Thursday, July 31, 2008

Like Two Peas in a Pod

With some political clout and leverage like it has never enjoyed before, PAS seems to have gotten intoxicated with power. The political dance it’s engaged in with PR on the one hand and UMNO on the other appears to be precisely that – dancing with multiple partners, and hoping to capitalise on the political impasse between PR and UMNO.

PAS may not have initiated the dance but it has been flirting with both partners – seemingly in a relationship with one and, like a tempted spouse, courting an affair with another. And while UMNO - obsessed with power like a desperate and unfaithful partner may be with cheating on a spouse – is living up to its soiled reputation, PAS has given us enough in recent days to also show us their true character.

I know it’ll come as no surprise to you that PAS’s agenda of a theocratic state remains the proverbial thorn on the nation’s side. Seeing PAS operate in the manner it has with respect to flirting with UMNO, I can’t help but wonder that despite their seemingly stark differences, they exhibit some similar traits.

The clandestine manner in which the initial discussions between the two were pursued of course represents an obvious point of interest. Both parties were willing - and did – conceal their rendezvous with each other from their respective coalition partners. Beyond the apparent intent to conceal this from their political allies, it is also obvious that both seem capable of selling out their allies. Would it surprise you if PAS jumps out of the PR bed and into the arms of UMNO if it can extract enough concessions and inch closer to its ultimate agenda of undermining and even shredding the country’s constitution – all in the name of a theocratic state? And wouldn’t we be fools to assume that UMNO is in any way truly committed to forging a genuinely plural and secular state?

Isn’t it also obvious that the path of communal politics – the basis upon which these parties (and to be sure, several others’) existence is defined will always compel and lock them into a myopic, tribal, and bigoted doctrine. In this vein, discussions, visions, and plots about ‘Malay unity’ remain coded and loaded racist language for a blatantly racist agenda. The preoccupation with a design for ‘Malay unity’ means ‘Malaysian unity’ shall only continue to remain what it has always been – a façade. That is, a façade, which through a process of cognitive dissonance, we can nevertheless pretend to perpetuate as our national narrative. But this façade and veneer of ‘Malaysian unity’ will continue to remain – due to the parochial tendencies of PAS and UMNO – as a mere national myth.

Despite the seemingly deep gulf between the two parties, both are simultaneously captives and agents of primordially rooted national illusions. They are prisoners of an ideology that is untenable in an age of globalisation and pluralism. And while UMNO continues to legitimate such a political culture for the nation – and by extension nourishes such a political culture among its lesser allies, it also, ironically, mirrors and mimics its longstanding adversary (or mistress?) PAS.

G. Krishnan