Merit in suggestion that younger post-Merdeka generation of leaders should begin to take over leadership positions in DAP, PKR and PAS

In another 12 hours, we will witness another crucial milestone in a 17-year conspiracy to crush and destroy a Malaysian patriot and nationalist who have dedicated his entire life to the betterment of our country in furtherance of freedom, justice and human dignity.

If the 17 years of energy, effort, time and resources mobilized single-mindedly by the authorities for the destruction of one man had been devoted towards answering his challenge in the realm of ideas and public policies with regard to justice, freedom, development and human dignity, Malaysia would have been a much better and successful nation today!

Tomorrow, Anwar Ibrahim may leave the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya a free man or he may begin his third spell of incarceration.

Whatever the outcome, we want to assure Anwar that the battle for justice, freedom, human dignity and particularly in Malaysia, unity, harmony and peace of our multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural population will press on until victory is achieved.

In fact, his incarceration will fire up Malaysians all over the country to a greater commitment and greater efforts to push forward the national agenda for change to save Malaysia from joining the ranks of failed states if the nation continues with the present policies of political oppression, economic injustices, environmental despoliation, moral degradation where even Ministers cannot know the difference beween Right and Wrong, worsening race and religious relations, rampant corruption and the collapse of good governance and the basic principles of accountability and transparency.

Pakatan Rakyat is the embodiment of Anwar’s greatest success in the national agenda for change, scoring unimagined victories first in the 2008 and then in the 2013 General Elections where Anwar was denied his destiny as the Seventh Prime Minister of Malaysia because of an undemocratic electoral system as Pakatan Rakyat secured 52% of the national vote.

The Pakatan Rakyat has made Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region, age or gender, dare to hope and dream again the Malaysian Hope and Dream where the rich diversity of race, religion, language and culture which had found confluence in Malaysia could be leveraged into important building blocks to create a great Malaysian nation which can be a model for the world not only in political democracy, economic prosperity and justice, a good education system, quality of life and most important of all, as an united, peaceful, harmonious and vibrant plural society.

But Pakatan Rakyat is very much a work in progress, and there is no guarantee that it would not falter and fall and would definitely be able to succeed in fulfilling the hopes and aspirations placed on it by Malaysians.

It is undoubtedly the task and challenge of the component parties of PR, and their leaders, to make a success of PR.

We do not hide the fact that PR is afflicted with our greatest crisis since our formation seven years ago, even more challenging than the first crisis PR faced in September 2011, which nearly led to the end of PR.

If PR had broken up over the hudud controversy in September 2011, then the historic result of the 13th General Elections on May 5. 2013 which saw PR winning 52 per cent of electoral vote and reducing the Najib federal administration into a minority government, with PR winning 89 Parliamentary seats and 229 state assembly seats (excluding Sarawak) would not have been achieved.

If PR now breaks up before the next polls, it is anybody’s guess as to what would be the outcome in the 14th General Elections to be held in three years’ time.

It is precisely because PR embodies the hopes of generations of Malaysians for change and Malaysia’s rendezvous with greatness, that DAP leaders are prepared to walk the last mile to make Pakatan Rakyat work – and I believe this is also the common sentiments and commitments of PKR and PAS leaders at the unprecedented promises and challenges presented by the PR experiment.

PR can only sustain and succeed if we adhere to two fundamental principles which had been the secrets of the PR success in the past six years – strict adherence to the PR Common Policy Framework which had formed the bedrock common principles of the three component parties in the coalition, and the operational principle of consensus regarding the Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council as the highest policy-making body for PR.

Yesterday, we have agreed to an early Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council meeting on two issues, the Kelantan hudud law and local council elections and that there would be no developments on these two issues unless and until the green light is given by the Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council. This would mean that any PAS parliamentary private member’s bill or Kelantan Pas proposal to the Kelantan State Assembly will have to be brought to the PR Leadership Council first.

The Malaysian Insider in a report by Sheridan Mahavera, asked: “If it ‘agrees to disagree’ so often, can Pakatan ever rule Malaysia?” – a question which deserves deep pondering by Pakatan Rakyat leaders but which I do not propose to address tonight.

What I wish to touch on is the view of political scientist Dr. Maszlee Malik, assistant professor at the International Islamic University, who suggested the need for a more unified vision and more inclusive mentality among PR leaders from the three component parties – as compared to “exclusive mentality” among older PR leaders who became politically conscious and active when their parties were operating on their own.

Younger PR leaders especially those active after the 1998 reformsi era have internalized coalition politics and were comfortable working through their parties’ different ideologies.

He suggested: “I believe that people like Hadi, (DAP parliamentary leader) Lim Kit Siang and even (PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim should step down and let the newer generation shape the PR.”

I do not want to discuss Mazlee’s interesting viewpoints and reasoning here, but to take it from another angle.

I think Mazlee’s suggestion for the “old guards” to withdraw from the front-line to allow the younger generation to take over the reins of leadership has considerable merit.

The present average age of the Malaysian Cabinet is 58.5 years with over half the Cabinet more than 60 years old – ranging from Idris Jusoh and Douglas Uggah Embas’ 60 years to Muhyiddin Yassin’s 68 years – with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at 62.

Some 90 per cent of Malaysia’s 30 million people are born after Merdeka on August 31, 1957. The age make-up of Malaysia’s population are: 0-14 years 28.8%; 15 -24 years 16.9%; 25 0 54 years 41.2%; 55 – 64 years 7.6%; 65 years and over – 5.5%/

Isn’t it time for a more youthful population to take over the leadership levels in all spheres of Malaysia’s national life?

If we have a Cabinet which, with certain exceptions, comprise Ministers who are post-Merdeka born, we will immediately do away with half the Cabinet – people whom Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had condemned as “half-past six” and Tun Daim Zainuddin dismissed as “deadwood”.

With a more youthful Cabinet will be less prone to disasters like the Home Minister Zahid Hamidi’s infamous letter to the FBI to vouch for the character and integrity of a gambling kingpin and the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob making racist calls on Malay consumers to boycott Chinese businesses.

Let us look at Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Merdeka Cabinet in 1957, which had an average age of 43.3 years – with Prime Minister Tunku 54 and Finance Minister H.S.Lee 57 the oldest members while the youngest were Education Minister Khir Johari 34 and Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Razak Hussein 35.

If the post-Merdeka generation takes over greater responsibility for the future of PR and the nation, then we are talking about people like Azmin Ali, 51, Saifuddin Nasution 52, Nurul Izzah, 35, Rafizi Ramli 38 in PKR; Husam Musa 56, Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, 55, Salahuddin Ayub, 54 in PAS; Lim Guan Eng 55, Teresa Kok 51, Anthony Loke 39, Chong Chieng Jen 44, Tony Pua 43 and Liew Chin Tong 37, Gobind Singh Deo and Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud in DAP.

I am not suggesting any immediate action but I think there is merit in the suggestion that the older leaders like Hadi, Anwar and myself begin to withdraw from the front lines in favour of the post-Merdeka generation.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah