By Sebastian Loh Xi Ving
PKR was once the great hope of Malaysian politics – it was ostensibly multiracial and it had a credible candidate for prime minister in Anwar Ibrahim. Today, PKR is a shambling mess, hobbled by indecision and animated by empty talk.
How did the great hope turn into the great disappointment? The answer: PKR tries to please everyone, but ends up pleasing no one. It is a sad, predictable tale as old as politics itself.
Let’s remind ourselves how and why Pakatan Rakyat fell apart in 2015. It certainly didn’t happen in a day. Disagreements over hudud simmered to a boiling point, helped in no small part by both Anwar’s feckless ambivalence and his pathetic attempts at stalling.
In 2014, Anwar said PAS had the right to seek the implementation of hudud, but wanted to hear the Islamist party’s explanation on the matter. He also said Pakatan needed more time to come to a consensus on PAS’ hudud push. The following year, with no resolution in sight, Anwar said the coalition would hold a “special meeting” to discuss hudud and local council elections (another point of contention between DAP and PAS).
Well, we know how things turned out, don’t we? Bravo, Anwar. You certainly showed yourself to be leadership material.
No one should be surprised that PKR is adopting the same failed strategy in response to PAS president Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill to amend the Shariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act or RUU355 bill. Previously, Wan Azizah said she wanted to hear Hadi’s explanation of his bill. And more recently, the party endorsed setting up a parliamentary select committee to discuss the issue.
Sure, endless discussion and explanation certainly worked the last time. What’s that quote about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
Of course, the heart of this madness is PKR’s foolish belief that it’s better to delay than offend coalition partners and conservative voters. Anwar himself was the progenitor of Pakatan’s ‘agree to disagree’ policy that relegated tough issues, such as hudud, to the backburner.
Unfortunately (and predictably), this approach only emboldened PAS to pursue its Islamist agenda. It allowed PAS to take PKR’s habit of not saying ‘no’ as tacit endorsement of the former’s plans. Moreover, PAS has yet to face serious political consequences for its actions. Quite the opposite: it has attained leverage over its partners and rivals.
Sure, PAS may no longer have any relations with DAP. But to this day, powerful elements within PKR – including deputy president Azmin Ali – still want to work with Hadi’s party. Knowing it has the upper hand, PAS is charging full steam ahead.
Anwar and other PKR leaders deserve the lion’s share of the blame for this sorry state of affairs – the collapse of Pakatan Rakyat, and the steady advancement of PAS’ Islamist agenda. PKR has been singularly obsessed with winning elections at the expense of clear principles, and the opposition has suffered for it. Liberals who have put so much faith in PKR should learn to be more critical of its failures.
Perhaps when PKR is dealt a massive defeat in GE14, it will discover a spine for itself. Until then, expect PKR to call for extended discussion on hudud and RUU355. PKR officials should really consider quitting politics and starting a coffee shop business instead. Then they can ‘discuss’ topics to their hearts’ content.
Sebastian Loh Xi Ving is an FMT reader
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