Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A victory for all

Oh, how sweet it is to be proven wrong!

Abdullah Junid Malaysiakini Mar 10, 08 6:18pm


Syabas
, Malaysia! I've never been prouder to call myself a Malaysian than I am today. This is a win for the people of Malaysia more than anything else.

Like so many others, my heart wished for this result, but my head said the deep-seated fears and mutual suspicions nurtured by the Barisan Nasional and its predecessor would once again create second thoughts among most voters on the journey between their homes and the polling booths.

Oh, how sweet it is to be proven wrong! How sweet to show the world that we as a people have a backbone and we have a real democracy.

This is also a win above all else for Anwar Ibrahim. The journey from being a beaten - literally and figuratively - wheelchair-bound figure to becoming the de facto leader of this group of gutsy people who have shaken the previously unshakeable BN machine to the core is nothing short of remarkable, the stuff legends are made off.

As some would say, the man can take a licking - but he keeps on ticking!

It was Anwar's clarion call of teformasi, defiantly and in the face of a dictator who would stoop to anything to retain power, in the 1990s that triggered everything that has eventually resulted in this triumph. Anwar irrelevant? The BN folk should practise their stand-up comedy skills!

Kudos too to Lim Kit Siang and his merry band of DAP-per brothers and sisters. Kit - who should have been made a Tun a long time ago - has toiled on the thankless opposition bench for decades. A lesser man would have packed it in a long time ago, but his fire burns as bright as ever.

There's just one more reward left for Kit - to see him as a member of the cabinet. That looks like a real possibility on this historic day, though he'll have to hang around until the next election for that to happen. Heck, after 30 or so years, what's another four or five?

A shout out too to other opposition stalwarts such as Karpal Singh and Tan Seng Giaw, Kit's equally determined and long-suffering brothers-in-arms.

A word too for PAS. They kept their end of the bargain - trouncing the BN in Kelantan and put up a strong fight in Terengganu - as well as leading the charge and winning in Kedah, and denying the BN valuable seats elsewhere in the country.

But most of all, this one is for the scores of thousands who took to the streets for Bersih and Hindraf. They showed that there is really no reason to fear anything. They led the way in this brave attempt by Malaysians to take back their country.

When a massive structure has been in place for decades, it cannot - and frankly should not - be brought down in one attempt. The nuts and bolts holding things in place are deeply embedded, and the first order of business is to remove the outer shell first.

The BN's outer shell has been removed. Now, the opposition parties have to start working on infiltrating the core. And if you really examine today's results, the BN core may not be too formidable at all.

More than 50 of the BN's 135-odd seats came from East Malaysia. In fact, these are the seats that the ruling coalition relied on to retain power. The opposition parties must now focus their efforts on making major inroads into Sabah and Sarawak.

In West Malaysia, it is Johor and Pahang that have provided the firewall for the BN. And these are the states the opposition needs to start working on earnestly. Take away these four big states in East and West Malaysia, and suddenly the BN is a pretty spent force.

But the opposition parties too need to be careful and deliberate in the way they move forward. This win will mean nothing four years down the road if they don't do things carefully.

One of the most important things to remember will be that the foundation of this nation remains the Malays and Malay culture. As go the Malays, so goes the nation. It is important that this fact is remembered and always kept in mind when the three opposition parties negotiate their way forward from here.

It is particularly important that the DAP should reassure the Malays that they are not just a Chinese party at heart. And it is not just words that will do the trick. Deeds are important.

The state that all eyes will be on is probably going to be Perak. Kedah and Kelantan will naturally have Malay first ministers, while Penang naturally lends itself to a Chinese No 1. But Perak is a trickier proposition, and it would be advisable for the DAP, despite winning the most state seats, to make way for a Malay menteri besar, preferably from the PKR.

Also tricky, if only for symbolic reasons, is the post of opposition leader. Since PKR won the largest number of seats, they have a claim to appoint the opposition leader. But here again, magnanimity and the spirit of ‘Malaysianess’, I suggest that the PKR should step aside and support Kit to continue as the opposition leader. Any other choice will come across as being distasteful and lacking class.

Finally, a word for Umno. It would be foolish to write them off as a spent force. They'll still be running this country, and if they are smart enough, they'll retool, haul themselves into the 21st century and remain a potent force.

If they don't resort to any hanky-panky in the coming days, they'll deserve praise for respecting the country's democratic system despite all the ills that have diseased this grand old party.

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