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2nd Pakatan Rakyat National Convention

Change Now, Save Malaysia!

[THE ROCKET] As the year drew to an end, Pakatan Rakyat held its second national-level gathering at the sprawling Dewan Milenium in Kepala Batas, Penang on 19 December 2010. Over 2000 people thronged the convention, which sought to build from the groundwork laid during the first convention in Shah Alam in 2009.

Leaders from the three component parties were present as well as members representing each of the state branches, NGO representatives and both foreign and local guests. Amidst the speeches and debate sessions, there were performances such as silat, silambam and lion dances and booths displaying the various achievements of each of the PR-led states.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng kicked off the speeches by cautioning the crowd that the BN, chiefly Umno, would try their best to weaken the ties among PR  members. “Umno will always try to play up the relationship between PAS and DAP. They will use the 3Rs — Race, religion and ‘Raja’ (the Rulers) to try and drive a wedge between us,” he said.

Declaring that DAP and PAS were not manipulating each other,  he added, “We are only willing to be ‘manipulated’ by the people.” to huge applause from the crowd. He also warned Umno against hijacking the federal constitution to further split and divide Malaysians.

Lim said that Umno often cites Article 153 of the federal constitution on the special position of the Malays as justification for their racist approach. “However, Umno invariably fails to mention that Article 153 also states that the legitimate interests of other communities must also be protected.”

PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail then  brought to light Umno’s old trick of propagating the notion that the DAP would rob the Malays of their rights, highlighting the character assassinations by the Alliance on the earliest Oppositions leaders such Onn Jaafar, Dr. Burhanuddin Helmi and Ahmad Boestamam.

“History has shown us that a strong Opposition would not be allowed to function in Malaysia as long as Umno-BN are in power, despite our political system of  parliamentary democracy. “And it is happening again,” she said, referring to the Perak crisis and recent suspension of four Pakatan members of Parliament. “Therefore we have to strengthen our resolve. Any announcements or statements have to be made in agreement with the three parties, to show commitment and unity.”

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang then touched on the importance of equality. “In implementing the policies within Pakatan states, it is crucial that we be careful and understand the complexities of each party, taking care of the sensitivities of society… and without blocking any religion or race in this country.

“The failure to understand this fundamental fact will open up room to Umno and BN to spread their propaganda through the mass media which is controlled by them. This would put us in a ‘defensive’  mode which will only confuse Malaysians,” warned Hadi.

The PAS chief then said PR needed to set its own agenda with the people and avoid being stuck in a “responsive” mode. “It is time we use our own media to reach the people. This must be collectively engineered by the PR states, party workers and all media practitioners who are with us,” he added.

Zairil Khir Johari

Zairil Khir Johari

Representatives from each component party also spoke on the various segments of PR’s Common Policy Framework.  DAP member Zairil Khir Johari shared how people often seem perplexed  upon meeting him due to his mixed parentage and questioned the need to pick just one identity. “Challenges of poverty, corruption, abuse of power and so on are colour-blind, yet the solutions offered by BN are racebased,” he continued, citing the clear failure of the NEP despite BN’s insistence that it helped the Malays.

DAP leaders from East Malaysia lamented the continued disparity between allocations and basic rights given to their states as compared to the Peninsular. Sarawak DAP treasurer Violet Yong condemned Sarawak BN’s continued plunder of the state’s natural resources and urged PR to abstain from infighting over seat allocations or other matters, as “we owe it to not only to ourselves but to our future generations to put  Malaysia in a place to be shared by all races.”

Sabah DAP’s publicity secretary Edwin Bosi highlighted the BN’s disregard of the state’s 20-point agreement from 1963 when it agreed to join the Malaysian Federation. He also condemned BN’s willingness to accept 1.5 million foreigners as legal citizens while the state’s own natives were being neglected.

As even more people cramped into the hall for the closing speeches by the top PR leadership, DAP National Chairman Karpal Singh did not mince his words in warning PR against fielding weak candidates. He also touched on the controversial issue of the Islamic state.

“I would like to advise PAS to defend the non-Malays’ right to freedom of religion just as DAP  defends Islam as the official religion of the country under the constitution,” he said. “Please give ‘face’ a bit to DAP,” he added in jest, drawing laughter from the crowd.

To conclude the event, PR’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim took the stage and began by apologising for his “mistakes” regarding the defections of PKR elected representatives, acknowledging that in the 2008 elections, “it was really difficult to select candidates and there were many ‘dangerous’ seats.”

The Permatang Pauh MP also acknowledged that quality candidates were of crucial importance and also touched on the recent suspension of himself as well as Karpal, PKR vice president Azmin Ali, and Subang MP R. Sivarasa after they linked the BN government’s public relations firm, Apco Worldwide to Israel’s security agency, Shin Bet. Anwar showed the audience documents proving the link after  Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein dared him to do so,  adding he had not been given a chance to explain himself in Parliament.

On the progress of PR, he commended the second-tier of  PR’s leadership for stepping up admirably in contributing to the Opposition’s cause as the convention had been largely organised by this younger generation of DAP, PAS and PKR. He concluded by announcing that PR would hold an economic congress in March 2011.[THE ROCKET]