Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PAS: You Can’t Take the Fork in the Road

The moment of truth will eventually be upon us. The weeks and months ahead will surely reveal in which direction the winds of change within PAS are blowing. Whatever the existing tensions and competing forces within the party, it is clear to us now that PAS has some internal soul-searching to do and needs to be clear about the direction it wants to pursue.

No, PAS, you can’t realistically put into practice the American Yogi Berra’s clever and catchy expression that ‘when you come to a fork in the road, take it.’ It’s really untenable and impossible. So get on with it and figure out what you’re about. The two paths could not be clearer. Let me spell them out.

On the one hand, you can join your traditional nemesis and subject yourself once again – as you did in the 1970s - to the manipulation and dominance that comes with being aligned with UMNO. UMNO, and the rest of UMNO’s supporting cast are all driven by a fading and retrograde rhetoric of primordial and parochial politics of communalism. These elements seem to nicely mirror the legacy of Barisan Nasional. You may part-take in the spoils and elevate yourself relative to others in the opposition. For a while, you may bask in the glory of becoming part of the regime – albeit one that is morally bankrupt and corroding. You might even be able to convince yourself, despite what every bone in your being tells you, that you can co-exist and share power with UMNO.

Your Youth chief calls PAS a principled party. Make no mistake, any ‘arrangement’ with UMNO and BN and your principles will be nothing more than hollow words. You will be nothing more than another run-of-the-mill political opportunist. Not principled – merely opportunist. You can either be principled and credible or you can roll in the mud and muck with the beast.

Then, there is of course the path you committed to and pledged to work for: the PR path. This alternative path - built on a vision of a genuinely inclusive Malaysia - is about a Malaysia that does not degrade its citizens and marginalise them because of ancestry or faith; a movement where hate is not a prized value; a coalition where diversity is a virtue, not a ploy to exploit by accentuating parochial and destructive tribal hostilities. Those Malaysians who believe in an inclusive vision of the country come from all faiths and lineage and embraced you for your convictions and your capacity to accept those different from you. These Malaysians believed you understood the meaning of the word ‘honour.’ To have the conviction of your beliefs and yet to be able to respect those different from you is far more noble than to obsess about one’s self-proclaimed superiority and to affirm it by peddling hate and spitefulness in the name of religion and tribe – as some other party is notorious for doing.

You can settle for the superficial common ground you supposedly have with UMNO and become just another political conduit of the current regime, or you can continue to build your reputation among Malaysians – even among those of us who do not share your faith and heritage – and earn their respect and support.

So remember, you can’t take the fork in the road. You can, however, take the high road.

G. Krishnan.