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Gerakan For The Future

On 20th June 2008, Koh Tsu Koon gave a public talk in Bandar Utama on Gerakan as it stands today and what lies ahead for its future. I attended the talk and was glad to see that turnout was good – well over a hundred people, compared to the dozen that was at the last Gerakan talk I attended. I even managed to bump into some Kayu Ara and Bandar Utama friends 🙂

He began the talk by with a historical briefing on Gerakan:

  • How its founding members were composed of liberals, socialists, intellectuals, unionists and professionals dedicated to non-racial, democratic socialist ideals.
  • Summary of achievements by Gerakan since 1968.
  • That their height was in 2004 with 10 MPs and 30 ADUNs
  • That their lowest point was in 2008 with 2 MPs and 4 ADUNs
  • A chart depicting the evolution of multi-party coalitions – Gagasan Rakyat (1990), Barisan Alternatif (1999), Pakatan Rakyat (2008). There has been significant challenges by the opposition every 9 years.

Summary of the speech

In the 2008 elections, we have seen a shift in politics. It is less about race and more about issues. The approach in campaigning has also moved from racial to non-racial. Yet the challenge of religion in politics remains. Should Islam as a way of life play the greater role, or Secularity (Civil and Common Law)? Many people today still misunderstand the meaning of secular, the common interpretation is that it does not take religion into account, pushing its role out completely.

If we look at the existence of Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) today, you can see the pattern of Narrow Nationalism and Religious Extremism.

Narrow Nationalism is in reference to the culture of Malay supremacy, yet at the same time Indians and Chinese practice it as well when referring to their own racial history, ‘which is superior to the Malay culture that is still very young’. We are all guilty of this practice.

Religious Extremism is in reference to the establishment of a theocratic state. This will always be an issue of contention between DAP & PKR versus PAS.

When I was younger I had suggested that all the component parties of BN merge into one party. However this idea was met with resistance as the problem of ‘who will lead’ arose. I believe PR will not merge for the same reason.

Let us take a pessimist view of Gerakan today – we have no government posts or awards. Yet in past years PAS, DAP and PKR lost big yet this time they were able to bounce back.

The fact is we should be optimistic, we can still fight!

  1. We have a good track record and experience in government.
  2. We have goodwill, a reputation of being clean and efficient though we are also seen as timid and weak as we do not speak up in the House
  3. Our ideology is more relevant now
  4. Our organisation network is strong
  5. We have a good number of premises for our own use

Reform of Gerakan : Back to Basics

We need to be more people and policy oriented while sustaining programs. We must be an articulate party wiling to take stands on issues. We need to instil more idealism in our members, for we have too pragmatic. We must not stop working on our organisation and leadership, and enhancing our relationship with NGOs. We must recruit more members!

Gerakan’s role today is to be the voice of the people, serve the people, push for effective reform in BN and act as an effective Opposition in the PR states.

Reform of BN

BN has drifted away from its original aims. Since the mid-80s UMNO has been too dominant, and meetings between the component parties have been rare.

I hold here in my hand now a copy of the BN Constitution, which is old and yellowed with age. It has been forgotten by our leaders! At least we have a Constitution, unlike PR which is neither registered or possessing a Constitution.

The reform of BN depends on UMNO changing. Their inertia (momentum) from the past makes it difficult to change. Fortunately they are neither monolithic nor static. They are nationalists but with a wide political spectrum of ultras, conservatives, liberals and progressives. UMNO is also becoming multi-ethnic due to Sabah and Sarawak members (Iban, Kadazan, etc.), Siamese Kedahans and Portuguese Malaccans.

Reform of Government in Progress

The government has already started making reforms, which is a good sign of change by BN. There are judiciary reforms underway, a move towards making the ACA truly independent, amendments to the ISA and greater media freedom.

Party Hopping

BN should not fear competition, especially in the Perak government where the difference in the number of seats held by PR and BN is small. We should let Perak succeed or fail on their own without trying to get their members to ‘hop’ to our side. I find party hopping to be immoral, as it generates bad blood among the voters. We should wait for the next election.

Conclusion

Gerakan has a future, and we are climbing back. This is the time where we distinguish the men from the boys!

(Koh Tsu Koon concluded his presentation and opened the floor to the audience)

Francis Yeoh (Blogger/ NGO Activist / New Gerakan Member)

Gerakan needs to take steps to revitalise:

  1. We should have a publicity blitz, too few people know about our activities
  2. We need to be more vocal and speak up on issues
  3. We should continue working with NGOs

PR has no clue on how to govern the states – PR stands for Pakatan Rhetoric! 20 cm3 of water is a joke, it only saves RM6!

Gerakan should increase its racial mix:

  1. Invite Zaid Ibrahim to be President
  2. Invite Marina Mahathir to be Ketua Wanita
  3. Ask MCA to merge with us (Koh Tsu Koon joked at this point that MIC would be better, as Gerakan has mostly Chinese members)

We should be more active in Sabah, where their multi-racial mix makes Gerakan a suitable choice for them.

Raj

Q: What is your opinion on Gerakan leaders in Penang and Federal Territory leaving to serve the PR government?

Koh Tsu Koon: There are bound to be people who do that. Maybe they are too used to being in government. We should play our role as Opposition. In the past when PAS offered DAP members municipal councillor posts, which were accepted, those DAP members were forced to resign. DAP called it immoral.

Puchong Gerakan Member

Q: What is Gerakan’s secret weapon? How can we reform the country, not the party?

Koh Tsu Koon: There is no shortage of plans or agenda, e.g. the Vision 2020 document. People change but the concept should be the guideline. We have a global vision but need local action, from Resident’s Associations for example.

Many good strategies have been shot down by people with private financial agenda. (Francis Yeoh interjected at this point to say he will join Gerakan to support Yong Dai Ying). Non-racial means we don’t purposely recruit non-Chinese just to meet some ‘quota’.

Felix

Q: The problem I see is that the component parties of BN have allowed UMNO to reach supremacy. The system is such that whoever is president of UMNO becomes the PM, but right now there is no capable replacement. Component parties should stand up and block incapable leaders from becoming PM, after all the Constitution does not say that the PM must be from UMNO!

Koh Tsu Koon: Because UMNO is the biggest party, their President is the one who has the most experience running a large organisation. Also, our Constitution specifies that the PM must be a Bumiputera, and you will be hard-pressed to find a senior, experienced member in the other parties which are much smaller organisations than UMNO.

Audience member

Q: What are your views on party-hopping and recent remarks by Yong Teck Lee?

Koh Tsu Koon: Yong should have taken the challenge to solve immigration problems in Sabah, not support the Opposition. Would any of you agree if BN pulled 3 PR ADUNs in Perak to seize control of Perak? If no, then why is it ok to pull 40 from Sabah to seize control of the Federal Government? This active courting of politicians to jump merely causes instability.

Yong Teck Lee’s move for a vote of no-confidence in the PM is wrong, because it creates uncertainty and anxiety among the people. The BN Supreme Council will meet to decide what to do, because we treasure our component parties and give opportunity for them to reconsider.

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Written by ak57

July 25, 2008 at 11:32 pm

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