Reforms are the only way forward if the opposition in Malaysia is to overturn 53 years of unbroken rule by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin said here yesterday.
But Raja Petra, who campaigned actively for the three parties who now make up the Pakatan Rakyat (PR), despaired of the opposition offering an alternative when he set out the reform agenda of the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) in a public lecture at the Australian National University in Canberra.
“We (the MCLM) can’t seem to get the opposition to bring itself out of Merdeka politics,” he said in a question-and-answer session, “the politics of 1957. They are still stuck in the past.
“What they fail to see is that the world has moved on,” said Raja Petra, 60, popularly known as RPK. “People are more sophisticated, people are better read, people are better informed.
“Unless the opposition can come to terms with this … we are going to see a Barisan Nasional government for many, many more years to come.”
In a presentation on “Beating Malaysian Authoritarianism with People Power: A Blog Activist’s Tale” that moderator Dr Andrew Walker described as “entertaining and fascinating”, Raja Petra said the opposition could not come into government without the support of the non-Malays and, more critically, the voters in east Malaysia.
The non-Malays in Peninsular Malaysia have to a large extent had the fear factor of Umno’s “riot act” lifted, but the opposition was giving no comfort to the people in east Malaysia, many of whom are Christians.
“The key to Putrajaya is in the hands of Sabah/Sarawak,” Raja Petra said. “Whoever rules Sabah/Sarawak will rule the whole of Malaysia, and currently we do not see the opposition making any headway in Sabah/Sarawak.
“Why do we (the opposition) play the race and religion game in Sabah/Sarawak? The Muslims are the minority in Sabah/Sarawak. Yet the opposition, in particular Anwar Ibrahim, wants a Muslim to head Sabah and Sarawak.
“There are a lot of Christians in Sabah/Sarawak; very angry Christians; the issue of body-snatching, the issue of Christians can’t use the word ‘Allah’ … What they see is one federal government exchange for another federal government, one colonial party exchange for another colonial party.
“They want change. They want religious freedom. They want equality.”
If there was to be more of the same, they might as well maintain the status quo “and take the (Barisan Nasional) money”.
Raja Petra disclosed meetings with de facto opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in London, expressing disappointment with opposition approaches to the next general election. “The way things are going, the opposition could self-destruct over the next two years,” he said.
But he rejected suggestions that the MCLM would split the opposition. He said the MCLM had made clear that it was a movement and not a political party.
“How can we split the votes if we are not contesting the elections?” he asked. “What we want to do is to assist the opposition, help the opposition by offering better candidates.”
Candidates identified by the MCLM would contest under the opposition, not as MCLM. “We are not contesting,” he said.
The condition for collaboration is that the opposition support the MCLM’s Rakyat Reform Agenda (RARA).
The MCLM also wants restored the four branches of government: the executive, the judiciary, the legislative and the monarchy, and not “power concentrated in the hands of one man”.
The Canberra lecture kicked off a three-city tour, with Sydney and Melbourne to follow. In all three cities, there will be fundraisers for the MCLM, with that in Canberra at the ANU today.
Flyers promoting Raja Petra’s visit promise a speaker “large as life and several times as natural, ready to do what he does best: to strip down the misguided truths that strut the corridors of power in his usual no-holds-barred style. Unsparing of the discomfort it might inflict on the wrongdoers, unyielding in his quest to bring change.”
Raja Petra was true to form yesterday.
Observing that Johor is a stronghold of Umno, he said that was why Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek was the president of the MCA; “he’s from Johor, it’s got nothing to do about his performance on video”, to gales of laughter and applause from the largely Malaysian audience.
The observation was made that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was arriving in Canberra — for a three-day official visit to Australia — the night Raja Petra was speaking.
Asked what he would say to Najib should they meet, he said: “I doubt I’ll be meeting the prime minister … well, I don’t know what to say to him other than ‘met any lovely Mongolian ladies lately’?”
Raja Petra yesterday met independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Labour Senator Claire Moore. He will be at Parliament House again today, where Labour Member of Parliament Michael Danby is said to have organised a meeting with a non-partisan group of parliamentarians.
Danby, as chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in February last year, delivered to Malaysian High Commissioner to Australia Datuk Salman Ahmad a petition signed by more than 50 MPs demanding that the Malaysian judiciary drop charges of sodomy against Anwar.
Raja Petra will speak at the University of Sydney on March 11 before leaving for Melbourne on March 14
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