Just International


Letter to the Editor

Whatever the legal issues involved in the tussle in Perak, there is no honour in coming to power through defections. I have maintained since the mid-eighties that acquiring power through the backdoor is unethical. It is not only a betrayal of the voter; it also shows very little respect for the democratic process.


The Perak episode is in a sense linked to the attempt by the de facto leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) , Dato Seri  Anwar Ibrahim, to engineer  defections from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) at the federal level in order to achieve  his ambition of becoming Prime Minister of Malaysia. Anwar’s backdoor politics in fact began two weeks after the 12th General Election. He tried over a period of seven or eight months to topple the BN which at that time had a clear 58 seat parliamentary lead over the combined opposition.  Anwar failed in his bid. Even in the case of Perak, it was after he enticed a Barisan Nasional Assembly member to cross over, that the BN hit back with its manoeuvres leading to the present tussle for power.


Anwar had now been hoisted by his own petard. However, it is not going to deter him from trying again. One hopes that his PKR colleagues and his partners in the Pakatan Rakyat, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP), will be more critical of Anwar’s antics and evaluate his leadership of the PR in a more objective manner. After all, he is partly responsible for the loss of one of the states that the PR captured in the last General Election.


More important, now is the time for both the PR and the BN to demonstrate their sincere commitment to the well-being of the people by joining hands in formulating an anti-defection law which will be adopted at Federal and state levels. There are a number of countries from Bolivia to Trinidad to South Africa to India which have such laws.  The BN has been reluctant to enact such legislation because it has for a very long time benefited from crossovers. Now it knows that the PR can also play the same game.


If the BN and PR continue to play this diabolical game, there will be no political stability. Malaysian democracy will be a sham. Economic development will stagnate since political leaders will be preoccupied with manoeuvres and machinations aimed at ousting their adversaries. The bureaucracy will cease to deliver. Even ethnic relations will take a turn for the worse as political instability increases and economic growth declines. Most of all, the people will suffer when their interests and aspirations are ignored as leaders jostle for power.


The Malaysian citizenry should not allow this to happen. It should adopt a principled stand against defections and demand an anti-defection law immediately. It is wrong of our people to endorse defections or remain silent about them when one’s own side is the beneficiary. Likewise, it is hypocritical to oppose defections simply because one’s side is the victim.


It is only when our citizenry rises above such biases and commits itself to what is ethical

regardless of  who gains and who loses that we would have developed a political culture that is resistant to defections and other forms of Machiavellian politics.



Dr. Chandra Muzaffar.

Kuala Lumpur.

9 February 2009.

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