Parti Keadilan Nasional was formed in April 1999 following Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s removal as Deputy Prime Minister. Despite taking away more than half of Umno’s Malay base as evident in the 1999 election results, Anwar dedicated his struggle to not be based along the racial lines.
PKN then merged with Parti Rakyat Malaysia , a party advocating socialism, in August 2003, forming what we know today as Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party).
The President’s address and unveiling of party leadership at the launch said it was shifting to New Politics, stating social justice for all and acceptance of non-Malays would be given exceptional emphasis.
What seemed to penetrate ordinary citizens back then was the paradigm shift to New Politics- a struggle based on needs, instead of policies based on race.
People then were simply sick of race based politics.
PKR then merged with other opposition parties to form Barisan Alternatif to contest in the 1999 and 2004 elections, which then laid the framework for the birth of Pakatan Rakyat in 2008. Its allies included the Democratic Action Party, which was a majority Chinese party.
Today, 17 years down the road, the idea of another “anti-UMNO” party led by another former UMNO strongman is on the cards again. This time, it is led by Anwar’s long-time nemesis, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
On the contrary however, Mahathir’s new party today does not seem to fit anything close to the direction of New Politics. The announcement of the “first seven members” of all who are Malays, seems to pave way for a new race based party. In an interview, former Umno rebel Ainina Saaduddin too, mentioned that the focus was on Bumiputras.
What? Again? Do we really need another race-based party?
Some say yes, because of the need to penetrate the rural Malay base of voters. While there is little truth to that, it must be remembered that this will be a short term solution to a long term problem.
Secondly, the new party does not have any policies for Malaysians and is only keen on removing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Should not it be named “Parti Melayu Lawan Najib”?
What are its policies and struggles? Apart from removing Najib, what are the fundamental problems it seeks to fix?
Are there efforts on electoral reforms? Is decentralisation of Prime Ministerial powers on the table? Will they push for checks and balances? Are they keen on resurrecting the independence of the judiciary? What are the initiatives to nurture women and youths in politics? Or maybe, removing Najib is the sole end game.
Thirdly, mixed messages have been sent out by the new party’s leaders. Former DPM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin last week said that he wants to defeat Umno, but at the same time if we recall, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir announced at the launch of the Citizens Declaration said that he wants to maintain BN. Has Mukhriz’s stand changed since he was sacked?
Post Pakatan Rakyat era, many have come to a realisation that the only way to outgun Umno is through a united opposition force. As such, many are concerned over the need of a new party.
Some say the exiled Umno leaders should join any existing political parties, for fear of further disenfranchising the opposition votes. Some are also worried the exiled Umno warlords are insincere.
It is no surprise this new coalition is receiving a lot of backlash. It is hard for opposition supporters and activists, fence-sitters and the public to accept Mahathir, due to his past sins. It makes it even harder for the people to accept Mahathir’s race politics, knowing very well that much of the mess in the present race-based politics today is because of him.
Whilst some welcome Mahathir’s new party on the basis of desperation, many are cautious so as to not escape a lion only to be eaten up by a crocodile.
Anwar faced the same skepticism when PKR was born. In fact, with Anwar’s influence over the Malays back in 1998, he could have simply formed a new Malay based party to maintain power. Perhaps it would have eased his path for Prime Ministership.
Mahathir will be remembered for creating two Umnos. One is Umno Baru following the crisis in 1988, and now an UmnoTerbaru. He might even be the first person to hold two membership number 0001 in two political parties.
We have to now ask ourselves: Is there a need for Umno Terbaru?
Adrian Lim Chee En