the voices of those who will not submit to their power. This is not a political conflict the non-Malays can prosecute on their own. No election will ever be. As the years go by, the window of opportunity will close until the light of democracy can no longer seep through and we Malaysians will eventually be consumed in the darkness that fascism brings. You know what I speak of.
DAP’s Liew Chin Tong proclamation that GE14 is our final battle is slightly queer. Shouldn’t that be “war”? After all, a “battle” implies a continuation of hostilities until a “war” which defines an outcome. So is this the final battle before the war?
I realise when opposition MPs talk about “wars” in the political sense, the Umno hegemon will be up in arms – maybe literally – and there would be this nonsense about a Chinese MP warring with the placid Malay community. Claiming that a political party will defend Putrajaya with the last drop of their blood, brandishing the “keris’” around and claiming enslavement of the Malay community if they lose this “war” with DAP, is the province of Umno.
Since I too am bound by certain imposed norms, instead of “final battle”, I will say “final conflict", which implies finality and which I assume was what Chin Tong was going for. However, this is not “our” final battle. This is the final conflict within the Malay community. This GE will once and for all determine if the Malay community will reject Umno and embrace a two-party system or continue supporting the Umno hegemon when the other two communities have abandoned BN.
The stakes are much higher than merely living in a kleptocracy and systemic inequality. If the opposition loses this fight and depending how badly they lose, we would be bereft of any kind of sustained opposition against the Umno hegemon. Malay opposition power structures have to win at least one state and preferably as a dominant political party, to ensure the survival of the opposition as a credible threat to Umno.
If the Malay community does not endorse through the ballot box alternate Malay power structures in the Malaysian political system, what could happen if the opposition loses is the DAP could be the last party standing surrounded by either a weak coalition of Malay powerbrokers or worse, a resurgent Umno.
Does this mean that the struggle is over? No. It would just mean that it would be more difficult for the opposition because it would mean that the opposition would have to redefine itself. Some would argue that this is a good thing but this is not the conversation we have to have now. At this moment, if you are a Malay who believes in a two-party system, this opportunity is the closest “we” have of attaining that goal.
There has never been a time when Malay power structures have been at such odds with one another in a way that could change the course of this country. This is the perfect opportunity for progressive Malays and those who think like them to stake their claim on the future of this country.
If this is a fight between the current Umno grand poobah and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, this is also a fight between the disparate power groups aligned with the latter, who may stem the tide of religious extremism and the corrosive culture of corruption that hastens the ascension of religious extremists in this country.
If Mahathir and the opposition manage to dethrone Najib, there is a possibility of a recalibration of the power structures in this country. There is a chance for political reform. There is a chance that we will not become a theocratic state because of a compromised leadership struggling to maintain power.
Why this time is different
Now, you may hate the opposition. You may hate the compromises they made. You may hate the fact that they have aligned with the person they themselves claimed is the architect of this mess, but the reality is that if the Malay community does not decisively vote for the opposition, then we would be in some very deep horse manure. I have already put down my ideas of what I think would happen if Umno won badly.
The upside is that even if Umno wins badly, there would still be hope for the opposition. It would be difficult and we would find ourselves in the terrain usually the province of theocratic weasels but at least we would still have a voice, provided the Malay community empowers the opposition Malay power structures and these groups realise that they cannot play the same Umno game.
I always tell Malays who could not be bothered to vote that the opposition has thrown in everything in this election. People think that the stakes are not high and that there will always be an opposition. After all, the opposition has lost before and they have managed to make a comeback.
However, this time it is different. The Umno hegemon has already lost its two-thirds majority. It has suffered electoral setbacks in states which it assumed it had an iron grip on. The opposition did this without the help of the former prime minister. However, this is the first time when the Umno hegemon could be supplanted as the sole guardian of Malay power because of Mahathir.
Some people do not seem to understand the significance of the struggle between the current prime minister and the old maverick.
If Bersatu as the sole Malay-based party manages to dislodge Umno from Putrajaya – even with the assistance of the non-Malays – this would radically change Malay politics. This would mean that the Malay community would no longer solely subscribe to Umno. They would have a choice between different political parties. No longer would Umno have dominion over the Malay vote in a majoritarian sense.
The mainstream in the Chinese community have made their choice. While I do not speak for the disenfranchised of the Indian community, all evidence suggests that their dissatisfaction against Umno is based on their hatred towards the MIC. Whether this translate to hatred towards BN - Umno and the MCA - remains to be seen. Hence as far as the non-Malay vote goes – in the Peninsular – I am pretty confident that the opposition will not suffer from lack of non-Malay votes and this extends to Malay opposition operatives relying on non-Malay votes.
As I argued in numerous pieces, this is the existential war within the Malay community. While “our” votes are of less value – electorally and demographically speaking – from the votes of the demographic that is needed to take Putrajaya, we have arrived in a situation where non-Malays are spectators to the final conflict in the Malay community.
Of course, there are many people who do not vote for various reasons. There are people who understand that thriving in this country means working the system and making peace with the reality that the political system is designed never to be the one they hope for and most political parties have no desire to change it. These people also despise the partisan politics that infects our public spaces. The outcome of this election will no doubt elicit a fair amount of schadenfreude from these people.
However, whether they vote or not, this election will determine if the Malay community wants a choice on how they want to be governed. And choice, even though compromised, is the only thing that will save Malaysia.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.