Hindraf Makkal Sakthi chair P Waythamoorthy has expressed cautious optimism over Pakatan Rakyat (PR) chair Zaid Ibrahim's call for change and reform in Malaysia.
Makkal Sakthi – people power in Tamil – is the Hindu Rights Action Front (Hindraf) theme.
Waythamoorthy (left) foresees that Sabah and Sarawak will be taking an increasingly neutral stance to determine who rules in Putrajaya.
“The March 2008 political tsunami in Peninsular Malaysia has given a chance for them do what is best for themselves,” said Waythamoorthy.
He was speaking to Malaysiakini in Kota Kinabalu from London.
The Hindraf stalwart sees both sides of the political divide in Peninsular Malaysia as hopelessly divided in the foreseeable future. Still, in Umno for example, there are leaders like Tengku Razaleigh who can be expected to reach out across the political divide.
“Peninsular Malaysia is emerging as volatile and unpredictable despite the best efforts of Umno to force the Malays to circle the wagons,” said Waythamoorthy.
Under these circumstances, Sabah and Sarawak have the opportunity to be a third force in Malaysian politics, he added. “This is more than a catchphrase. This signals a maturing of politics in Malaysia.
“There is strong political leadership in Sabah and much promise in Sarawak. Hindraf has much support in these two states and we have much to learn from them. We don't mind campaigning in Sabah and Sarawak to push the agenda for change and reform. We have raised this with Dr Jeffrey Kitingan (right).”
Waythamoorthy sees the politics of both states as rising above petty rivalries and race or religion. He believes that the people have the right to hear the truth and decide the kind of political parties they want in government and the opposition. For him, the choice appears to be between keeping feudal-style Malay political warlords or embracing egalitarianism in the running of the nation's politics.
No amount of temple demolishing, church bombings or hurling wild-boar heads into mosque compounds is going to derail the people's political process in Malaysia, swore Waythamoorthy. “The people's message from the streets to the lunatic fringe is to cease and desist.”
Former Sabah PKR State Secretary Kanul Gindol takes a more critical view of the PKR, however. He thinks it is bogged down by Anwar Ibrahim's 'politics is my family's business' approach in running the party.
Then, he reckoned that there is the Umno-style “corrupt to the core political vagabonds who have jumped on the PKR's bandwagon. There's also the “proxies, stooges and traitors” cultivated in Sabah and Sarawak to serve their political masters in Peninsular Malaysia,” continued Kanul.
Former Sabah PKR deputy chief Daniel John Jambun sees Zaid's speech as the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. “It offers hope to Sabah and Sarawak,” said Daniel, also the deputy chair of the powerful Sabah PKR KadazanDusunMurut Task Force.
However some former senior Sabah BN activists in Sabah and Sarawak are not that sure and expect four crucial events in the near future to stress PKR to the breaking point.
The first is Anwar Ibrahim's Sodomy 2 trial. Then there is the suspected willingness among a number of PKR MPs to be bought over by Umno to give it a two-thirds majority in Parliament to pass the new electoral rolls.
Thirdly, the Federal Court is expected to rule on the continuing saga of the two Menteris Besar in Perak on Feb 9 and the decision could have a huge impact on PKR's future.
Finally, it is believed, that Umno 'moles' in PKR are ready to seize control of the party 'when Anwar is carted off to jail'.
The last group, said to be closely linked to Anwar himself, is said to have already written his political obituary and successfully lobbied for party elections, due next month, but expected to be deferred to May.
East Malaysia will be watching these developments very closely.
“Those who think that they can seize control of the party and get away with it are sadly mistaken., said a senior Sabah PKR activist. “Sabah and Sarawak won't just go along with anyone in Peninsular Malaysia who comes to power through undemocratic means.”