The former PAS Youth executive secretary stood for the Bandar Tun Razak parliamentary seat in the 1995 general election as a PAS candidate but
pulled out at the last minute.
Three years later, he emerged as a
leader of the reformasi movement. Before Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's arrest, he was also seen openly at Anwar's house coordinating the
Last week, he announced plans to
register the movement as a political party.
Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has thrown a challenge to the movement, saying it should test its strength in the elections. The movement was told that it should get into the arena if it wanted a change in leadership.
But Malek has now said that it needed to
re-think its decision to form a
political party, and the movement had to
strategise carefully before making any legal decision.
The entry of “Parti Reformasi'' will be
another alternative for the electorate.
It might even expand should it decide to
forge alliances with other
It makes sense for reformasi supporters to seek registration either as a non-government organisation or
political party for the movement to be legally recognised.
Beyond allowing their registration, the Government should provide space for the
group to explain its policies and
programmes to the public.
They should have avenues to give their
side of the story if democracy is to
Permits to hold ceramahs in enclosed premises should be given, if security conditions are fulfilled.
As a legitimate body, it should also be
allowed to print and distribute leaflets bearing its symbol. By doing so, it would be held accountable for
It will have to face the legal consequences for any unsubstantiated accusations.
Should it decide to go ahead with its
plan to form a political party,
Malaysians would be able to know
its objectives clearer.
The movement would have to reveal its membership structure, party constitution
We will then know whether it intends to be Malay-based, like Umno or the now-defunct Parti Melayu Semangat 46, or whether it will open its doors to all races.
Malaysians will have a clearer idea on
whether it intends to work with PAS and
DAP, as Semangat had tried through
Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah and Gagasan Rakyat.
Reformasi leaders would have to explain
how they intend to distribute wealth fairly, as they have said so in many of its ceramahs, and their stand on the New Economic Policy.
More importantly, Malaysians would be
interested to know how the movement
intends to take them out of the economic
As it is now, the movement merely advocates vague ideals of social justice and its opposition to security
That aside, we do not know what it
intends to name itself permanently although the word reformasi is synonymous with the movement now. While it is easily identifiable, many Malaysians tend to draw parallels rightly or wrongly with
the violent reformasi movement in
The street demonstrations in Kuala
Lumpur, which turned ugly a few times,
have not helped the movement.
By adopting a Malaysian name, the group
would be seen to be “home grown.''
Also, it will not invite accusations that it enjoys the support or assistance of foreigners.
While it hopes to seek foreign support
to pressure the Malaysian Government,
such a strategy is bound to elicit
misgivings. Endorsement by any foreign leader
would surely backfire.
Despite the movement's distrust of the
local media, it cannot rely entirely on
the foreign media for its election
Opposition parties like PAS and DAP have
boycotted newspapers some time or other,
but they have had to turn to the local
press in the end.
The bad blood is sometimes unnecessary. Newspapers are still the strongest medium of communication, even when
parties rely on the Internet, cassettes,
video tapes and ceramahs to reach out to
PAS and DAP have never failed to invite
the local press to their functions as
they are aware of the need to maintain a
relationship with the media.
It will be interesting to see whether
Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will
be the de facto leader of “Parti
No serious politician should write off
this possible new party. We cannot
discount the charisma of Anwar as a pull
factor, even if he is behind bars. In
the past, detained DAP leaders have
contested in elections and won with
Should Dr Azizah lead the party, there
will bound to be sympathy votes. The
plus side is that she will certainly
give the movement a gentler image.
As an opposition party, there will be
certain limits but so far the movement
appears well-organised and
Once the movement is registered, the position of NGOs will also be clearer. They have, on paper,
disassociated themselves from the
reformasi movement but their support is
an open secret.
It is a perplexing stand. If NGOs support
the ideals of the movement, they should say so; there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Malaysians need not be conformists. We should be allowed to have a second or third opinion.
Democracy is about choices and it is for
politicians to explain in clear terms
how they can effectively lead us into the next century.