34-Day Countdown to 13GE – Call on Malaysians to complete “unfinished business” of 308 “political tsunami” five years ago

Today is a double anniversary – the fifth anniversary of the peaceful and democratic uprising of Malaysians which has now entered into the Malaysian political folklore as the “308 political tsunami” of the 12th general elections on March 8, 2008 and the 36th International Women’s Day after the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.

Both have one theme in common – empowerment and enfranchisement of the Malaysian citizenry in the former and women as a whole internationally in the latter.

On the occasion of this “308” double anniversary, I wish to make two calls.

Firstly, to call on Malaysians to complete the “unfinished business” of 308 “political tsunami” five years ago by electing a new Malaysian Government and a new Prime Minister in Putrajaya in the 13th General Elections.

Before “308” five years ago, nobody dared to hope or think that the Malaysian political landscape could undergo a paradigm shift through the peaceful and democratic process that the prospect of a new Federal Government and a new Prime Minister for the first time in five decades of the nation’s history is dreamable, possible, do-able and achievable!

Two days before the historic “political tsunami” of March 8, 2008, I gave the following statement at a media conference when campaigning in the Ipoh Timor parliamentary constituency:

“Tomorrow is the last day for campaigning before the country goes to polls for the 12th general election on Saturday, March 8, 2008.

“Will March 8, 2008 usher a paradigm shift in the Malaysian political landscape by stripping the Barisan Nasional of its unbroken two-thirds parliamentary majority and deal a fatal blow to UMNO political hegemony?

“It is a tall order just to deny the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority on Saturday, for the DAP, PKN and PAS will each have to win at least 25 seats to ensure that the BN is defeated in at least 75 parliamentary seats, the ‘magic figure’ to end BN’s two-third parliamentary majority and UMNO political hegemony history in Malaysia.

“A strong and powerful wind of change is blowing in the land, as evidenced by the mammoth ceramah crowds, enthusiastic responses and generous donations of Malaysians in the various states – with crowds of several thousands to more than 10,000 in the ceramahs I attended in the past three days, covering Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Perak, with mammoth ceramah crowds also reported in Penang.

“The question is whether the wind of change rising up in the land will be strong and powerful enough on March 8 to make it a day of history and a day of destiny for Malaysia.

“The Barisan Nasional leadership had launched the general election campaign with a very cocky and arrogant start, with the Selangor, Malacca and Johore Barisan Nasional leaders declaring that they want to make their states ‘zero-opposition’ states to recent panicky signs in certain BN quarters at the strong and powerful wind of change blowing in the land – causing Barisan Nasional propagandists to resort to the dirty politics of fear, intimidation and blackmail as making May 13 threats.

“Let me advice all BN leaders and candidates: Grow up and accept the ups and downs of the democratic process and stop being spoiled brats when at most the Barisan Nasional is losing two-thirds parliamentary majority and not losing power.

“It is not going to be easy to deprive the Barisan Nasional of its two-thirds majority in Parliament by defeating the BN in at least 75 seats, but it is a goal which is definitely possible and achievable on March 8.

“Former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir does not see the BN losing its two-thirds majority on 8th March, as he has predicted that the BN would win between 70 to 75 per cent of the parliamentary seats in the 12th general election as compared to BN victory in over 90 per cent of the parliamentary seats in the 2004 general election.”

“308” five years ago has become “a day of history” and “a day of destiny”, toppling UMNO/BN in five states in Penang, Kedah, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan as well as denying them their unbroken two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Now, the next task is at hand – to complete the “unfinished business” of the “308 political tsunami” five years ago!

There are those who say that there is no way for Umno/BN to be ousted from Putrajaya in the 13GE.

History and the “308” political tsunami five years ago are the best rejoinders.

History has shown that no political groupings can rule forever. In fact, they are often their own enemies arising from Lord Acton’s axiom: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

There is also nothing utopian or impossible in the hopes and dreams of Malaysians for the start of a new day in democracy and nation-building in Malaysia with a new Malaysian Government and a new Prime Minister once patriotic Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation, are prepared to unite as one and set their minds, hearts and wills to this common national endeavour.

I believe that the overwhelming majority of ordinary Malaysians, whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Orang Asli, Kadazans or Ibans, are capable of rising up to the occasion to complete the “unfinished business” of the “308 political tsunami” five years ago.

We must however be realistic and fully conscious that this is an uphill and herculean task - a challenge and a task not for those weak in spirit, mind and soul but only for patriotic and redoubtable Malaysians who are prepared to put the interests of the nation and future generations before self, whether it be personal comforts or benefits.

It has been postulated that there must be at least a 6% swing of voters after the 2008 general elections in favour of Pakatan Rakyat if PR is to succeed in winning the simple majority of the 222 parliamentary seats in the 13GE.

This is a large swing as it must come on the back of the 2008 swing against the Barisan Nasional, as illustrated by the overall swing to and against and BN in past general elections:

1995 – 11.8% swing to BN due to Dr. M’s liberalization policies

1999 – 8.7% swing to opposition due to Anwar factor

2004 – 7.4% swing to BN due to new PM Badawi

2008 – 10.7% swing to opposition due to tsunami.

In the 13GE, the three “fixed deposit states” of Sabah, Sarawak and Johore hold the keys to Putrajaya.

In the 2008 General Elections, PR won 82 parliamentary seats while BN won 140 seats. If in the 13GE, PR can win at least 40% of the total of 83 parliamentary seats in these three states, i.e. 33 out of a total of 83 seats in Johore, Sabah and Sarawak, PR would have exceeded the magic number of 112 for a simple majority of the 222 parliamentary seats.

However, PR can only win with a good and comfortable majority if we can win at least 125 parliamentary seats (i.e. a majority of 28) in 13GE, comprising say 45 seats for PKR and 40 seats each for DAP and PAS.

The question is whether PR can win another 10 – 12 parliamentary seats from Barisan Nasional’s total of 140 seats won in 2008 in Peninsular Malaysia, (excluding Johore where BN won 25 parliamentary seats), comprising:

Perlis – 3
Kedah – 4
Kelantan – 2
Terengganu – 7
Penang – 2
Perak – 13
Pahang – 12
Selangor – 5
Wilayah Persekutuan – 2 (include Labuan)
Negri Sembilan – 5
Melaka - 5
Total - 60

PR’s challenge and targets to reach Putrajaya in the 13 GE are threefold:

(i) to retain the 82 parliamentary seats won in 2008;

(ii) to win at least 33 seats from the three “fixed deposit states” of Johor, Sabah and Sarawak; and

(iii) to win 10 to 12 additional parliamentary seats from the crop of 60 BN parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysia (excluding Johor).

Secondly, to call on women voters in Malaysia to make the 13GE a highwater mark for gender equality and empowerment of women in Malaysia to improve their social, educational, economic and political status.

Malaysia is ranked lowly in the global context with regard to gender equality and women empowerment as tracked by the World Economic Forum’s 2011 Global Gender Gap Index.

Malaysia’s overall Global Gender Gap Index (GGPI) ranking, which is made up of three criteria firstly economic participation and opportunity; secondly, health and survival; thirdly, political empowerment, is a lowly No.97 out of 135 countries, worse than Philippines (8), South Africa (14), Cuba (20), Mozambique (26), Argentina (28), Sri Lanka (31), Nambibia (32), Guyana (38), Kyrgyz Republic (44), Kazakhstan (49), Thailand (60), Botswana (66), Bangladesh (69), Brunei (76), Albania (78), Armenia (84) and Indonesia (90).

Malaysia’s ranking in terms of women’s representation in government is the worst of all three criteria, ranked 115, behind Sri Lanka (7), Bangladesh (11), Philippines (16), India (19), China (57), Indonesia (61), Vietnam (76), Cambodia (78), Singapore (83) and Thailand (97).

Since the launch of the Pakatan Rakyat’s Women Agenda last September, another Asian country has achieved the breakthrough of having a woman as head of state/government, namely the new South Korean President Park Geun-hye – joining other countries who have had woman head of state or government like Indira Gandhi of India, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Corazaon Aquino of Philippines, Megawarti Sukarnoputri of Indonesia, Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand, Sheikh Hasina of Banglasdesh and Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka.

But no women have risen to the top in Malaysia, whether at the federal or state levels, as no woman have ever been Mentri Besar or Chief Minister.

What we have is the opposite – the Cabinet post of Minister for Women usurped by none other than the Prime Minister himself, or is this a ruse for Datin Seri Paduka Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the Prime Minister, to be the de facto Women Minister from behind the scenes without any elected mandate of her own?

A PR victory in the 13GE will set the stage not only for the country to target for Malaysia to be included in the top 50 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index but also for Malaysian women to be appointed to the highest echelons of political leadership and public appointments, including top offices like Chief Secretary, Lord President, Parliament Speaker, Attorney-General or heads of key national institutions like the Election Commission, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, etc.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timur