Analysts: Bersatu needs to break ‘old patronage’ culture


  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 01 Jan 2019

PETALING JAYA: The clash over the “old patronage” of giving government contracts reflects a deep division within Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, say political analysts.

“Bersatu is seeing a divide between the old politicians and young activists in the party,” said Universiti Sains Malaysia political science lecturer Dr Azmil Tayeb.

“They are from two completely different political backgrounds and culture.

“The young people are more cosmopolitan, while the old guards may be stuck in the nationalist mindset, so there is the conflict.”

He said it was difficult to say what the division might mean for the party in the long run.

“For now, the main motivation for the party seems to be to shore up Malay support for the next general election, so it may be that the contracts are one way to do it,” he said.

He, however, said Bersatu needed to address the issue on the “old patronage” culture as there had been fears that Bersatu would turn into Umno.

“Pakatan Harapan supporters are afraid that Bersatu will be a reincarnation of Umno.

“The Umno culture persists and old habits die hard. If it’s business as usual, it will be a disappointment,” he said.

Dr Azmil said the contracts should be made accessible to everyone, instead of being awarded to party members or close associates.

“They have access to government resources and this should be made available to everyone.

“This is the people’s resources, taxpayers’ money, not for a particular party to tap into.

“You could still do good development work, but the issue shouldn’t be politicised,” he said.

Universiti Teknologi Mara Sabah political science lecturer Mohd Rahezzal Shah said the patronage culture must also be addressed at the grassroots level.

“There is the assumption that for you to be a politician, you must have a lot of money to service your constituents, which is wrong,” said Dr Azmil.

“There are high expectations of certain constituents for monetary assistance from their division chiefs, who also ask for contracts and money from top leadership.

“It is a vicious cycle which must be broken.”

He said division chiefs should instead help constituents apply for help via government institutions and proper systems.

“Party members who are granted contracts must be qualified and capable,” he said.

“It’s all right if party members who compete for projects are businessmen, so long as the process is transparent and done via open tender.”


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