The Politics Of PR

In a three-page exclusive interview with Sinchew Daily in September, DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang was put in the hot seat and questioned on a wide variety of issues such as the relationship between Pakatan Rakyat (PR) partners, PAS’ Islamic State agenda, the Malaysian economy, the suitability of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the Prime Minister and the possibility of Pakatan Rakyat winning the next General Election.

The DAP stalwart made his concerns clear in the interview, stressing how the Opposition coalition needs to “mature” quickly to have any real chance at taking federal power. Lim also received was criticised by some quarters for his view that the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat government was taking the unrelenting attacks from Barisan Nasional too lightly.

The following are translated and condensed excerpts from the original interview in Sinchew Daily.

* The segments below are just two of eight segments featured in the print version of The Rocket (Issue 10). To buy a copy of the newspaper, please contact [email protected] or call 03-92005000.

Honeymoon’s over…

PR was formed after the general election and has been in existence for a year and a half. Can you comment on the working relationship among the coalition partners?

PR was formed as a result of the collective will of the rakyat. The coalition was only established after the election to facilitate the formation of several state governments. The past 17 months has been very challenging indeed for PR.

In the first 12 months, the rakyat had high hopes in PR but it is obvious that after a series of incidents over the past five months both within and without the coalition, many are starting to wonder whether they can rely on PR to deliver the reformasi agenda.

Internally, there is continuous bickering, while externally, BN has launched a series of attacks against PR, particularly after Perak. BN has now shifted its focus to Selangor and mobilized the entire government machinery to declare war on PR.

Were there any big problems among PR partners during the first 12 months?

It is inevitable that three parties with different policies, different methods of looking at and solving problems, will have differences. What matters is how we handle those problems.

But we must put priority on our common objectives, which is to mobilize political reform in this country, provide a new hope for democracy, and replace the existing political hegemony with a two-party system. We need to push for democratization, so that this country will become more transparent, free and fair.

Differences among coalition partners have started to make the rakyat wonder whether supporting PR was the right move. Is this proof that your internal conflicts have overshadowed your common objective?

We are still facing grave challenges that are testing our ability to overcome our differences without losing focus. That’s why we recently convened a joint leadership meeting to reinforce our objectives and restore the rakyat’s confidence in PR.

Do you think that PR can restore the rakyat’s confidence before the next general election?

If we can reflect on the problems and come to our senses that something must be done, I believe we can have a breakthrough.

Are you confident about solving PR’s internal crises?

I believe we all have the same aspirations, but party members must be disciplined and stay focused.

Do you have confidence in your partners in PR? Are the other parties sincere in its agenda?

We all sincerely want to see a new political scenario, and more needs to be done to complete the tsunami effect.

The Islamic State Issue

PAS has always advocated for the establishment of an Islamic state, while DAP will never agree to that. How are you going to persuade the rakyat to continue supporting PR?

This is what I meant by a common objective. We have different ideologies, an Islamic state is not acceptable to DAP. Our position has always been very clear: Malaysia is a secular state.

Our common objectives revolve around freedom, fairness, democracy, national unity, and how to bring development and prosperity to Malaysia. Therefore in the consensus meeting, we agreed to not allow these differences to prevent us from achieving our common objectives.

But the differences exist, how will PR solve them? If PR takes over federal power, you will still face the same problem…

The important thing is whether the rakyat have confidence in us, and believe that we will be steadfast in our position. In PR, we will not implement policies which are not favoured and agreed to by all partners. Without the consent of all parties, we shall not impose our policies on others.

If PR becomes the federal government, how will you ensure that Malaysia will not become an Islamic state? Would you amend the Constitution?

We are formed by three political parties. As long as one party does not consent, we will not amend the Constitution. I believe no party will get absolute majority to amend the Constitution on its own.

Further, a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament, making it impossible for a single party to push through any amendment.

Thirdly, our stand has always been very clear. Our position has been constantly distorted by the Malay press which constantly accuses us as being anti-Islam. We are not anti-Islam; our position is that it is not a good idea to establish an Islamic state in a multi-racial and multi-religious country like Malaysia. This is just inappropriate.
What we need is a more liberal form of Islam. We hope that the Muslim community in Malaysia can accept a more liberal Islamic mindset.

Will PAS become more extremist or more “Islamic” in order to get more Malay support?

Some people are of the opinion that one way to gain support is to behave like “heroes” among his community, however, I don’t see that as a wise move. In PR, if the Malay leaders behave like Malay heroes, and Chinese leaders behave like Chinese leaders, this is a lose-lose scenario. We must ensure that PR continues to get its support from all races.

This will be an important indicator of our problem-solving abilities. In dealing with a problem, will we choose to offend one community in order to serve another community?

It is a challenge for PR to make sure that we will deal with all issues by taking care of the interests of the rakyat and the country as a whole.