The first controversy was Nik Aziz's directive to state government officers
not to employ beautiful women, lest their beauty affect the productivity of
their male colleagues.
Second, the Islamic party is still
adamant that women should not
contest the general election under
the party banner, purportedly to
protect their safety and dignity.
Nik Aziz subsequently backtracked on this, following an outcry, and said no
decision had been made yet on whether
his party would field women candidates
in the coming general election.
The two activists, who now belong to two political parties in the opposition front, have found that it was not politically correct to criticise an
Never mind if deep in their hearts these
once-respected activists are outraged at Nik Aziz's stand but political expediency must come first.
The original struggles and principles have given way to narrow political agenda, allowing beliefs to be compromised as a result.
Over the past one year, Malaysians must have noticed how NGO leaders have given up their rights of expression after joining the reformasi
Instead of strengthening democracy through their articulation and action as educators, they have become
Although many of these NGO leaders were
anti-establishment in the past, they
had, at least, spoken up against issues
raised by the Opposition if they felt strongly about them.
Presenting their views through
non-communal perspectives, they
had won the admiration of many
Whether it is about environment or women
issues, these NGO leaders had helped to educate the Malaysian public.
Their intellectual views contributed to the move towards creating a civil society where there is wider people participation in governance.
Many of these activists, who are
university lecturers, presented
their arguments with well-researched material and information, proving
they were a class above the politicians
who depended much on their rhethoric skills.
The mushrooming of NGOs over the last
decade was a result of rising political consciousness and the willingness of the Mahathir administration to
allow greater dissent.
But there is a disturbing trend lately.
Many of these advocates of human rights
seem ready to forego their principles to
achieve their political ambitions.
Without being partisan to party
politics, they should by right be
able to probe and evaluate social
questions with an open mind.
Their participation in opposition
politics have, however, caused
them to lose all that objectivity and
Even the statement by PAS president Datuk Fadzil Noor, to close down pro-government media if the party comes to power, has not met with NGO response.
At least DAP leaders like national party chairman Dr Chen Man Hin and Wanita chief Dr Onn Hong Geok have put their stand on record.
There are other muted response to issues
such as PAS' attempts to table a private
member's Bill on death for apostasy and
the setting up of an Islamic state.
Earlier this year, PAS deputy president
Abdul Hadi Awang said PAS would
close down the Kuala Lumpur Stock
Exchange if it formed the next Federal Government.
PAS is also adopting a more communal approach in many issues, judging from recent reports in the party organ, Harakah.
On one of its front-page reports, the
party accused Prime Minister Datuk Seri
Dr Mahathir Mohamad of insulting the
In another report, new PAS member Datuk
Kamaruddin Jaafar called for support of PAS because “there is only one
Malay party in Barisan Nasional against 13 other non-Malay component parties.''
The implication here is the opposition pact has three predominantly-Malay
parties PAS, Parti Keadilan Nasional and Parti Rakyat
Malaysia against the DAP, a Chinese-majority party.
The use of such communal approaches does not augur well for Malaysians.
PAS appears to have given up on
non-Malay support, in making such
advances, but it must understand
that democracy isn't just about
The bigger stake is the stability of
this multi-racial and multi-religious country, which PAS seems to have difficulty grappling with.
Our NGO leaders must continue with their
advocacy of a wide range of issues
affecting Malaysians. They must continue to demand for public accountability
and more freedom of expression.
It is the job of NGO leaders to make
sure that powerful politicians do not trample on our rights, irrespective of the politicians' ideologies.
But we have reached a point where the
positive efforts of the Government are
ignored and even challenged while NGO
leaders keep silent on the wrong-doings
of the Opposition.
Their recent practice of selective concerns must be questioned by right-thinking Malaysians.
However, it is interesting to note that
for the first time many NGO leaders are
expected to test their popularity by
stepping into the election arena.
For a long time, these leaders have
claimed to represent the people though they serve in organisations with only a
handful of members.
The general election will tell whether
they have the support of the