Ak57\’s Weblog

Thoughts and opinions on Malaysian news, its people and its culture

Posts Tagged ‘Barisan Rakyat

The Barisan Rakyat Myth

Barisan Rakyat PosterWhen I first heard mention of the term Barisan Rakyat, I thought it sounded good. I guess you could translate it as People’s Front or People’s Coalition, but the inclusion of ‘People’ in the title is probably why I liked it more than Barisan Alternatif. The message of ‘Alternative’ just says, ‘we are different from those in power’ whereas ‘People’ says ‘we are of the people’. I like that.

After I read of the launch of the People’s Voice and People’s Declaration and saw the photos of the Opposition party members I misunderstood it to mean that they had endorsed Barisan Rakyat and adopted it as a term to describe an alliance of Opposition parties. How could I not misunderstand this statement by Haris Ibrahim?

To BN, let this photo represent the alliance between the Rakyat and Barisan Rakyat founded on an aspiration to restore good governance to our country and secure justice and equality for all.


– quoted from a post on People’s Parliament (link)

Contacts at PKR and DAP headquarters said I was wrong; the only alliance term used is Barisan Alternatif which only refers to PKR+PAS. A few individual candidates were using ‘Barisan Rakyat’ in reference to themselves only, without endorsement from their party headquarters. Lim Kit Siang even issued a statement saying ‘there is no such thing as Barisan Rakyat’ – I am glad he did so.

To be quite frank I got a bit annoyed with the writers at The People’s Parliament because they were helping to spread this misinterpretation. I looked through their postings for the past couple of months, and the usage of the term Barisan Rakyat by them indicates that it is in reference only to the Opposition parties and not themselves or the people.

The Real Meaning of Barisan Rakyat

At a dinner I attended last Saturday, Raja Petra gave a clear definition of Barisan Rakyat:

Barisan Rakyat is not a reference to an alliance between any of the political parties. It is a reference to us, the people, and our support for those parties.

This statement really helped relieve some of my frustration. Until he said that I had no idea that that was the meaning, because by this time bloggers, forum/blog commenter’s and even people on the street had adopted the term to be a reference to the Opposition parties.

The misunderstanding had spread too far – can you blame the people? Looking at the poster I can see both interpretations now:

  1. The people of Malaysia endorses these political parties
  2. These political parties are united together for the people of Malaysia

Combine that with the existing terms of Barisan Nasional and Barisan Alternatif as references to party coalitions and there seems to have been no way for the true meaning of Barisan Rakyat to spread.

I have a very low tolerance for lies so it galls me to hear statements like, “Barisan Rakyat has taken five state governments”, “I voted for Barisan Rakyat” or, “BR must stop fighting amongst themselves”. I have even heard some PKR people use the Barisan Rakyat term in reference to the unnamed alliance between the Opposition parties. They should know better.

SV Singam wrote a good post explaining who Barisan Rakyat is on the 14th of March (link). I figured the usage of the term on the site would change, though it has not and looks like it will continue to be used in reference to the political parties.

Closing Thoughts

I think my frustration will fade in time. The Opposition parties would benefit from a formal alliance, however DAP’s enmity towards PAS seems to be a permanent roadblock to that. Yet they have to work together in governing the states won, so in time I hope PAS lets go of its association with ambitions of setting up an Islamic State even at the risk of losing members.

If public opinion is that the alliance already exists and is called Barisan Rakyat, then the parties would have no choice but to adopt that as their name when they do officially form an alliance.

Barisan Rakyat would have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. A term coined to indicate the shared goals between the people and the political parties, bestowed upon them to show their unity. I end this article with a quote from Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda:

It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. What after all are a square and a circle? They are mere words and words can be moulded until they clothe ideas in disguise.

Written by ak57

March 22, 2008 at 2:22 am