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ATImes: Whither now, Keadilan?
By Anil Netto
10/11/2001 6:49 pm Sat
[Banyak khabar angin yang tidak menyenangkan bertiup mengenai Parti Keadilan
sejak akhir-akhir ini bila beberapa buah tiba-tiba gugur (dipetik orang?).
Walaupun begitu jangan bimbang kerana pohon ini masih berbunga lagi dan inilah
satu-satunya parti yang muda-muda buahnya tetapi begitu berbisa sehingga
dipetik awal-awal lagi walaupun belum masak - jika tidak akan nahaslah BN nanti.
Keadilan sebenarnya bukan sebarangan parti sebab itulah ia kerap menjadi sasaran
peluru BN saban hari. Bukankah BN begitu banyak meniru stail (gaya) Keadilan
November 7, 2001 atimes.com
Whither now, Keadilan?
By Anil Netto
The wife of Malaysia's jailed former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim,
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, is set to be elected unopposed as
president of the opposition National Justice Party (Keadilan) in
inaugural party polls this weekend, but the party she leads is at a
Wan Azizah will be unchallenged as party president in Keadilan's
first elections since it was formed in April 1999 during the throes of
reformasi. All 120 party divisions nominated her for the president's
Close to 2,000 party delegates are expected to assemble in the
Kemaman Municipal Council Hall in Terengganu state, which is
controlled by Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), Keadilan's partner in
the rump opposition alliance. The other partner in the alliance is the
tiny, multi-ethnic Malaysian People's Party (PRM).
Keadilan's third annual general assembly comes at a time when
question marks hang over the future of the Barisan Alternatif
(Alternative Front), after the pullout of the multi-ethnic but
ethnic-Chinese-based Democratic Action Party. The DAP pulled
out of the alliance in September after disagreeing with PAS's goal
of setting up an Islamic state in Malaysia.
The DAP's pullout was a major blow for the opposition alliance's
multi-ethnic and multireligious credentials especially in the
aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the United States. Though
Keadilan is also multi-ethnic, it draws the bulk of its support from
the majority ethnic-Malay Muslim community and the DAP was
seen as a party that could have bolstered ethnic-Chinese support
for the alliance.
On the heels of the DAP's withdrawal came another jolt: news of
Keadilan deputy president Chandra Muzaffar's decision not to
defend his post in the party polls, although he said he would
remain as a party member. Chandra's decision had a dampening
effect on morale within the opposition alliance, which had already
become bogged down in inter-party wrangling. An
academic-turned-politician, he was widely perceived as a
moderating influence in the alliance and provided it with greater
intellectual depth. His departure has also left a vacuum of sorts in
the top leadership of the party at a time when several key
second-echelon leaders are under indefinite detention under the
dreaded Internal Security Act.
There is no shortage of candidates to take over the deputy
presidency, though. Six, including Chandra, had been nominated
for the post, with Chandra receiving the highest number of
nominations even though he will not contest the seat. In the end,
though, the contest is expected to narrow down to two relative
The contest for the vice presidency and supreme council posts are
similarly expected to be hotly contested. Sixteen candidates have
been nominated for the three vice president posts while there are
103 nominations for the 20 supreme council seats.
Talk has been rife about the presence of factions within Keadilan -
of candidates linked to the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement
(ABIM), the movement Anwar led in the 1970s, trying to take over
key leadership positions. Others argue that factional alliances are
the norm in democratic party elections and the party could emerge
stronger after the elections.
Keadilan was formed to provide a political platform to the public
outrage and clamor for change that erupted after Anwar's ouster in
1998. It brought together a spectrum of groups and individuals:
ABIM members, non-governmental organization (NGO) activists,
members of the Jemaah Islah Malaysia (JIM - an Islamic reform
group), ex-members of the ruling-coalition parties - most of them
Malay, but also ethnic-Chinese and -Indian activists.
There are, however, two routes the party could take after this
weekend, and this is why the coming general assembly is going to
be so crucial.
The first path could see the party getting mired with factional
infighting and backstage power plays. The jostling for positions
could push debate and discussion of pressing political, social and
economic issues into the background. Electoral and realpolitik
considerations could stifle the idealism that surrounded the birth in
1999, jeopardizing the reform agenda that eventually found its way
into the opposition alliance's Common Manifesto. Shorn of its
non-Malay support, the party would eventually ally itself more
closely to PAS, resort to ethnic politics, and capitalize on Islamic
opposition to the ruling coalition.
The other route would be for the party to take a more principled
stand in restating and clarifying its position on the various pressing
issues of the day, including repugnant laws and the eroding
credibility of key institutions of government. It would attempt to flesh
out alternatives to the current stagnant political and economic
order, which has led to a mood of widespread pessimism. In
particular, Keadilan would clarify its stand toward both the ruling
UMNO party's claim that Malaysia is already an "Islamic country"
and PAS's goal of an Islamic state. In stating its stand, Keadilan
would also strengthen its commitment to ethical, multi-ethnic and
multireligious politics that would draw in a broad spectrum of groups
and individuals committed to such idealism in building a civil
society while engaging with political Islam.
If it takes the first route, Keadilan would become a reflection of
many of the ruling parties in Malaysia today and offer little
alternative to the Malaysian public. It would be just more of the
same old depressing politics, only with different players. In the end,
Keadilan would lose much of its dynamism and the goodwill it
enjoyed among significant sections of the Malaysian public.
If it takes the second path, though, and affirms idealism, justice and
ethical politics, Keadilan can then count on the support of many
Malaysians who feel that the country deserves better - in politics,
economics and in almost every aspect of their day-to-day lives.
That is why the coming assembly will be watched with keen interest
- to see whether the party has the gumption and the vision to rise
above selfish political considerations to chart a new course of
Malaysian politics based on principles and ethics, justice and good