Monday, April 7, 2008

PARTY HOPPING & THE ETHICS OF DEFECTION

ONG KIAN MING is a PhD candidate in political science at Duke University and OON YEOH is a writer and new media analyst. You can listen to both of them discuss this topic in their Realpolitik podcast. Read the original post at Malaysiakini.

I can understand and, in principle, agree with Ong Kian Ming and Oon Yeoh's prescription of choosing the moral high ground over the political expedient of accepting crossovers to the Pakatan Rakyat from a disintegrating BN. However, much as the strategy of accelerating the Pakatan Rakyat's takeover of the Federal government through negotiated crossovers is fraught with uncertainties and ethical ambiguities, I would applaud - and even encourage - such a move.

One month after the tectonic shift of the March 8th elections, it is clear to all observers that the BN sadly lacks professional ethics and dedication to the national good. Instead of quickly regaining their dignity by openly and willingly cooperating with the new Pakatan Rakyat state governments, BN diehards like Azalina Othman and Mohd Khir Toyo are actively focused on sabotaging and punishing what they perceive as the enemy. They are unable to see that the Pakatan Rakyat represents the will of an overwhelming majority of Malaysians. By declaring war against the Pakatan, BN has effectively become the enemy of the people and, as such, cannot be trusted to act in the public interest rather than its own narrow party interests.

Each day the Federal government continues to be under BN control is another day of momentum lost in the direction of genuine reform. There is no political will within BN to address urgent issues like judicial rot and a less than professional police force. Abdul Gani Patail stubbornly clings to his position as Attorney-General and nobody has resigned from the ACA. Police reports filed against members of the former state excos in Penang, Kedah, Perak and Selangor for illegally removing or destroying official documents and records have led to absolutely no action - or at least none that I'm aware of. THe BN-owned media obstinately persist in their ingrained habit of partisan reportage, and all Umno can think about is its own survival as a no longer relevant monoethnic political party in a new transethnic political landscape.

One thing we can be sure of: every move the BN makes from now on will be aimed at undermining the Pakatan Rakyat instead of seizing this historic moment to genuinely reform itself.

So, even though it will spawn a measure of ethical ambiguity, the pragmatic wisdom of dealing the BN government a death blow NOW - before they have time to drag us deeper into irreversible ruin - holds a strong appeal. Many of us, like Ong Kian Ming and Oon Yeoh, are wary of sudden, radical change. Ong and Yeoh are academics and theoreticians with no dirt on their hands. Seasoned politicians like Anwar Ibrahim, Nik Aziz and Lim Kit Siang understand that no movement is possible without a little bit of zigzagging - indeed, that's how bipeds move in an apparent straight line, by swinging from left to right and back again. Instead of fearing contradiction, let us embrace it as the only way to organic truth.

I would prefer to give the BN crossovers the benefit of the doubt. It would be totally unrealistic to assume that everybody who enters politics does so to serve his or her community. Every creature is programmed to seek optimum advantage for itself. The more intelligent ones know their self-advantaging activities have to align and coincide with what benefits the greater community, otherwise they will soon be curtailed. Let's envision this: if 30 BN crossovers allow Pakatan Rakyat the option of taking over the Federal government in 2008 instead of 2012, there will be far less likelihood that we will all be dragged down with the sinking BN.

Perhaps the price isn't such a high one? Some of these crossover politicians are doing so primarily because they feel their leadership potential hasn't been appreciated and cannot be realized within BN. Why not give them a chance to prove their worth as Pakatan Rakyat MPs? Take a closer look at the illustration of a frog above. If you lean your head to the right you'll see it turns into a horse - and right now the Pakatan Rakyat requires more horsepower to outrun the vicious BN dogs snapping at its heels.

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