Brave New World

Published: Wednesday October 1, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday October 1, 2014 MYT 7:30:24 AM

An identity crisis for Pas

This could be merely a stage in their development, and it is affecting not just them, but also their partnership with DAP and PKR and ultimately the voter.

BREAKING up is hard to do. Or so Neil Sedaka would have us believe.

Looking at what is happening with Pakatan Rakyat it seems that this classic Sixties pop song should be their soundtrack.

Or perhaps we should look to music that is a bit more rock, something a bit harder. How about “Should I stay or should I go”, by the Clash?

Yes, I think the Clash is more fitting.

This is because it does not seem clear at all whether PAS will stay on in Pakatan or go their own way (hey, that is a Fleetwood Mac song).

As a party, they are giving out such mixed signals that they seem to have more identities than David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust phase.

Now it is not uncommon for people or organisations to go through some sort of identity crisis.

In fact it may be a good thing, an evolution from one thing to another.

The Beatles were still very much the Beatles throughout their career but there is a huge difference between the long-haired messiahs of the White Album and the cherry mop tops of Please Please Me. (Crikey, once I start on this music thing, I can’t seem to stop).

So it is the same with PAS.

It is not such a big deal that they seem to be suffering from an institutional dissociative identity disorder; it could be seen as merely a stage in their development.

Unfortunately their condition is affecting not just them, but also their partnership with DAP and PKR and ultimately the ordinary voter.

On the one hand, you have some PAS leaders saying the future with Pakatan is strong and that the party should be more progressive; and on the other hand we have a party strongman saying that their partners in Pakatan are little more than bullies and others lamenting the loss of their “core values” and that perhaps it is best for PAS to go it alone.

Basically, what is happening is the tension between the “progressives” and “conservatives” bubbling up to the surface.

I suppose there was a certain naiveté amongst some people (myself included) regarding the character of PAS.

Over the last eight years or so, there was a belief that PAS had changed. It was modernist and inclusive, and had moved away from its insular and traditionalist past.

This view was encouraged by certain individual PAS leaders whose eloquence and forward-thinking attitudes made one believe that there were more similarities between PAS and their partners than differences.

Hence a viable coalition opposition (and perhaps a viable new Federal Government) was a real possibility.

How exciting it all seemed.

Now of course we see that the conservative voices in PAS were not being made redundant by the “new” PAS; instead they were merely keeping quiet.

They were always there; we just chose to ignore them.

I wonder if their Pakatan partners also chose to ignore them.

If this is the case, then they can’t do that any more.

The future of the coalition is at stake and they really need to get together and see if they can truly work with one another and to provide the voters with that seductive “government in waiting” that they proffered just last year.

PKR and DAP can help this process by not being so antagonistic to their partner.

At least while they are still ostensibly partners.

The same goes for PAS.

The infighting that is going on, made more lurid with colourful language like “the beheading” of a PAS Penang councillor, does nothing for reasoned discussion between the political parties, neither does it engender any sort of confidence amongst the people.

What their political fortunes would be if there is a split remains to be seen.

I would guess it would make all of the parties suffer.

The loss (with a bigger majority for Brisan Nasional) at the latest by-election seems to suggest this is so.

Just which party risks losing more is hard to say, but without a doubt the biggest winner if Pakatan breaks up would be Barisan.

So they really need to get their act together and make their minds up one way or the other whether they should stay as a team or break up.

But if they do decide to stick with it, there is one question that needs to be first answered and that is, to paraphrase Eminem, “Will the real P.A.S. please stand up, please stand up, please stand up”.

> Azmi Sharom ( is a law teacher. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

Tags / Keywords: Azmi Sharom

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