Can Pakatan Rakyat build on the momentum of 13GE to create the two per cent shift of votes from UMNO/BN to bring about the first catalytic change of federal government in the 14GE?

The greatest challenge in the next 14GE, whether in 2017 or 2018 , is whether Pakatan Rakyat can build on the momentum of the 13th General Elections to create the two per cent shift of vote from Umno/BN to bring about the first catalytic change of federal government.

Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin warned the recent UMNO General Assembly that BN will be ousted from power if it loses just two per cent of support in the next general election.

Let this be a reminder to all Malaysians throughout the country as to how close the UMNO/BN government would have been voted out in the 13th General Election in May last year, if the electoral process had been really clean, free and fair, minus all the constituency gerrymandering and the undemocratic abuses and malpractices in the country.

Furthermore, it should also be reminder as to how close Malaysians have come to achieve the catalytic change of federal of power in Putrajaya – as all that is needed to win Putrjaya is another two per cent of voter support that had gone to UMNO/BN.

Muhyiddin admitted that a loss of two per cent voter support will translate to Barisan Nasional being reduced from its 133 seats won in the 13GE to 103 federal states, less than half of the 222-seat Parliament – comprising 68 UMNO seats and 35 non-UMNO seats.

A loss of five per cent voter support would have slashed the total BN seats to 81, comprising 53 UMNO and 28 non-UMNO seats.

It is precisely of this fear of losing Federal power that UMNO propagandists have gone all out to drum up fear and hate through lies and falsehoods to conjure imaginary threats and enemies to convince the Malays and Muslims of The Big Lie that Malays and Islam are under threat.

Will Pakatan Rakyat be able to rise up to the challenge in the 14GE, debunk The Big Lie and win Putrajaya or will it disintegrate to give UMNO/BN an unexpected bonus?

Pakatan’s Four Democratic Successes

Tonight, I would like to touch on the achievements of Pakatan Rakyat – the four important gains for democracy. In the focus on difference among the component parties in Pakatan Rakyat, there is often the tendency to overlook or dismiss these important shared gains. I highlight four areas.

1. More Malaysians are calling for democratic reforms.

From all walks of life, Malaysians are calling for a better Malaysia – a more just society, less corruption and more freedom. We see this in the Gerakan Hapus Akta Hasutan (GHAH) movement opposing the Sedition Act. We see this in the bravery of students at Universiti Malaya demanding greater academic freedom.

The calls for democratic reform run deep in Malaysian history, extending in the recent waves of political engagement from reformasi to Bersih. Malaysians clearly want a better and fairer democratic Malaysia. We have seen over the last fifteen years rising activism and political awareness on the part of Malaysians.

Malaysians – Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, have long played a major part in the demands for democratic reform.

The government tries to create the impression that the calls for changes are divided along racial lines, with Chinese Malaysians leading the calls for change. Through its control of the national media, it also claims that Malays are ‘united’ in their support for UMNO, in their support for a government that has limited and curtailed democracy and democratic governance. These portrayals are wrong.

Today we see empowered Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, working together, speaking out together, protesting together and voting together for a better Malaysia.

A majority of Malaysians voted for change. Over 40% of Malays voted for Pakatan, and it is PKR and PAS not UMNO that received a larger share of the popular vote.

The government cannot deny the participation of Malays in rallies and protests. It is for this very reason that our Malay brothers and sisters are being arrested and charged through the government’s use of draconian laws like the Sedition Act.

Pakatan has contributed to strengthening Malaysian’s resolve for a better future, to giving Malaysians needed political hope.

2. Promotion of the core democratic values of inclusion and mutual respect.

An overriding message of Pakatan has been that all citizens in Malaysians are to be valued and appreciated. We understand that one of Malaysia’s greatest strengths is its diversity and that this pluralism should be allowed to flourish.

These shared values have led to important democratic gains. There has been greater diversity in the representation of Malaysians.

Pakatan has fielded a record number of women as candidates, including our PAS colleagues. Rather than largely fielding those who are interested in making money, the Pakatan slate has included trade unionists, religious leaders, community leaders, professionals and academics.

It is noteworthy that all of the Pakatan parties, including PAS, fielded candidates of different races and religions.

We don’t always agree on all the issues, but we do agree on the need to listen and include different points of view, different backgrounds of expertise and different contributions. By bringing more of Malaysia into parliament, our democracy gets stronger. And it has.

One of the challenges in the modern times, not only in Malaysia but in the world, is whether Muslim and non-Muslims parties could co-operate and work together for a common cause.

The DAP is a secular party. We have worked with PAS together to promote democracy.

Malaysia has adopted two patterns. This first is one based on a model of inequality, where the non-Muslim component parties in the Barisan Nasional - MCA, MIC and Gerakan – are not respected, and in many cases not even consulted. They are openly dismissed.

A second pattern is one that we are working on, a pattern of dialogue where the democratic value of equality is centre-stage. It is not easy. Sometimes the discussions break down. Other times there are open disagreements. These do not take away from the value that is placed in the process of listening and underlying mutual respect.

3. People First

The demands for better jobs and improvements in quality of life is the foundation of our calls for democratic reform in Malaysia. We aim to serve the people, to serve Malaysians from all walks of life. We have had a special attention to those that have been excluded or unjustly treated by the system.

The struggle for democracy has fundamentally involved a change in the priorities of governments towards the needs of citizens. Democrats are not interested in their bank accounts or winning contracts or their positions. They are interested in public service and making sure that people are the main priority of government. Public service has been the foundation of Pakatan.

Before there was BR1M and the sleight of spending programs in Malaysia, Pakatan had been prioritizing the needs of citizens. In fact, it was our pressure on the government that has moved the government toward framing their programs as people oriented. Many of these programs were our ideas.

Our priorities have been on basic needs and services. We want all Malaysians to have a good education. No student should not have the skills they need to get a job. No student should be taught they are unequal and unworthy. No student should have to eat lunch in a restroom. The classroom should be a place where confidence is instilled, opportunities are enhanced and dreams are inspired.

We want a society where there is good quality healthcare, where people are working jobs that given them enough money to take of their families without having to be overly burdened by debt and where they can have meaning in their work and time for their families. We want a society where people are not afraid of having their bag snatched or home broken into. A democratic agenda is one where the attention centers on people. This has tied Pakatan together in our work in parliament and engagement with citizens. For us, the people do come first. This is a core principle of democracy for Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and we see this in our alliance.

4. Democratic Governance.

In order to bring this about we have introduced good governance measures. The changes have been limited as we have not had national power, but the records in many of our state governments show real improvements in how we govern. We have introduced more transparency in government. We have also introduced measures that reduce corruption. We have engaged in more consultation.

Corruption is cancer in Malaysia. The level of corruption scandals in Malaysia is among the worst in the Muslim world.

Repeated revelations of billions of ringgit of public money allocated in ‘commissions’, transferred in capital flight and used to buy public property boggle the mind. We are now in the era of mega scandals.

Pakatan’s fight for democracy in Malaysia has aimed to check the abuses of power by those in office. There is much more needed to be done. We have to strengthen the political institutions and introduce tougher measures of enforcement and prevention.

Part of this means strengthening the rule of law. Today there is the perception that the law is applied selectively.

The struggle in Malaysia for democracy is far from over, and there are greater obstacles in the path ahead.

The UMNO government’s misuse and abuse of the Sedition Act, and now the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s reneging of his 2012 pledge to repeal coupled with his announcement to make it even more draconian and repressive, and the selective political prosecution of Anwar Ibrahim speaks to their fear of the pressure for democratic reform.

Are they afraid of the people, of inclusion, of better governance? It would appear so.

UMNO will ignite more public anger and deepen people’s resolve for democratic change if Anwar is put behind bars

They are about to engage in what the Economist had called a ‘lousy sequel’ to lock up the opposition leader. We hope that justice will prevail.

A country that locks up its opposition leader has nothing to be proud of. It is a shameful act. It is an act that reveals how little the UMNO government is willing to make the country stronger and respect its people.

It is repressive and an abuse of power which is why it has served as a driver for democratic change. If the UMNO government puts Anwar behind bars, they will ignite more anger and deepen the people’s resolve for democratic change.

UMNO/BN’s for tactics: repression, divide-and-rule, race and religion

UMNO’s tactics of repression have been accompanied with three others. The first has been the effective use of divide and rule. Since GE13 in Malaysia, the government has been feeding the differences within the opposition, aiming to pull it apart.

While we acknowledge differences, it is as important to appreciate how much the government has contributed to division.

It is UMNO that is enticing members of PAS to join them, through offers of new parliament seats and other potential financial and political rewards.

It is UMNO that is acting as a cheerleader to support a private bill on hudud to be introduced in parliament. UMNO is the dark hand of division, as it fears democratic change.

It is afraid of greater democracy in Malaysia, and the people’s calls for political reform by their citizens.

The second feature has been the use of racism. The government has funded NGOs that are promoting racial hatred. This is closely tied to their divide-and-rule Machiavellian measures.

This tactic is simple and highlighted in the recently- concluded UMNO General Assembly – to promote racial tension to stay in office, to feed instability and insecurity. This has heightened since GE13, with fabricated lies and framing of issues along racial lines.

It is important to remember that democracy is race-blind, it offers a benefit for everyone, especially for those who lack access to power and lack voices in the system.

The use of racism feeds discrimination and intolerance. It has the potential to lead to violence, a history we know well in Malaysia.

This tactic of using racial hatred is dangerous. It must stop. We have to work together to build bridges across communities and across faiths. The democratic values of inclusion and mutual respect must win out over exclusion and disdain.

Of all the developments that we have seen in recent times that is the most worrying it is religious extremism.

UMNO has not checked the extremism of its religious authorities and promoted mutual respect across faiths. The problem lies with how they are promoting Islam.

They are treating Islam as a tool to divide Malaysians and as a tool to hold onto political power. The forms and methods they are using do not correspond to a more democratic country.

One example is the case of Bible burning.

Government officials have also justified the hate-speech of Ibrahim Ali in his call to ‘burn Bibles’ as part of a ‘defense of Islam’.

Hudud can neither unite Malaysians nor promote democratic change

How is religious hatred part of any faith? They are justifying the unjustifiable and in doing so feeding more hatred and misunderstanding. A good government respects all faiths and it is core principle of humanity that the religious books of faiths are respected. Religious extremism is eating at the fabric of Malaysian society.

UMNO is not alone in its push for more exclusionary views of religion. We see a similar dynamic with the calls by some PAS leaders for hudud.

There is a mistaken view that PAS needs to burnish its Islamic credentials by using a more exclusionary approach that imposes a particular form of religious law.

This takes away the choice of Muslims in how they practice their faith and will affect non-Muslims in a wide-ranging areas from child custody to cultural practices.

The majority of Malaysians have indicated in surveys that the country is not ready for hudud.

In 2004 voters rejected these measures, giving PAS one of the most serious defeats in its political history.

Globally, as we have seen most recently in Tunisia, Islamist parties are being rejected at the polls for moving toward exclusion.

These measures are seen as fundamentally undemocratic. They do not respect people’s choices and have the potential for greater abuse in governance.

Insecurity is fueling the calls for the introduction to hudud, along with those that would like to secure their positions rather than open up political reform.

We in DAP disagree with the implementation of hudud in part because we do not see how this measure can promote meaningful democracy even in the Muslim world, and can only undermines democratic progress in Malaysia.

Managing difference, division and extremism especially when world attention is now focussed on the savage and barbaric acts of Islamic State, which has been able to get recruits worldwide including Malaysia, remains a challenge for our times in our country.

We are not alone in this as it is a global challenge. Malaysia has had real success with Muslims and non-Muslims working together.

We aim to build on these successes as best we can.

The majority of voters in Malaysia want Pakatan Rakyat to succeed to promote democratic reforms, to promote a more democratic society based on prioritizing people, valuing the rule of law, justice, fairness and inclusion.

These ideals are what will make Malaysia stronger and offer the most promise for a shared democratic dream.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah