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The meaning of a power transition

THE much-awaited but unrealised takeover of power on 16 Sept; the resignation of minister in the prime minister’s department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim; and the upcoming MCA elections were the focus of the Chinese press between13 and 18 Sept 2008.

On 17 Sept, Kwong Wah Yit Poh columnist Fu Xiang Hong wrote in The Absence of Discourse and the Transformation Crisis of Sept 16 that it is erroneous to assume the Pakatan Rakyat takeover of power is the same as democratic transformation.

She said the March 2008 election results gave many commentators hope that the Barisan Nasional (BN) would transform itself. It also gave rise to the possibility that a competitive two-party system had kicked off. However, throughout this time, the focus has been on the Pakatan Rakyat’s performance, while the BN’s refusal to transform itself has been ignored.

Fu said over the past six months, many people, herself included, believed that the BN had no intention of reforming itself. She cited Zaid’s admission that he could not reform the judiciary even as minister; the fresh sodomy charge against Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim; the banning of MalaysiaToday; and the Internal Security Act (ISA) arrests of blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, Member of Parliament (MP) Teresa Kok and Sin Chew Daily journalist Tan Hoon Cheng.

Many who expected that a two-party system would push the country’s democratic transformation forward have instead started to accept the idea that crossovers would bring about a power transition.

In her column, Fu noted that those in support of MPs hopping over to the Pakatan Rakyat use the BN’s loss of credibility to rationalise the government takeover. Those who oppose the crossovers, even though they do not recognise the BN’s legitimacy, similarly fail to provide sound ideas about democratic transformation.

Fu opined that the post-general election developments have led people to believe that the BN’s transformation is almost impossible to hope for. Under current circumstances, she said, if the Pakatan Rakyat followed the rules, not only would it be impossible to push for democratic reforms, it might even weaken itself.

She said those who oppose Pakatan Rakyat rule through crossovers have not provided better suggestions as to how to topple the BN. This, she said, demonstrates the crises of democratic transformation in Malaysia, where there is a gap between the conversations about political ethics and the realities on the ground.

Fu said people have to ask: apart from a power transition, how will the Pakatan Rakyat build up its legitimacy? The danger, she said, is that many are keen for changes, but their imagination is limited only to the transition of power.

Whose interest?

Oriental Daily’s lead on 16 Sept titled Zaid’s Decision Affects Political Climate said the former minister’s objection to the use of the ISA proves that he has fulfilled his duty as a minister who is committed to judicial reform.

The editorial said in Malaysia’s conservative political context, a wakil rakyat has no personal will, as evidenced by voters who choose political parties instead of politicians in an election. Hence, politicians contesting under a party banner have to abide by the party’s will.

It is under this kind of tradition that wakil rakyat, and ministers, are unable to assert their own positions, the editorial said. It added that many government promotions are not linked to one’s ability, but one’s loyalty to the party’s will.

The editorial argued that since politicians have to abide by the party’s will, the party should abide by the people’s interests. It is only in an undemocratic society that the rakyat’s interests are considered less important.

The editorial noted that six ministers reportedly disagreed with the use of the ISA against journalist Tan. However, some of the ministers quickly clarified that they “refuse to state their stand,” but “would review the ISA in the cabinet meeting.”

The ministers’ personal stand against the ISA should be respected, the editorial said, adding that it is only in a feudalistic society that an individual cannot act according to his or her own will.

The paper said the ruling coalition has ruled the country for over 50 years, and yet it does not seem to bother about dissenting voices, and does not respond well to the damage done to the social contract and rule of law.

“[Prime minister Datuk Seri] Abdullah [Ahmad Badawi] is facing a very difficult situation now. Zaid was personally promoted by him, but left him at this critical time,” the editorial said, adding that what Abdullah does next would be a test of his own will.

Breaking through

In Sin Chew Daily’s exclusive interview with Wanita MCA chief Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen on 15 Sept titled Ng Yen Yen Wants a Breakthrough in Gender Politics, Ng said she is contesting the party’s vice-presidency to increase the representation of women in the party.

She added that Wanita MCA is not a party that belongs to her; hence, she is unable to say that Wanita deputy chief Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun is her heir. “But I have said that she is an appropriate candidate [for the Wanita MCA chief post], and I hope that she wins without contest,” Ng said in the interview.

The interview also quoted her saying that instead of contesting for the party presidency, she chose the vice-presidency because grassroots sentiment wants her “to win step by step”.

Ng also admitted that the MCA’s largest difficulty now is the loss of the Chinese community’s confidence. “The MCA does not have much time. If it refuses to change, it will lose the heart of the Chinese community.” End of Article

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