On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Time to explain policies in the open

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
nightly ceramah.

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
function decently.

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
its statements.

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
and aspirations.

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
majority  votes.

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.