By Sebastian Loh Xi Ving
Is it too much to ask for a competent opposition? Make no mistake, Pakatan politicians are no longer inexperienced newcomers to the sport. They’ve had plenty of time to resolve their differences and, to use common parlance, get their act together. So, why are they still throttling, knifing, and mauling each other in full view of the public?
The latest round of Pakatan’s interminable civil war erupted over whether PKR should cooperate with PAS. PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli, who strongly opposes the idea, called for a special party congress to settle the question for good. Far from an unreasonable proposal, to be sure. Nonetheless, tempers flared and metaphorical chairs started flying, dragging in characters from within and without the party. Here they go again.
PKR central leadership council member Latheefa Koya savaged Rafizi on Facebook (though she didn’t explicitly mention his name), deeming him as a “cancer” who is dividing the party. Without a hint of embarrassment, she even went as far as accusing him of being in league with Deputy PM Zahid Hamidi.
But it’s not clear that those in PKR who want talks with PAS are the only villains here.
Frustrations reached their fever pitch as no less than Ambiga Sreenevasan took to Twitter to slam PKR for “allowing their internal squabbles to drag them down.” The patron saint of Bersih earned a sharp rebuke from Rafizi, who described her remarks as “unfair, biased and misinformed.” (Facing an angry backlash from activists, Rafizi later attempted to clarify what he meant in an opinion piece, but did not retreat significantly from his earlier comments.)
It’s bad enough if this churlishness was restricted to PKR alone, but it seems to be a defining feature of Pakatan as a whole. Tebing Tinggi DAP assemblyperson Ong Boon Piow took it to a whole new level when he unfriended two of PKR’s vice-presidents on Facebook.
According to Malaysiakini, Ong wanted to cull “double-faced leaders” from his friends list, referring to PKR leaders perceived as supporting engagement with PAS. To call this childish would be immensely charitable.
Pakatan has long been able to get away with these petty feuds and antics because of voter anger against Barisan. But the oft-repeated argument that Pakatan is consumed with infighting because Pakatan is democratic has grown insufferably tiresome. It’s stupid, it’s lazy, and it encourages more bad behavior.
Democracy isn’t an excuse for dysfunction, just as much as owning a restaurant isn’t license for inflicting food poisoning. It’s an easy enough concept to grasp. Chaos isn’t democracy. Chaos is chaos. Heated arguments, vicious accusations, and repeated break-ups aren’t hallmarks of a promising relationship. They’re unmistakable signs that you should bail on that relationship.
I know. You, the tortured spouse and voter, had hoped that Pakatan would change someday. In other words, you hoped for a miracle. Sadly, Pakatan’s one constant has always been internal strife. Always. Through the years, its leaders have made alliances, broken off alliances, and embraced former enemies. But inevitably and predictably, they turn on each other – see the Kajang move, their fight over hudud, and now the current fracas.
It’s time to accept that the miracle will never come. Next to Pakatan, Barisan looks like a shining model of self-restraint and maturity. Markets and investors, you’d be surprised to discover, prefer that. So much for Pakatan’s already scarce credibility on economic issues.
That being said, even Barisan supporters would agree that Malaysia deserves a competent opposition force. So, it’s a shame that what we have instead is a long-running, kindergarten-level re-enactment of Big Brother and Survivor. Pakatan politicians – perpetually stuck in melodramatic toddler mode – can’t change this country because they can’t even change themselves.
Sebastian Loh Xi Ving is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.