, , , , , , ,

In case you missed it, there’s a new political party in town – PKR. No, not Parti Keadilan Rakyat led by Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim but Parti Kuasa Rakyat led by Kamarazaman Yaakob, the elder brother of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Kamarazaman, 72, cut his teeth in student politics way back in the 1970’s and was once active in the socialist movement. In 1975, his student activism led to a two-year incarceration under the ISA. Among the others who were detained with him at the time were Anwar Ibrahim, Ibrahim Ali and Syed Husin Ali.

This time around, it’s hard to make sense of his political agenda. He says his party will be a BN-friendly, multiracial party that’s centred on nationalism, ‘Marhaenism’[1] and uplifting the masses. Eventually, he hopes to supplant both the MCA and the MIC within BN as he feels both parties no longer speak for their respective communities. 

Whichever way you look at it, his agenda doesn’t add up. In trying to be all things to all men, he comes across as too vague and confused to offer anything to anyone. 

The choice of party name, too, invites speculation. Why would any political party want to have the same acronym as that of another political party, particularly the party which it is seeking to compete with? Kamarazaman says his party will simply be known as Kuasa Rakyat, but why then chose a name the acronym of which could be easily confused with that of another party?

Kamarazaman makes much of his commitment to multiracial politics but his commitment does not go any further than the so-called multiracial approach of UMNO. In other words, mere tokenism – the kind that led to the marginalization of the non-Malays under both the MCA and the MIC in the first place.

It is no secret that Chinese and Indians spurned the MCA and the MIC respectively because both failed to defend the rights of their own communities against their Ketuanan Melayu overlords. Does Kamarazaman seriously think non-Malays would settle for his version of the same thing? What is worse, he now wants to set himself up as the principal interlocutor of the non-Malays within BN. Can the non-Malays not speak for themselves? 

As well, his intention to fish for votes in primarily non-Malay opposition-held constituencies raises a lot of questions. In the first place, the struggling masses (the B40 group) he wishes to champion are struggling because of the crony-capitalist polices and corruption of UMNO. Anyone who wants to change this equation must first of all convince Malay voters that UMNO does not serve their interests. Non-Malay voters long ago reached this conclusion; it is Malay voters that need to see this.

And if he is so committed to pluralism, why does he not challenge the racist policies of UMNO and its partners PAS and PPBM? Why does he not take his campaign for greater tolerance and inclusivity to the Malay heartland instead of focusing primarily on non-Malay and mixed constituencies? Why does he not seek to convince all Malaysians irrespective of race or religion that we can only succeed in building a just and progressive nation if we all work together as equal citizens? 

In the light of this, it is not hard to conclude that this pale version of the real McCoy has nothing of any substance to offer Malaysian voters, Malay or non-Malay. Kamarazaman may be sincere but all he will end up doing is further dividing the non-Malay vote and indirectly helping UMNO to regain power. Malaysians of all ethnicities who are fed up with all the racism and religious extremism would do better to vote for other genuinely multiracial parties than this half-baked, knock-off construct. 

Truth be told, non-Malays do not need another party to represent them; what they need are leaders of all ethnicities with the moral courage to confront the whole Ketuanan Melayu ideology which feeds so much of the racism, religious extremism, corruption and incompetence that is destroying this nation.

Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 5th January 2022

[1] Marhaenism – a form of Marxist socialism developed by President Sukarno and characterized by a policy of ‘guided democracy’ and  the promotion of national identity. In Malaysia, it was first championed by Ahmad Boestaman who founded the left-wing Parti Marhaen Malaysia.