Dr. Maszlee Malik
Mantan Menteri Pendidikan Malaysia | Ahli Parlimen Simpang Renggam

What PEJUANG is not?

“Life’s not about how you can hit… it’s about how hard you can get hit, and still keep moving forward.” Rocky Balboa

Phrases like, ‘the father-and-son party’, ‘losers’ party’, ‘splinter of a splinter party’, ‘aged Malay males party’, ‘just another Malay party’, ‘Pejuwang’, etc. are amongst names used to mock this new, yet to be registered party, founded (once again) by the two-time Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr Mahathir Muhammad (TDM).

After his failed attempt to bring an alternative Malay party through the establishment of Bersatu in 2016 (to replace the ‘corrupted to the core’ UMNO), TDM made the headlines again with the announcement of yet another party – this time as an alternative to both UMNO and Bersatu. To TDM, Bersatu had bee hijacked by the current PM, Tan Sri Muhyidin: the ‘Backdoor Government’ that was the result of the notorious Sheraton Move. Unless removed, the ‘Scheme of Things’ Government will forever trap Malays and Malaysian in the insidious trap of money politics and bad governance.

TDM believes that there must be an effort to stop the unhealthy practice of money politics – a practice that was supposed to meet its end when PH came into power (when it defeated UMNO and BN). However, the dream was shattered by the Sheraton Move.

The nefarious Sheraton Move heralded a return to the bad old ways. Bersatu had succumbed to its UMNO DNA and reverted to its UMNO roots. In effect, it became UMNO once again in everything but name. The new unnamed Government also saw TS Muhyidin eat humble pie and embrace, once again, Najib and his UMNO allies.

However, the main question remains, how will TDM ensure that this new (and still unregistered) party will not repeat the mistakes of UMNO, and especially that of  Bersatu?

Should any political analyst care to dissect the major failure of Bersatu, they will find that there are few major causes that caused it to implode and revert to its UMNO roots

The raison d’être of Bersatu – despite its commitment to its motto, Bersatu, Beramanah dan Berintegriti (unity, trustworthiness and integrity) – was that it was still based on the UMNO dogma: ‘the power concentration’ of Malay elites through patronage politics. Naturally this saw the  recycling of former UMNO leaders – who even though they disagreed with Najib – still carried the same spirit of elitism and patronage.

Most Heads of Division and opportunistitc business people within Bersatu then busied themselves with the quest for ‘peruntukan’ (allocations) to be given to the divisions, and contracts to be given to them by Bersatu in order to ‘strengthen’ the party and the grassroots. According to them, without the fund, grassroots, and especially the Heads of Divison, would suffocate. This story in not much different from the one told during its UMNO days.

Apart from that, the organizational structure of Bersatu – clearly represented in its constitution – reflected that of UMNO’s. Here, power was concentrated among the Heads of Divisions. Along with that came the power of the Heads of Divisions to choose the central leaders.

The politics of patronage of the elite to continued to flourish within Bersatu – ironically, the very same party that hoped to replace UMNO. This, of course, came with the attendant money politics that irreparably corrupted the politics of the Malays. To make matters worse, most of the Heads of Divisions, and the central leadership of Bersatu were former UMNO members.

With this explosive recipe, the return to the bad old days of UMNO was inevitable. This is evidenced by Bersatu leaders returning to their old UMNO ways in what is now known as Perikatan Nasional, and later in Muafakat Nasional.

What must Pejuang do to avoid this fiasco from occurring again? What must TDM – along with the founders of this party – do to set the right footing for this new party? What is the risk management plan so as to ensure that Pejuang will NOT become UMNO 3.0, or Bersatu 2.0?

First, Pejuang should make a radical paradigm shift in Malay politics. The former elite patronage-based politics, long practiced by UMNO (and later continued by Bersatu) should be replaced with ‘service-based politics’, or ‘acitivism-based politics’.

This new paradigm must make it clear to the Malays (since Pejuang is a Malay-based party to help the Malays) that politics is not a space for them to make their fortune, but rather, it is a place for them to serve the people, whether or not they are within the power structure.

For more than sixty years, the Malays have long been accustomed to the power-based politics of UMNO. This mentality has once again come to the fore, thanks to Muhyidin. Hence, the political psyche of the Malays is back to one where they must depend on those who are in power. Further, those in power, in turn, believe that they are the masters the people who must now depend on them in order to thrive.

The notion that politics is means for the political representative to facilitate the people’s welfare and interests does not exist in this paradigm, at least, not patently. The feeling that politicians are the servants who serve the rakyat is simply not there. This, naturally, has given rise to the snobbery we are seeing in leaders of UMNO, Bersatu, and of late, even PAS. Elitism and power over the people has blinded them from the Islamic concept of leaders as the servants of the people.

This is the gap that Pejuang must fill. If Pejuang continues to cultivate the politics of elite Malay patronage, it will seal its own fate: failure and doom will be a given.

But how will Pejuang embed this ‘politics of service’ and ‘politics of activism’ as its core value?

Pejuang must comprise of Malay representatives from all segments – representation that cuts across the socio-economic spectrum and rise above petty party politics. Recycling former UMNO and Bersatu faces is not the answer and will not bring Pejuang anywhere. By doing so it will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of UMNO and Bersatu.

Pejuang must be represented by Malay NGO leaders, activists, influencers, intellects, corporate leaders, small business representatives, professionals, educators, artists, sportsmen, unionists, workers activists and go beyond the old political status quo. Leaders elected must be those who are already working for the people even without the party. Their involvement in the party must not be for personal interest or positions. Their participation must be driven by the urge to strengthen their activism and to further their ideals.

They must NOT come to the party with the quest for personal benefit; they should join the party in order to enhance and strengthen the party with what they are already currently doing. These are people who will lose nothing without the party, but who will continue to contribute meaningfully by their affiliation to the party.

The question now is, is that even possible?

To this, I  boldly say, “Yes, it is!”

A paradigm shift in Malay politics is badly needed and should start somewhere. Pejuang is the the launching-pad for that change..

Instead of whining and groaning about their dissatisfaction or disappointment with politicians, Malays must now act on the realisation that the time has come to create meaningful and lasting change by becoming Pejuang members, and leaders.

It is time to take responsibility for our future. Malay politics is in dire need of change – change that will positively affect the entire landscape of the nation’s politics. Should Perikatan Nasional continue to shape the Malay politics, the nation will continue live by money politics, corruption and kleptocracy. And this, indeed, will be a sad state of affairs.

Equally, Pejuang must bring a much needed breath of fresh air to Malay politics – with a new and innovative approach.

Pejuang must position itself as a party of activists. It must be party that insists in serving the people, and not the other way around. Pejuang must shed itself of elites who think of themselves as those who know better than the people. Neither must it consist of people whose raison d’être in politics is to plunder people’s money through their positions and Government contracts. Instead, it must consist of those who are already striving for the people, especially those who are already helping poor and unfortunate Malays in whatever capacity they are in.

Pejuang must be very selective in accepting those who will lead the party – even in its infancy stage. The party must formulate a special mechanism that will filter out undesirables from joining its leadership structure. Pejuang must adopt the rigorous filtration process to ensure that only those who are suitably qualified and tested can reach the leadership rank.

Apart from that, leaders of Pejuang should represent their different niches so as the to serve different segments of the society. The nature of political discourse of the party should not revolve around the party election: the desire for a position as a Head of Division, or to be a member of Central Committee. Instead, it must focus on real solutions for real people – real solution for real Malay problems.

Members and leaders alike must be workers and activists who are willing to roll up their sleeves and dirty their hand so that they can benefit the people in real and meaningful ways. They must be the ones who are determined in promoting, propagating, or promulgating policies that significantly impact the people, especially the less-fortunate. They must be those who are active in Parliament, the DUNs, the media and all any available platform that champions the people’s interest.

Pejuang’s Central Committee must be relentless in its role as a shadow Cabinet. Each Pejuang leader monitor all the Ministries to ensure good governance, and to help formulate the best policies possible for the people. No less important is that Pejuang must be severe in its adherence to the very principle of its foundation: the promotion of clean politics, and zero tolerance for corruption and the abuse of power.

Pejuang must be a new disruptive force in the national politics, and more importantly, in Malay politics. Pejuang must bring about the end to the old elitist patronage-based Malay politics. It must herald the beginning of a new era: the era of progressive Malay politics that is based on service, activism and policy advocacy. In a nutshell, Pejuang must be a new hope for the nation, a new Malay-based political party who will fight for a better future for the nation and its people.

In addition, Pejuang’s organizational structure of must be totally different from that of UMNO’s and Bersatu’s. As mentioned earlier, the elitist patronage politics that eventually breeds money politics in Malay society is due to the organizational structure that allows power to be concentrated within the hands of the Heads of Divisions (mainly the warlords who lord over grassroot members).

In order to achieve its organisational goals, it is imperative that Pejuang adopts an organisational structure that rejects any semblance to that of UMNO’s or Bersatu’s.

The only difference between UMNO and Bersatu is that Bersatu allows the Division representatives (not the heads of divisions alone) to elect the Central Committee and its top leadership. However, the Heads of Divisions in both parties remain the driving force that determine the power structure and who controls the party.

This is what allows money, positions and contracts to be disbursed to the Heads of Divisions. This is also what determines that certain figures are elected to or remain in a leadership role. Money also been used for those heads to get to their position, with the hope that they will be chosen to be candidates in either the general or state elections, or to get those perks given by those who are aiming to be at the central leadership. This is why the money politics keeps flourishing in both UMNO and Bersatu. This best distilled by the infamous Najib Tun Razak’s mantra, “Cash is King”!

In order to avoid the same fate as Bersatu and UMNO, Pejuang must never emulate such an organizational structure. There must be no Divisions, and thus, no Heads of Divisions who will go on to be ‘warlords’ – pockets of self-serving power who determine the ultimate direction of the party notwithstanding that this will contravene its founding principles.

Instead, Pejuang grassroots chapters at the cawangan (branches) level must directly report to the State Committee whom they elected. In turn, and the State Committee will be report to the central leadership who will be elected based on the strength of their activism.

As mentioned earlier, the Central Committee must comprise of those who are represent their various niche areas and segments of the society. Only through this new paradigm shift will  Pejuang escape the abyss of patronage-based and money politics.

“No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.” Paulo Coelho

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Dr. Maszlee Malik adalah mantan Menteri Pendidikan Malaysia dan Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Pendidikan Pakatan Harapan.

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