Gerakan might as well close shop after 42 years of existence. Almost like Samy Vellu who has rejected the post of MIC adviser, former Gerakan president Lim Keng Yaik has quit as adviser. They are abandoning their sinking ships.
In reality, Gerakan lost its navigational bearings long before it struck an iceberg. Its idealistic multi-ethnic politics had long been subsumed under the racial politicking banner of the BN and Umno in particular. Self interest and jostling for the spoils of power and position assumed greater importance.
Gerakan needs to account for so many issues. Its failure to deal with Umno on an equal footing and to put property developers in their place looms large. Think of how the right to reclaim land in Penang was given to big developers in exchange for peanuts; examine the roots of the Buah Pala fiasco (carried through to its conclusion under the present administration); look at the grief surrounding the eviction of low-income communities from the inner city with the lifting of rent control, reflect on the general neglect of Penang.
And who can forget the monumental scandal over the PGCC/Penang Turf Club deals that sealed Gerakan/BN’s fate in Penang? I remember attending a meeting of activists with CM Koh Tsu Koon over PGCC during the last weeks of his administration when they tried to persuade him to put his foot down against the project. Instead, he acted like he was in the dark over the PGCC – like ‘buat don’t know‘ about the humongous scale of the project.
Gerakan’s lack of traffic planning, its failure to protect green spaces and vegetable farms (the loss of which has driven up food prices in the state), the polluted seas and dirty rivers, and the Komtar eyesore are testament to the party’s failure to practise sustainable development. Instead it made Penang heavily reliant on foreign investment-driven GDP growth – making us more vulnerable to global shocks. The prevention of mass unemployment and the provision of affordable housing in places like Seberang Jaya and Bayan Baru were a couple of its saving graces.
But looking back at the run-up to the 2008 general election, it is laughable to recall how the Gerakan folks were unable to see the earth opening up from under their feet. Imagine, they were arguing over who should be the next chief minister when the entire party was about to be dumped at the polls in Penang – the result of a wave of public anger and revulsion over failed leadership.
Now, as vultures circle overhead the writhing carcass in its throes that is Gerakan today, the ludicrous fighting over positions continues. But what are they fighting for, when the party is about to vanish into the mists of history? To use the sinking ship metaphor again, imagine the Titanic sinking and its officers still fighting to become captain as the ship takes in water! Like MCA, MIC, and of course Umno, Gerakan has shown that it is incapable of reforming itself. They have not learned a thing from the GE2008 debacle.
Which brings us to PKR. PKR, like Gerakan, was born in the idealism of multi-ethnic politics – in PKR’s case during the heady days of reformasi.
But since then, we have seen a string of PKR politicians betraying the aspirations of the rakyat by their katak politics, factionalism and ambition.
Some PKR leaders appear to behave more like ex-Umno/MCA/MIC politicians. But then again, that’s not surprising because many of them ARE former Umno/MCA/MIC politicians! In fact, PKR is in danger of becoming BN Lite.
Instead of serving the rakyat and struggling for social justice, human rights and democracy on the basis of people-centred policies, ambitious PKR politicians, sensing that the party could clinch federal power, are scrambling to climb the party hierarchy. Sadly, though, the party election campaign has been devoid of any serious debate on policy issues and ideology.
From what we see in PKR and Gerakan today, there is one thing we can learn. Never rely completely on politicians to see through our aspirations for a more socially just Malaysia. If we do leave it to the politicians, we are going to be seriously disappointed and disillusioned.
How many times we have heard this: in the next election we must go all out and vote and make a difference.
Big mistake. Why wait five years for the next election before you try and make a difference? We need to play our part through a constant participation in the larger democratic process. Make your voices heard – now. Do something – write, speak, campaign, castigate racist politicians, speak out against corruption, lobby for policy and legal reforms, join a voluntary or civil organisation, read, discuss, debate, reflect. Do it 365 days a year. Small ripples of change will gradually spread across the country.
Never rely 100 per cent on politicians and political parties, no matter how progressive they might seem – for their compromises, betrayals, and disgusting ambition will invariably disappoint us.
Think of the great women and men down the ages – how many of them were prime ministers and presidents? Not many, right? That’s because realpolitik and compromises left many promising political leaders neither here nor there; ultimately many of them grew beholden to powerful political and business interests rather than the people’s interests.
Before the elections, these politicians refer to themselves as Team Rakyat, Generasi Reformasi, and people-centric. After the elections, we shouldn’t be surprised if they evolve into Team Developer, Team Kroni, and Team Korporat. It is the rare minority who hold true to their early idealism and genuinely struggle for the people.
So let’s work together to bring about the change we desire.