For many Malays, Keadilan was a vehicle for them to pursue their challenge against the Barisan Nasional,
To the Chinese and Indians, it was an
additional choice, if they had no
allegiance to the DAP.
Combining its strength with PAS, PRM and
DAP, Keadilan seemed to be an attractive
party of the future.
To the middle class non-Malays, Keadilan
deputy president Dr Chandra Muzaffar was
a respectable figure who had been consistent on politics of
But the statement by Keadilan Youth
vice-chairman Mustapha Kamil Ayub last
week must be disturbing to many.
At a ceramah in Johor, Mustapha
announced that the opposition front
would field only Malay candidates
in the 155 Malay-majority parliamentary seats.
It is uncertain whether Mustapha was
playing to the gallery of mainly Malays, or whether it was merely his personal
The impression given so far has been
that PAS will contest in Malay-majority areas and Keadilan in the racially-mixed areas.
The DAP will contest in about 25 Chinese
majority areas. Certainly, the DAP does
not have that many Malay
The announcement is disturbing because
Mustapha seems to have ignored the
concept of power sharing among the various races.
Although the Barisan Nasional is made up
of 14 component parties, including
communal-based parties such as Umno, MCA
and MIC, the coalition has been imbued
with an overall sense of responsibility
towards Malaysians of all races.
Umno, for example, has proven itself to
be moderate by allowing non-Malays to
contest in Malay majority parliamentary constituencies.
In Kelantan, the Barisan allowed MCA
candidate Leong Sue Siang to contest in
Kota Lama, a state constituency with more than 58% Malay voters.
In Perlis, MCA's Loh Yoon Foo contested
and won the Titi Tinggi state seat with
a 72.7% Malay electorate.
Another MCA candidate, Wong Foon Meng,
won the Bandar state seat in Terengganu
which had a 60.5% Malay
There are many such cases involving parliamentary seats as well where non-Malay candidates are fielded, where Umno could have won easily.
The Umno leadership has refused to give in to pressures from ambitious grassroots leaders in many cases.
Mustapha's communal appeal should be
rejected by all moderate Malays because
if Malays rise to such extremism, the
participation of non-Malays in
government could be wiped out.
The Indians, for example, would have no
place to contest because there are no
Indian-majority parliamentary constituencies.
If race is a criterion, then Indians should get 20 of the 192 parliamentary
The reality is that there is not a
single Indian-majority constituency, but the MIC was allocated seven
seats in Malay-majority areas through
the generosity of Umno.
If Keadilan wants to be a viable
alternative to the Barisan, it must
be prepared to field non-Malays in
Malay-majority areas, held by the
MCA, MIC or Gerakan.
Being accommodating and moderate is part of multi-racial politics.
Racial populist support is not good governance
and is certainly not a component of a
The communal stance taken by some
Keadilan and PAS leaders, of late,
appears to be a result of these parties
giving up their hope of winning mass non-Malay suppprt.
Thus, there was a statement by a PAS
leader recently that Malays must reject
Barisan because the Barisan has only one
Malay party against 13 non-Malay
Keadilan has good potential. It must not
ignore long-term political struggles for
narrow political wins as this will
tarnish its image.
Its line-up of non-Malay leaders should
not be mere tokenism as some of them,
particularly those involved in
non-governmental organisations, have had a good record of being non-communal.
Keadilan's present lack of direction is a result of a mixed bag of leaders with different dreams and different goals.
The only thing they have in common is their hatred of Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
It is thus prepared to work with the
orthodox PAS which is, at least, clear
with what it has to offer to
Malaysians it wants to set up
an Islamic state and take over the prime ministership as well.
The DAP is caught in a tight spot. It
has to work with other opposition
parties but is quite uncertain of the
mood of the Chinese, its core support.
It has thus taken a gamble.
The Chinese community remains highly
suspicious of PAS. Kelantan Mentri Besar
Datuk Abdul Nik Aziz Nik Mat's recent
emphasis that ulamas are the best people to run Malaysia isn't going to help
Multi-racial politics has always been
complicated. A multi-racial party is not
guaranteed that it will have
There are parties that allow all ethnic
groups to be members but because they
are dominated by one racial group, they
tend to champion only the interest of
the dominant race in the party.
The Barisan, while represented by some
communalparties, has been able to stay
above racial grounds.
It is, perhaps, easier and politically correct for MCA leaders, for example, to talk about Chinese schools and culture.
Similarly it would be more pleasant for Umno to take the lead in a discussion on loafing Malay youths.
Conventional wisdom, which takes into
account political, cultural and social sensitivities, has enabled the Barisan
component parties to function effectively.
Leaders should realise that an effective government, whether at state or federal level, should have elected representatives from all races.
It would be disastrous for any ethnic
group to be left out of government.
Politicians must never forget that it is
easy to be leader of a particular race but difficult to be leader of all
The test in the coming elections will be
whether Keadilan or PAS is prepared to
field non-Malays in Malay-majority areas
in Kelantan, Terengganu and