On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Judge politicians with a level head

There is now co-operation 
among the opposition parties and 
some non-governmental organisations.

Still, the DAP has come out  openly to
declare its objection to  the setting up
of an Islamic state  as advocated by

Both parties have ruled out an  electoral
pact in the next general  election
because of their differences.

But in the same breath, the two  parties
have also said they will  work together
on other issues.

For strategic purposes, it  makes sense
for both parties to  work together to
fight the Barisan.

Besides projecting a united opposition front, 
their emphasis on  common issues
will provide a  sharper focus to their
campaign,  thus generating greater

The two parties have also tied  up with
Adil, the movement led  by Datin Seri Dr
Wan Azizah  Wan Ismail.

It will come as no surprise if  DAP, PAS
and Adil also join  hands with the
yet-to-be-registered HAK, initiated by allies of  Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The tie-up is pretty clear as  Adil is
open to all races while  HAK is only for
Muslims, with  non-Muslims as associate

Associate members have no  right to vote
or to hold positions,  thus their
presence will provide  them with almost
no clout.

There is also the Parti Rakyat  Malaysia,
which has failed in every election, in the loose coalition.

The combination of DAP, PAS  and HAK may
seem to be a  strange brew but its impact
can  be strong.

The strategy appears quite  simple. PAS
hopes to get the non Muslim votes and the DAP the  Muslim votes.

PAS, PRM and HAK are banking on the Anwar issue to score  while DAP hopes to exploit the  imprisonment of Kota Melaka  MP Lim Guan Eng.

But at the end of the day, the  biggest
beneficiary may well be  PAS  which has cleverly taken off  its Islamic cloak to put up its reformasi

Instead of talking about hudud  laws and
Islamic state, it is temporarily stressing democracy  and human rights.

Democracy and human rights,  after all,
have a more universal  appeal
acceptable  even by the  yuppies with their liberal political

Forget about HAK or DAP, the  only party
which can do serious  damage to Barisan
is PAS, and  the fight in the rural
heartland  may be more intense.

For the electorate, it is not just  a
question of Umno versus PAS.  It is also
more than just about  democracy and
justice but a  question of the kind of
political  system that we,
Malaysians,  want to live in.

Can moderate Malaysians accept the kind of self-styled, self righteous moral
practices advocated by PAS leaders in multi-religious plural Malaysia?

It is highly unlikely that liberals will accept the dogmatic  changes in Kelantan under the  PAS administration unless we  accept segregation of sexes in  supermarket queues, lights-on in  cinemas and even dikir barat  ban, among other religious-moral moves.

The present system of government, with all its flaws, is still  the best kind of system.

Malaysians may vote against  the
government for what they  perceive to be
injustices inflicted on individuals but they must  never dismantle the very parliamentary system
which allows  them to vote.

Our constitutional and legal  rights need
to be strengthened,  not eroded. We have
a right to  know what kind of positive
political and economic changes our 
politicians can bring us.

Transparency is not just confined to the government. We  have a right to information from  opposition parties too.

Integrity and credibility are  also
something we expect from  politicians,
opposition or otherwise.

Malaysians cannot put their  future at
stake on some vague  promises made by

It is not the time to experiment. We all deserve to know exactly what our
politicians want  to do to put Malaysia
back on  track economically.

By that, we mean politicians  with
impeccabble experience in  modern
management, economics  and administration
that will  bring us into the next
century  competently and

We should also ask whether  the next
federal government can  last or will
collapse within  months after winning
because  the coalition partners have
stark  differences.

We must never lose sight of  our
direction, that is to create a  mature,
fully developed, liberal  and tolerant
society in which the  ethnic, political
and civil rights  of all Malaysians have
a place.

Any attempt, whether subtle  or
otherwise, to set apart and  separate our
present system of  parliamentary
democracy will  be a grave mistake.

It is always easy in a politically charged atmosphere to cast a  protest vote but Malaysians  must ask whether it will threaten  the existing political and economic

We must never sacrifice our  spirit of
tolerance and goodwill  and must reject
any form of intolerance. Moderation, in demands and speech, is the key to  success for Malaysia.

We can talk about the right to 
demonstrate as a form of freedom of expression but we only  need to look at our neighbour to  understand the kind of mess  they have got themselves into.

Beginning from now until the  elections,
politicians will promise anything but from now, we  must assess their pledges with a  level head.

Many of us pride ourselves on  being
educated and able to think  but at times,
we let our heart  rule our head.