The lesson Selambau can learn from UMNO youth election!

I refer to Malaysiakini’s report on “KJ’s election: Mahathir spews venom”

TDM, the number one critic of KJ once again took a swipe at him. Malaysiakini equated his condemnation to spewing venom. This time he directed his accusation to the collective youth members of UMNO for electing Khairy despite the disciplinary committee finding him of guilty for money politics.

But the night he was elected as chief, Khairy in his acceptance speech said “They thought Khairy is over, but here I am despite all the odds.” Yes, Khairy was correct; most of us thought Khairy did not have any chance of winning, but he proved us all wrong by winning convincingly.

Whether Khairy was involved in money politics or not we wouldn’t know and TDM’s allegation that the youth group bent over backward for Khairy is not easy to believe either. However what we do know is Khairy had strong opposition outnumbering his own supporters. Hence, in my view the use of SWOT approach would be useful to analyze the process of UMNO youth election and the contributory factors for KJ’s ultimate winning which in this case could also be a crucial lesson for PKR Selambau in the upcoming by-election.

Strength of opposition

For anti-Khairy faction – Khairy was opposed by majority of 486 votes.

For PR in Selambau – The nation knows of the anti-government mood of majority voters who favour alternative choice in PR.

Weakness of opposition

For anti-Khairy faction – The Disunity factor among opponents. Mukhriz and Khir destroyed their opportunity to topple Khairy by refusing to work hand-in-hand and instead they chose to test their individual strength, causing faction within those opposing Khairy. This obviously became advantage to Khairy.

For Opposition in Selambau – The selfish attitude among opposition groups and PKR’s failure to convince the disappointed factions especially the Indians on their choice of candidate has resulted in the emergence of many possible independent contestants. If PKR fails to keep them away, it might give BN an easy walk over victory. Such instance would be very unfortunate to those groups such as Makkal Sakti who ferociously fight the government for their rights and demands.

Opportunity for Opposition

For anti-Khairy faction - Had many favourable reasons to defeat Khairy – KJ was found guilty for money politics just few days before election. He had many critics including TDM. Many top guns including Muhyiddin were against him. Unfortunately KJ’s contestants missed to exploit these opportunities.

For Opposition in Selambau – Selambau is held by PKR. Majority voters support opposition move and a crucial number of Indians have become BN haters. Many recent incidents including the killing of six Indians by police are very fresh in people’s memory. All these could be advantageous to opposition.

Threat for opposition

For Anti-Khairy faction – Khairy was incumbent deputy chief. He knew the loyalists who worked with him for 11 years. The PM is his father-in-law. He is privy to certain privileged information. Also, Khairy played his role well, both as leader championing Malay rights and ultra-Malay who has the intelligence and competence. Understandably KJ opponents failed to overcome the threats.

For opposition in Selambau – PR’s inability to choose the most qualified and trustworthy candidate as we have seen in the case of Perak. The continuous attack by BN to disrepute PR politicians has caused severe damage in PR’s stability and good governance. More importantly the new UMNO line up led by Najib may cause people to reconsider a second chance to BN.

As the by-election is inching in, the underlying questions that remain unanswered are:-

  1. Will the people who oppose BN realise their divisiveness is the strength for BN?
  2. Can’t they see if a divided UMNO youth could bring victory to Khairy, could also a divided opposition bring victory to BN?
  3. Why that is so important the candidate of your choice must get the opportunity and not others?
  4. Can an independent who claims to represent one ethnic group with mere 9000 voters convince the majority Malays and Chinese to vote him in?
  5. Are you prepared to see the Pakatan Rakyat losing to BN because of your doing and selfishness?

It’s only hoped Khairy’s election serves as lesson in the upcoming by election. Selambau folks, for heaven sake please do not be detracted by few disgruntled individuals who fail to see the big picture.

Read it in Malaysiakini


Malaysian said...

Bukit Selambau: An Urgent Call for Calm & Understanding, and Suggestions for a Way Forward

I’m writing this with deep concern over the Pakatan Rakyat’s prospects in the Selambau Election as well as for the future of the alternatif movement as well. Just over a month ago we were quite united, and so confident that BN could never win, even against goats & cows. Today the situation has changed dramatically, as the conflict that is apparently brewing within the AM over the choice of candidate for the Bukit Selambau by election threatens our chances there as well the achievement of our aspirations for Malaysia. I say apparently, because my only sources of information are news reports & blogs postings, some from the MSM, some from bloggers & journalists whose agendas I don’t know about. I have no way of verifying what is the real situation, & given the Standard Operating Procedures of our opponents in the past, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting to the TRUTH.

What I find especially distressing is the tone of the anger that has been directed at Hindraf & the PKR dissenters, in the comments & reports in our blogosphere. On page after page they have had so many insults, threats & stereotypes hurled at them, it is as if BN’s propaganda in the MSM & blogs designed to demonize, demoralize & discredit them has done its job. I don‘t doubt that most of our comments have been made with good intentions & end in mind, i.e. victory for PR, and were sparked by that sense of urgency & alarm that we all feel as the elections approach. Nevertheless, I cannot but feel that such a tone is unworthy of anyone who shares in the values that I believe PR stands for.

Have we forgotten the role that Hindraf played in making 8/3/08 possible? These are the people who, in their pain & desperation could do nothing else but put their bodies & their lives in the path of the FRU & their chemical cannons. True, dissatisfaction with BN had been growing for a long time, but for me, seeing the blood that they shed when they stood their ground & embraced the truncheon’s blows over & over again, deeply changed the way that I thought & felt about my country & myself. They led the way, they electrified us, even shamed us into action; but sadly, to this very day, they and their families still bleed for it. Some are locked away & forgotten; some prosecuted & persecuted. Many know now what it is to be without Father, Husband or Family. Some, ill, uncared for and forsaken, deteriorate day by day; and one, in exile, may never get to return home, not even to die. Then, there’s that deepest & most painful of wounds that they all bear: the subtle racism, overt ostracism & slur; a wound to which we can now safely say, we have rubbed in our own little “contribution” of salt. Whatever you or I may think about Hindraf or their apparent position on Bukit Selambau, let us agree that at the very least, we owe them our respect & gratitude.

I’ve organised the rest of my thoughts under 4 headings:
A. Our Current Situation
B. What’s really at stake here
C. Suggested Way Forward
D. Final Thoughts

A. Our Current Situation

On the face of it we have Hindraf & PKR grassroots leaders are unhappy with PKR leaders’ decision to nominate S. Manikumar as PKR candidate for Bukit Selambau. Both (Hindraf & PKR) had prepared shortlists of their preferred candidates but none were chosen. Their main reasons for this unhappiness seem to be:
 Disappointment at not being chosen themselves, as a “reward” for past hard work
 Manikumar’s youth, inexperience, lack of record and not being a local, being a “crony”
 Not being involved in the selection process
 Lack of transparency in the process
 Disagreement with process & selection criteria itself
 Perceived double standards in selection
 Possible issues with Manikumar’s allegedly fraudulent business dealings
 Perception of there having been backroom deals with V. Arumugam with the involvement of DSAI’s friends (one Datuk Ravi?)

Other longer standing grouses with PR may be:
 Lack of democracy in PKR & PKR Kedah, who have not held state-level elections since he joined in 2004
 Perception of having been deceived by false promises and lack of progress on various development issues e.g. land for schools, citizenship documents, social issues, business opportunities & training
 Perception of a lack of respect and appreciation

One thing I want to note here is these reasons, with the exception of the one regarding personal disappointment, are not racist (ala ketuanan UMNO/MCA/MIC) but actually speak to root issues of common concern.

As a result of this dissatisfaction:
 3 ex PKR members are standing in Bukit Selambau as independents
 Hindraf is not supporting PKR’s campaign in Bukit Selambau
 PKR’s Jerai division has disbanded itself & Kalaivanar has thrown his support for BN
 Various commentators have condemned Hindraf & the PKR Kedah dissidents, with growing perception of Hindraf as an unworthy organisation with a agenda driven by racist or personal concerns

This conflict must be seen in the context of of PR’s growing list of problems & challenges (partly self inflicted, partly BN’s doing):
 Abortive takeover of Parliament & our perceived loss of the moral high ground
 Fall of Perak and PR’s subsequent tactical errors resulting in emotionally sensitive charges of derhaka and the attendant publicity
 Perception amongst rakyat (not just Hindraf) that PR has not been effective & efficient, that PRU 12 promises have not been kept
 Various scandals (real or engineered) surrounding PR personalities, accompanied by doubt’s about integrity of PR reps
 Lack of a coherent common vision accompanied by bouts of discord between & within PR component parties

Add to all that a perceived BN “resurgence” due to Mahathir’s return to a “united” UMNO, Samy Vellu’s “new mandate” at MIC, Najib’s repressive countermeasures and we may just be seeing the beginnings of a “perfect storm”.

B. What’s really at stake here

Superficially, at stake is the victory in Bukit Selambau as well as in Bukit Gantang & Batang Ai. However we must go below the surface, and acknowledge that even if we win all three, given the current situation as outlined above, this conflict within us will slow down the momentum of our movement, perhaps even allow BN to begin rolling back the clock to pre-PRU 12. To regain forward momentum, as well as to help build a strong foundation for our struggle, a careful consideration of the deeper root issues raised by this conflict is needed within PR. What’s really at stake here is our movement’s identity, vision, direction & indeed future viability. These issues, all which overlap with real Hindraf/PKR grouses identiified above, are:

 Vision & leadership
• What is our vision for all Malaysians?
• Is this vision a shared one? How do we create this consensus?
• What are our strategies & policies to achieve this vision?

 Values, Principles & Political Culture
• What are our values & principles?
• Are these values & principles practiced by our current leaders at all levels?
o Do we want feudal “warlords” as leaders who know everything & cannot be questioned & seem to seek personal interests? Are there old BN habits & paradigms that still infect us?
• Are we open, consultative, empowering, engaging & transparent?
• Do we play the politics of race, patronage, feudalism, cronyism & nepotism, backroom dealmaking, numbers, rewards for loyalty? In other words business as usual BN style?
• What is the true nature of the relationship between PR & rakyat?

 Delivery & execution
• How do we select & develop a truly representative cadre of leaders in such a way that no group feels left out?
• Do we select leaders by ability, or as a reward for loyalty? Do we place unfair standards of class, formal education or wealth?
• Is our leader selection process transparent, fair, where all have had a say in it and agreed the rules? Are there double standards?
• How have we delivered on our promises since 8/3/08? A lot was promised.
• Have we been fair & equitable or have we been busy fighting fires, living from crisis to crisis (some of our own making), & neglected to lead in the truest sense of the word?
• How do we work with marginalized groups who bear the brunt of BN’s failed policies? Takeovers of Parliament & long term political goals are all well & good but what do we do to ease their suffering here & now?

 Communication (most of the misunderstanding is really attributable to poor communication & engagement)
• How do we inform & educate stakeholders, understand & manage expectations, & get our message across?
• How do we work with multiple stakeholders, with common broad goals but diverse cultures & perspectives?
• How do we raise the level of political discourse beyond race & patronage?
• How do we work with the various groups who are at different levels of political maturity, thanks to our political monoculture of the last 50 years?
C. One Way Forward

The thing to do is to sit down together & share one’s thoughts & feelings openly. The main purpose of this meeting should be to find & develop a common vision, set of values, principles and goals that we truly share. When that is done, consider & address the dissatisfaction & disagreements that have been the cause.

I suggest that Tuan Guru Nik Aziz (probably the most respected leader in Malaysia) be the host or convenor. The leadership of both sides must come with open minds & most importantly open hearts. There can be no place for personal egos, posturing & rhetoric or trying to gain concessions ala BN’s old politics. All talks must be firmly based on mutual respect and objective truth that can be verified. If we only plaster over cracks by merely soothing tensions while ignoring the real issues, we are setting ourselves up for future disaster.

There will not be enough time to cover every detail, but there is enough to begin to repair the relationship. It may be too late to undo some mistakes if mistakes have been made. If both sides decide that we can work together, come out of that room together & share with all of Malaysia what you have just achieved. Make it crystal clear that no effort will be spared to achieve victory, make it plain that errors have acknowledged, bonds have been mended, wrongs have been set right and changes have been committed to. Then let us each do what we do best.

D. Final Thoughts

To PR: Most of Hindraf’s & PKR’s grouses seem to be real & most are based on one or more of the common issues stated above. Granted, 1 or 2 personalities seem to be pushing for personal gain & “reward”, but once the underlying grouses are addressed, those with personal interests in mind will be clearly identifiable & obvious to all. I disagree with Neil Khor & others who say that Hindraf has a “radical race based agenda” and I do not believe that there is any fundamental unbridgeable ideological difference between PR & Hindraf. With their leaders behind bars & the perception that we have forsaken them, what we are seeing is not a racial agenda ala UMNO/MCA/MIC but frustration over the issues raised, coupled with the vestiges of BN thinking & political paradigm. As I said before, old habits die hard. The right question to ask is how do we engage them? Let us start by acknowledging that some of us have been treating Hindraf as the Greeks treated Philoctetes, good enough to fight for us but not good enough to be in our company & to engage with fully. The day we start ignoring constitutents, we will start becoming BN, & hoping to win based on a "we are not BN" platform won't work. BN bloggers are already proudly claiming that PR the same as BN. However, under no circumstances must you compromise your non-sectarian agenda.

To Hindraf & PKR dissidents: I won’t pretend that I understand the depth of your pain. But I will say this: the Chinese have a saying: “tong zhou gong ji” which means “when people are in the same boat, they should help each other”. Right now, except for the BNputras & their cronies, we are all in the same boat, and our boat is now leaking. If we do not help each other now, we will all sink together. So in this emergency with 8 days left it’s time to get our boat safely across. True, your community has been marginalized by BN and I won’t try to lessen or underestimate your suffering, but you must acknowledge that you are not the only one in pain. Poor Malays & orang asli still face conditions just as bad. I’m not asking you to sacrifice your principles or tolerate unfair dealing from anyone, PR included. Ask the tough questions and hold PR accountable for whatever they have promised. But at the same time be prepared to honestly reexamine Hindraf’s struggle. Do not be chained to old BN ways of thinking, and do not be afraid to think out of the box. Please take the opportunity to make your voice heard. The overwhelming perception out there is that some amongst you are seeking personal position or that you are only fighting for a narrow racist agenda. This is a golden opportunity to set the record straight. Supporting BN now will only harden & solidify the this negative perception.

Make no mistake, a vote for any of the independents or a even spoilt vote will be a vote for BN. It would be a real loss for all if people who have the same overall goals fail to work tohgether & hand victory to those who have been oppresing all of us these many years. And while you are considering your next course of action, do be aware of those in your midst whose may not have your best interests at heart.

May I also humbly remind you of Waythamoorthy’s words, that I believe ring so true today: “Many see Hindraf as an opportunity to gain leverage and dictate their own benefits. This is totally against our principles. Hindraf is you and me who are battling a war for better policies and governance for the Malaysian Indian as a society with equal and fair treatment as opposed to individual glamour and glory."

To both PR & Hindraf: Don’t let BN exploit this division by spreading more lies & confusion. Their MSM & blogs have already begun. We only help BN more when the tone of our discourse deteriorate to the level of provocations, threats & insults. To see that happen will be BN’s ultimate victory.

Let me be very clear - I voted for PR not to see 1 BN replaced by another. I did not vote for PR for special treatment for myself, my family or my race. I did not vote for PR to be their crony. I voted for PR for an end to corruption, cronyism, imbalanced development, mismanagement of national resources, authoritarianism, intitutionalised & societal racism. But I want a government that is more than just a mere negation of BN or “the lesser of 2 evils”. I want a government that is responsive, tolerant, respects the rakyat, transparent, fair & equitable, that promotes individual freedom & human rights. I strongly believe that these are the common bonds that unite us. Let us show that we can overcome conflicts, rediscover what really holds us together & emerge victorious together.

Lest we lose hope in our struggle, let us remember that in politics, conflict among partners is common, due to the political culture that is dominant. We need a new political culture & after 50 years, old habits die hard. Ever since 8/3/08 we have had to undergo a steep learning curve, and we cannot expect too much in 1 year & must not delude ourselves that all our leaders are all angels who will know instinctively what we the rakyat want. It is up to all of us to ensure that our leaders know what we want & to keep them on the straight path.

Now, what can we do as individuals about this. Consider carefully what is right, then communicate it to your family, friends, leaders. Get involved, for our future, the future of our country is too important to be left to chance, to in the hands of politicians.