Lessons learnt: we need to build a progressive alternative

The only positive outcome for the rakyat, mere spectators to the unfolding political drama these couple of weeks, are the hard lessons we can learn from it.

We are in this mess because of two reasons: first, because we trusted our politicians lock stock and barrel ; second, the bourgeois democratic system is flawed and needs to be fixed.

Let’s not forget, Pakatan whom we trusted to save Malaysia from the kleptocrats fell from a coup within and not from any attacks of its political enemies from the outside. So what happened? Why did we have turn-coat politicians amongst Pakatan’s fold? Was Anwar fooled or did he know of the foxes amongst the sheep?

We, the rakyat were not privy to these political games played by politicians, because we were so overwhelmed by the wave to topple BN in 2018.

But recently we were also taken aback, when some Pakatan leaders recently ‘welcomed back’ the same defectors whom they were condemning as traitors for the past year, in a rush to get enough numbers for Anwar. These turn coats suddenly became our saviors. Similar maneuvers were also made by Mahiaddin’s camp to consolidate support from the kleptocrats.

The rakyat has gotten sick of these never ending games by the political elite. This has led to the recent narrative amongst many that politicians cannot be trusted. Either we choose to shun politicians or not, but no solution will come if we isolate ourselves from politics. If we are disappointed with elite politics then we should aggressively build alternate solutions in preparation for GE15, so that we don’t make the same mistakes again.

Firstly while the parliamentary democracy system that we have today has many deficiencies, at the moment it is the only way to create legislation so that real changes can be made. But in order to get the right people in to make those changes we need to make informed choices by asking key questions like:

  1. Where are the candidates or the parties they belong to positioned ideologically? It is time that we dump race-based parties, as over and over again they have proven to only enrich the elite amongst their race by fear mongering that the ‘others’ are out to take away your rights. Race rhetoric keeps them in power!
  2. What is their class perspective? Are they speaking from a T20 position looking down or can they relate to working peoples’ issues? Was their election campaign funded by big businesses, whose favours have to be repaid by approving projects for later?
  3. Will they be principled and brave enough to take on big businesses when they pollute the environment and destroy communities?
  4. Besides handing out ‘bakul makanan’ during difficult times, will they also put forward concrete policies to overcome poverty?
  5. Will they challenge neoliberalism that seeks to privatise healthcare and education by degrading the quality of public services to enrich private investors?
  6. Will they protect the right of people with different sexual orientations or seek to mock and victimize them?

The list goes on…

These are not difficult questions, but they are questions that will define the candidate. These questions determine how as an MP or ADUN they will solve your everyday problems.
It all boils down to the political ideology and agenda that the aspiring politician and his or her party has to offer.

The presence of progressive legislators might not be enough to form the government, but at least they could be an independent block offering a fresh perspective in Parliament. We need to form a progressive third block in Parliament that can echo a clear voice against neoliberalism, racism and the power of capital.

The second lesson that we have learnt is that the system shapes politicians into corrupt and self-serving individuals. How is this so? Firstly, the remunerations and perks of an MP immediately rockets you into an “orang kayangan”. A goodhearted MP without sound ideological grounding on the issues mentioned above will soon find a place in the corrupt system.

Furthermore the system has in place a very strong structure that serves political patronage. BN, PN and PH have used it for their own political leverage. Granted maybe PH didn’t explore it as sophisticatedly as BN did during its 60 year plus tenure.

While concerned citizens and civil society organizations are enthusiastically making wish lists on how this ‘new’ pandemic cabinet should be, the political elites are making a list of their own. Unfortunately it’s not the same list.

Ismail Sabri will be the 9th Prime Minister. He will take his oath and come to power soon, and he is already charting a path for his continued stay in power. This means consolidating political power by any means necessary. And we have a polished system in place that enables this. The various government agencies, GLC’s, departments etc. all wait for political appointees to head them. On top of that you can always create a new position when all the chairs get filled up.

Until when we break this cancerous system, the corrupt political financing mechanism where government contracts are given out to party members so that there will be kickbacks to party funds will continue to fester.

It leads further to buying support for political camps as we have seen since the infamous Sheraton move.

Thus, while we need to pressure Ismail Sabri’s ‘interim’ government to deliver and take us out of the pandemic, we also need to build a progressive political force with socialist, youths, workers, grass root movements, climate activists, gender activists, human rights activists and many more to break the hegemony of the two party-bourgeois parliamentary system. We need to end the situation of having to choose the lesser of two evils in the absence of a truly people-centered progressive alternative.

Sivarajan
Secretary-General
Parti Sosialis Malaysia
20th Aug, 2021

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