By P Ramasamy
Future formation of multi-racial coalitions in Malaysia must avoid the costly mistake of including either ethnic or religious political parties.
To move beyond the Barisan Nasional formula means that an alternative coalition must embrace multi-racialism, where political parties will not be based on ethnicity or religion.
This was the cardinal mistake of the Pakatan Rakyat political parties. Inclusion of PAS was a grave mistake from the beginning.
It was only a matter of time before this Islamic party reared its ugly head, costing the rupture of the coalition.
BN is a consociational formula: one that is based on inter-ethnic elite cooperation and understanding; it is a coalition of ethnic political parties managed by Umno, the superordinate party that derives its sustenance by being the champion of Malays.
Although PR instituted the measure of a common framework for cooperation, this broke down because PAS had other objectives: the single-minded pursuit of an Islamic formula.
PAS agreed to the common framework in the beginning for opportunistic reasons. The minute it sought accommodation with Umno for the smooth passage of Hudud, the common framework was abandoned.
The real problem for the PR coalition was the inclusion of PAS, with its exclusionist Islamic policy driven by sectarianism of the worst kind.
The recent muktamar resolution to sever relationships with the DAP ended the short honeymoon of PAS in PR.
DAP and PKR, for all their limitations, genuinely got together to provide an alternative representation to Malaysians on the grounds of multi-racialism. Together, they wanted to create a new society that would provide hope and faith to Malaysians tired of racial and religious acrimony.
The break-up of PR is a sad reminder that a Malaysian society based on principles of democracy, justice and the rule of law cannot be built on the basis of religious or racial hegemony.
The only difference between PAS and Umno is that they want to create two different types of hegemonies. PAS wants an Islamic hegemony and Umno a Malay hegemony.
Under these visions, millions of Malaysian who are not Muslims or Malays have no place except in a secondary or slavish role.
Malaysia needs a different coalition formation. Both DAP and PKR are fully aware of the price that they have to pay in including racial and religious political parties.
If politics is the “art of possible”, then there are ways to move in a progressive direction.
P Ramasamy is a DAP member, state assemblyman for Prai and deputy chief minister II of Penang