Saturday, February 27, 2010

BN Direct Membership Proposal Welcomed But Reservations Remain

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 (Bernama) -- The Barisan Nasional (BN) direct membership proposed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak last week was not born out of thin air but has been debated time and again although no official decision was made on the matter.
The only difference this time around is that the ruling coalition has taken another step forward by setting up a committee to study the pros and cons and the methodology to be used if it is to implement the idea.
Although the BN seems serious in wanting to make the proposal a reality, Umno vice-president and chairman of the special committee reviewing the BN charter, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, fired a warning shot when he said any amendment to the charter will need the consensus of all component parties.
In fact, political observers say the idea of BN direct membership was implemented indirectly by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the late 1980s when he allowed some lawmakers who stood and won as independents in Sarawak to join the BN.
The first was Hulu Rejang Member of Parliament Datuk Billy Abit Joo, who contested as an independent with support from the BN before being absorbed into the coalition, and the next, Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum, who was a BN candidate in the general election despite not being a member of any component party following the de-registration of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS).
Dr Mahathir, when asked about the latest proposal, expressed his support, saying it will discourage better qualified people from joining the opposition and the move will benefit the BN as it will make it much easier for the people to join the coalition.
While some political pundits argue that the latest proposal should be implemented, some BN leaders are cautious of the move, wondering if it will really strengthen the BN or create problems for the coalition.
Veteran MCA leader Datuk Yap Pian Hon points out that the BN's predecessor, the Alliance Party, established the Alliance Direct Membership Organisation (ADMO) but it did not work out due to various problems, including lawmakers taking advantage of the body to promote themselves.
ADMO was mooted in 1972, before the BN was officially established. It was a forward-thinking attempt to transform the Alliance Party, as the Umno-MIC-MCA coalition was then called, into a bigger and more inclusive umbrella multi-racial political party.
"I hope we will not repeat the mistake. The BN must study why ADMO failed, what was its political impact, in order not to repeat the mistake. You have to bear in mind that we have had such an experience before," he said.
A burning issue related to the BN direct membership proposal is how the BN would deal with those dissatisfied members of a component party who resign and join another or decide to be just "BN friendly".
"If we accept these people, it will set a precedent as it will encourage those who are not happy with any party's leadership to quit the party and seek direct membership under the BN. This will bring a lot of problems, not only to the components but also to the coalition," said Yap.
"Not only that. At the grassroots level, if they fail to win any seat at the division or branch level, they will quit the party but continue to be a BN member under direct membership. After that, they will hammer you," he added.
Another issue, according to Yap, is how the BN leadership intends to solve seat allocations for the general election as component parties will not be willing to part with their existing seats just to accommodate those under this membership to contest.
"If there is no suitable mechanism, then it will create huge problems. Not only that. Let's say, you do not allow them (those under direct membership) to become (electoral) candidates, then it will not serve any purpose as it will not be attractive any more," he said.
Apart from these reasons, some parties are also "afraid" of losing their influence and political bargaining chip if direct membership is to be implemented.
Former MIC vice-president Tan Sri M. Mahalingam said parties like the MIC will lose their dominance and grip on the Indian community once more Indian-based parties are allowed into the BN fold.
"The MIC will definitely lose its dominance but it will be a boon for the Indian community as the BN leadership will be able to hear directly the problems faced by Indians, generally from various parties, rather than just from the MIC alone," he said.
The Malaysian Indian community of 1.8 million is fragmented into various groups and the community has at least six political parties to choose from.
They are the MIC, the People's Progressive Party or PPP (although multiracial, the party is predominantly made up of Indians), the Indian Progressive Front (IPF), the Malaysian Indian United Party (MIUP), the newly-formed Malaysian Makkal Sakthi Party and the proposed Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf). Only the MIC and PPP are in the BN.
Political analysts point out that the radical move by the BN leadership is to pave the way for parties like the IPF, Makkal Sakhti and the Malay right-wing non-governmental organisation, Perkasa, to enter the BN.
This, they say, will solve some problems, and a prime example will be the position of Datuk T. Murugiah, the deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department, who has been sacked by the PPP.
Currently, going by the present system, the BN needs consensus among all its components if it is to allow an individual or a group of people into the fold. The IPF, especially, has been knocking on the BN's doors for years despite being a staunch supporter of the coalition. Its application was supported by all component parties except the MIC and PPP.
Political analyst Prof Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin feels there is no harm for the BN to try out the system even if it has some flaws as these setbacks could be fine-tuned over time.
"PAS can have a supporters club, attracting non-Muslims and non-Malays. If PAS can accept that, I don't understand why the BN cannot if it wants to get closer to the people. I think there is some fear in Umno, bearing in mind the move by the late Datuk Onn Jaafar who tried to change Umno into a multiracial party," he said.
Dr Shamsul Amri suggests that to overcome such a fear, the coalition can start off with a supporters club.
"This is common sense politics. Like what people say, no venture, no gain. That's why you have venture capital. There is no guarantee and you cannot confirm if it will work or otherwise. You just got to try it out," he said.
Moreover, Prime Minister and BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has adopted a direct approach to touch the hearts and minds of Malaysians in his policies, he added.
Gerakan deputy president Datuk Chang Ko Youn notes that despite all these "practical problems", the proposal will benefit the coalition in the long term because such direct membership is healthy and will ensure the long-term survival of the BN as it will minimise racial politics.
"Personally, I think it is good as the BN will eventually move towards multiracialism and a single entity. It is a good start as I believe it will eventually help us to move away from race-based politics. The only thing is that we need to sort out the mechanism, which is a big headache," he said.
It would also be better for the BN to have such membership as it will minimise the issue of people quitting a BN component party to join the opposition front, he added.
By Alan Ting February 26, 2010 10:26 AM

Friday, February 12, 2010


恭祝各界 :


I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a prosperous Lunar Chinese New Year.

Thank You for your past support and looking forward to the same in the year come.

"Selamat Menyambut Tahun Baru Cina"

Dato' Yap Pian Hon
012 - 203 1279