Gerakan must return to its roots, says founder’s son

Syed Hussein Alatas gets a lift from party comrades following Gerakan’s victory in Penang in 1969. (File pic)

PETALING JAYA: Sociologist Syed Farid Alatas has advised Gerakan to return to its founders’ original idea for the party – a multiracial one that balances liberal and socialist ideals.

His advice comes in the wake of an announcement by the party on Saturday that it was leaving Barisan Nasional (BN) to become an independent opposition outfit.

Syed Farid Alatas.

Syed Farid, son of the late Syed Hussein Alatas who was one of the founders of Gerakan in 1968, said the party had strong integrity during its early period.

“They should relook at the early philosophy of the founders. Then they can plan an effective role as an opposition party,” the National University of Singapore (NUS) professor told FMT.

He said Gerakan should have quit BN a long time ago, adding that the decision to leave only now was “several years late”.

“Even in the last several years when it was widely perceived that BN and Umno were corrupt and playing the racial card, Gerakan remained with BN,” he said.

He said the problem Gerakan faced in exiting from BN now was that it opened the door for the public to question the party’s true motive.

“The question remains as to what their real commitments are. It’s going to be tough for them to rebuild themselves,” he said.

But he said it was important nonetheless for a political entity like Gerakan to strengthen itself again as the country was in dire need of competent opposition against the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government following the recent general election.

“Malaysia needs opposition parties of calibre and morality. Currently, we don’t have parties in the opposition with that standing,” he said.

“Both Gerakan and Umno need to revamp themselves and make fundamental changes which require new leaders with the right values.”

Syed Hussein Alatas, who was also a professor at the University of Singapore, now known as NUS, was the founding pro-tem president of Gerakan before he was succeeded by co-founder Dr Lim Chong Eu, a former president of MCA and the now defunct United Democratic Party.

The other founders were former Labour Party leader Dr David Tan Chee Khoon, Malaysian Medical Association president Dr JBA Peter, Universiti Malaya professor Wang Gungwu and V Veerapan who had also formerly led the Labour Party.

Just a year after its formation, Gerakan formed the Penang state government after the general election of 1969, with Chong Eu assuming the chief minister’s post which he held till 1990.

The party joined the Alliance, the precursor to BN, in 1972.

Gerakan leaves BN, will remain in opposition