Be strong and do what’s right, author tells PH

Civil rights activist Kee Thuan Chye with his latest book, ‘The People’s Victory’.

PETALING JAYA: Civil rights activist Kee Thuan Chye, whose latest book celebrates the change of government in the 14th general election, has urged Pakatan Harapan (PH) to persist in pursuing its progressive agenda in the face of adversity from reactionary forces.

Noting that the governing coalition had broken some of the promises it made during its election campaign, he nevertheless acknowledged that it had “done some good things” and said it must remain strong in doing what it “sees as fit and right.“

Citing as an example Putrajaya’s U-turn from its decision to ratify the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, he told FMT PH could have saved itself a lot of embarrassment if it had been more thoughtful about some of its decisions.

When Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the decision to ratify the treaty, he said, he probably did it without the benefit of a game plan that should already have been in place.

“With something as sensitive as this,” he added, “there had to be a way to cushion its impact, and there clearly wasn’t. Mahathir should have thought about how the opposition and right-wing groups were going to make political capital of it and how to nullify that.

“This was all done without thinking and that’s not good.”

Kee also questioned the appointment of Education Minister Maszlee Malik, who he said “has an open mind and a heart in the right place” but was a poor choice for the “gigantic post” compared to, for example, a more experienced person like Saifuddin Abdullah of PKR.

He said the trouble was that Mahathir wanted someone from his own party, PPBM, for the post, “which he himself wanted” but couldn’t have because of PH’s decision against having the prime minister hold two positions.

Kee is critical of what he sees as Mahathir’s tendency to overexert his will, saying PH could have made better choices if the prime minister wasn’t thinking along party lines.

This discomfort with Mahathir is evident even in his new book, “The People’s Victory: How Malaysians Saved Their Country”, despite its generally optimistic tone.

But he said he was not critical for the sake of criticising, pointing out that the book also criticises Anwar Ibrahim as someone given to wishful thinking. He cited the PKR leader’s show of bravado when he announced, wrongly, that the opposition coalition had won GE13 shortly after the end of polling in 2013.

Of course, the person receiving the heaviest criticism in the book is former prime minister Najib Razak, who is accused of “wielding his power” to ensure he was cleared of alleged wrongdoing in the 1MDB affair.

Nevertheless, the book, as its title suggests, is in the main a tribute to the wisdom of the Malaysian people in making their choice last May 9.

Kee, a man of the theatre, plots his narrative as if it’s a three-act play.

Act 1 is about the despair that came about with the imprisonment of Anwar, the leader of Pakatan Rakyat, and the breakup of the alliance when PAS decided to go its own way.

In Act 2, he speaks of the hope for change that came about with the unravelling of the 1MDB scandal.

The happy ending that was the people’s victory is the subject of Act 3, aptly titled “Euphoria”.

For Kee, the greatest achievement of the movement for change is the infusion in the Malaysian consciousness that the people have the power to decide things for themselves.

“That’s what you need in a democracy,” he said.

He has already gone on tour in Penang and in the Klang Valley to promote his book.

Other books he has written include “No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians”, “You Want This GOONvernment Ah?” and “The Elections Bullshit”.