There are two popular narratives to the answer to the above topic. First it was Tun M’s fault. Second, it was Azmin’s fault.
The first and second narratives are extremely strong and have many events and sayings to support it. However, in this article I wish to dwell more than the two popular narratives and reflect onto the faults on the sides of the PH leaders in the cabinet, the civil society and the rakyat who supported the PH.
To me, blaming Tun M and Azmin is too easy and too convenient. Yes, both of them played a major role but we must not forget the big faults on the three players also. If the people manage to secure another victory in GE15, then these reflections are important so that they should not be repeated.
As for the main popular narrative, Mahathir’s evasive answers to the succession and his threat to pull out PPBM came in the first year of the PH win. He never had any intention whatsoever to give up the throne. He also showed very little will in taking out many of the draconian laws. He was only interested in securing power for himself and family and then passing it on. Those are indisputable facts in the eyes of the rakyat now.
Azmin has been portrayed as a power-hungry opportunist who is a master at the art of getting appointed to whatever post he wanted.
He supported Tun M’s bid for power and cleverly switched to plan B when Tun M produced his Unity Government idea.
Azmin is the ‘true’ Melayu politician, looking religious but ready to make deals with the devil anytime. PAS now seems to be in that mode. Any crime can be forgiven or accepted as long as the narrative is to ‘save Melayu’ and ‘defend Islam’.
Let us deal with the painful truth about how civil society itself brought on the downfall of PH.
Civil society only came to prominence with the wave of Reformasi movement initiated by Anwar’s jailing by Tun M. They were only strongest after the first decade of groundwork against the BN was set by PAS and Islamic NGOs.
After the first decade of Reformasi, Malays fell back into Umno when Tun M left and Najib brilliantly used Islam as his rallying cry.
The civil society consist of brave and courageous Malaysians who fought for the sanctity of the Constitution and the universality of human dignity. Bersih was the epitome of the civil society movement. Thus, when PH won the election, the civil society was impatient to see change.
Without taking into consideration the sensitivity of the Malays and Muslims that was brought up by Islamic conservatism, the activists loudly and rudely demanded change.
Maszlee Malik was unfortunate enough to be the brunt of the assault by civil society. The manner that he was treated was appalling and I was even shocked at the extent of the attacks.
For the Malays, criticizing religious and political leaders is one thing but ridiculing him or her was unacceptable especially when it comes from non-Malays.
This demand to see overnight change caused the Malays to universally unite under PAS and Umno even though many know about the corruption and other deeds.
Malays do not view corruption as a very serious crime but views insult to Malay personalities and religion as a huge thing indeed.
Civil society that also comprises Malay activists fail to see the conservative nature and shouted loudly and angrily in the media.
Even though I disagree with Zakir Naik, criticism on him must come from Muslims like me and also be done in a courteous manner. Civil society in the future must learn that however sound and principled their views are, when it comes to religion, Malays are deaf.
The issue of child marriages, although a noble cause, has a different application in the Malay society. One cannot simply pick out a United Nation principle and put it into law without dealing with Malay sensitivities with the appropriate personalities in religion. It should have been discussed at an ulama level table and then brought to law. If not, all hell will break loose.
The rakyat carry also much of the blame for the fall of the PH.
The image of the headmaster talking down to Maszlee splattered all over the media is one good example. There was no courtesy to the minister then and this again was looked upon as a ‘kurang ajar’ attitude that drove the rift between Malays and non-Malays further.
The social media and comments in news media by the rakyat also reeked of insults to religious and Malay personalities. Yes these personalities may be crooks, murderers, corrupt people and so forth, but they must not be ridiculed with words and expressions that put down their office in public.
One insult on the Prophet or Islam by one individual can cause a 30-year rift between Malays and non-Malays. When will the rakyat understand that these limits in the social media are the fuse that can light up racial and religious explosions?
In the future, please refrain from using the social media and commenting in news media platforms. Better yet, the news media should switch off the platform as most rakyat seem not to be able to contain their expressions and emotions.
Facebook and Instagram are also tools for unthinking citizenry. If something needs to be said about intraracial and intrareligious issues, then phrase the thing carefully.
The PH cabinet members are also much to be blamed for the fall of the PH. Although they were new at playing ministers, that was no excuse in some simple blatant rules that were ignored.
First and foremost was to deal with the civil servants who have sabotaged many good intentions.
If a non-Malay minister cannot deal effectively with the civil servants, then he or she must call in the help of former civil servant activists who are Malays or at least are senior civil servants with the right mind set for reform. These people must be made advisors to the minister and act as a buffer between him or her with the civil servants. The ministers failed this simple act of people management and things were stagnated by the civil service.
Secondly, the leaders of Amanah totally failed to handle the assault of Islamic issues which has conservative attitudes and even fake news. They failed to entice ustazs who are popular by granting these people some perks in governments to win them over and then use them in mosques towards a better end for the PH and the rakyat.
They kept shouting a moderate Islam but had no idea how to do it effectively. Amanah was completely useless to the rakyat and the cause towards a moderate Malaysia.
The worst leadership in PH that bungled was Anwar himself.
Anwar failed miserably to act against the ten defectors by punishment or enticement. In politics, you may have to give a false sense of security to your potential defectors until a time for you to conveniently axe them
Anwar made known whom he was going to appoint to the cabinet and whom he was going to axe. That was a huge mistake on strategy.
Secondly, Anwar knew that Tun M would pull PPBM out and Warisan would follow and yet he made no preparation to entice the GPS or even some friendlies in PAS and Umno who had not too much corruption and skeletons in their CVs.
Anwar still made his bid for the PM position without securing his own party’s fortress and not making new allies. A totally unwise move that cost the rakyat their mandate.
All good Malaysians must learn from these lessons of history. We should not get stuck with conveniently blaming Tun M and Azmin but look deep into our own self and make the change from there. If not, GE15 will be the same old story-lah!
By Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi