PAKATAN Harapan will soon celebrate its first anniversary as Malaysia’s new ruling party. Hence, it must understand the determinants to its rise to power and factors that drove the fall of Barisan Nasional.

BN’s defeat in the 14th General Election resulted from several inconsistencies and weaknesses of government policies and component parties which began after the 11th General Election in 2004, before GE12 in 2008, and approaching GE14 in 2018. Most of the problems centred on inter-party solidarity within the coalition; its indecisiveness in mitigating identity and economic security issues; and attacks on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad by top Umno leaders.

Soon after Dr Mahathir resigned as Malaysia’s fourth prime minister, and prior to GE11, the administration of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced it would focus on combating corruption. Hence, “in the 11th General Election, BN scored a spectacular victory by winning 198 of the 219 parliamentary seats. This is the ruling party’s highest ever domination of parliament”.

However, the BN government dropped “18 high profile corruption cases”, which . it promised to deal with after GE11. At the same time, it was accused of nepotism allegedly involving family members of certain BN elites. Then entered the Mahathir-bashing episode by Umno leaders, because the ex-premier questioned the legitimacy of cancelling the “crooked bridge” project by the government. Ultimately, Dr Mahathir left Umno.

Beginning in May 2007, several groups alleged that issues concerning Islam and the Federal Constitution were poorly managed by the government. They also perceived that Malaysia’s national identity was under siege.

The first case concerned Azlina Jailani @ Lina Joy. Most Muslims supported the Federal Court ruling on May 30, 2007, for disallowing her from removing the word “Islam” from her identity card. Some non-Muslims, however, construed this ruling as eroding “their constitutional right to religious freedom”.

This issue caused a section of Malays, Muslims and non-Muslims to allege that the BN government was fickle-minded in handling the religious freedom in the post-GE11 era.

The second issue was the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf). On Nov 25, 2007, a demonstration by about 10,000 Hindraf members in Kuala Lumpur ended with policemen allegedly injured and many Hindraf members arrested. This stirred racial anger.

ONE, although Hindraf had submitted a memorandum to Abdullah on Aug 12, 2007, it filed a petition at The Royal Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, London, on Aug 30 the same year. Among others, it sought to declare the Federal Constitution “null and void”.

TWO, Hindraf sent another letter to the then prime minister Gordon Brown, on Nov 15 urging Britain to move a United Nations resolution condemning alleged “ethnic cleansing”; and to refer Malaysia to the international criminal court.

THREE, Hindraf also sent a letter to the Queen of England on Nov 24 urging her government to end the so-called “oppression, suppression and marginalisation” of Malaysian Indians.

FOUR, the then inspector-general of police said that Hindraf was trying to solicit assistance from “international terrorist groups”; and the then attorney-general alleged that Hindraf had links “with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam of Sri Lanka”.

FIVE, the BN government had taken 18 days to arrest some Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act.

SIX, BN top leaders allegedly ordered the release of several people accused of attempting to injure policemen during the demonstration. On Dec 17, 2007, the Shah Alam Sessions Court freed 31 of them.

The BN government’s indecisiveness in handling the above issues led to it losing several states (Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor) in GE12. Hence, BN lost its comfortable majority in Parliament.

The administration of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, however, managed to regain Kedah and Perak, and retained BN’s slim majority in Parliamentin GE13. Unfortunately, it did not learn why the previous BN administration suffered the severe defeat in 2008. Hence, the Najib administration post-GE13 repeated almost similar mistakes.

It was not decisive in handling the “Kalimah Allah” issue. It allowed controversies about abuse of power, nepotism, corruption and kleptocracy to escalate without appropriate redress. It dropped Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the deputy prime minister, and another minister from the cabinet. It replaced Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as Kedah menteri besar. It also launched endless personal attacks on Dr Mahathir. These eroded BN’s integrity and the people’s confidence in the Najib administration. Hence, PH just put “the last nail in BN’s coffin” in GE14. This paved the way for its rise as Malaysia’s new government.

In commemorating its first anniversary, therefore, PH must learn from the fall of BN. It must ensure its survival, integrity and solidarity. It also has to deter inter-party feuds, handle identity issues effectively, and enhance its corruption war.

The writer was a member of parliament for Parit Sulong, Johor, from 1990 to 2004

https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/04/480089/learn-fall-bn

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