Political Parties Must Embrace ‘Collective Good’ As Raison d’Etre

If leaders of political parties abandon culture of taking ‘safe seats’, the number can increase in the legislature!

We need a new culture in Malaysia where politics does not continue to be seen as elections, candidacy, “frogging” if push comes to shove, and “making hay while the sun shines”. It’s only the soul which can be corrupted if we are willing to sell it, for want of a better term, to the “devil”. There’s a case for political parties to select candidates by computer programmes used by international headhunters.

No one can take anything with him, or her, to the other side. There are such things as self-respect, dignity, and honour. Politicians may be no role models.

At present, candidates who are not fielded in elections may go rogue. In fact, they may even leave the party and not always in a good way, join another party, form a new party, stand as Independent or sabotage their party.

Political Parties may be Blackmailed

It’s a case of taking offence, and probably not being fielded seen as a personal affront, and having no face left. No one is indispensable. In fact, indispensability may be a “crime” which should be “punished”. No organisation can afford to be held to ransom, even “blackmailed”, by those who are “indispensable”.

If political parties embrace “collective good” as the raison d’etre (reason for being), it can only throw up extraordinary men and women who enter public service for all the right reasons. It can only be about serving the party and people based on the principle that “nothing is the be all and end all of life”. There’s more to life than candidacy.

One must be able to walk away at the end of the day without sulking, leaving everything behind no matter whether they become better or worse, and not wishing to know what was happening in the previous chapter of life. As former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has said more than once, before GE14 on Wed 9 May 2018, “there are endless possibilities in Malaysia”. Indeed, there are infinite possibilities in life.


The emergence of Rishi Sunak for one from nowhere, as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, should inspire all politicians in the Commonwealth. It can only happen because he recognised the spiritual nature of Truth. I am not talking about religion but eternal laws based on eternal Truth i.e. all the laws of science.

Rishi Sunak, besides recognising the spiritual nature of Truth, was about Karma — law of cause and effect — and the rule of law, the basis of the Constitution. The Constitution, by its very nature, is colour blind.

Karma, to go back a little, does not exist. It only exists if we create it. What others do to us is their Karma. How we react is our Karma. No one can escape Karma. Rishi Sunak couldn’t escape Karma. The more that we fight Karma, the more that it will fight us.

Other Political Parties as Inspiration

Two other political parties which should inspire politicians in Malaysia are Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Part (PTI) and Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They are about how parties capture political power based on the main issues viz. restructuring the distribution of political power; and restructuring the distribution of revenue and resources.

The BJP, linked to the assassination of spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi, was in the political wilderness for many years. It could only win two seats in Parliament. Then, after many decades, it raced to 89 seats. It was not long before it seized the reins of power in New Delhi. BJP never came to terms with the British stealing land from India to create Pakistan.

Imran Khan, likewise, could only win two seats in Parliament on its anti-corruption platform. Eventually, the anti-corruption message got through, and the party won the Federal government in Islamabad in the last General Election. He was ousted half-way through his term. At presstime, he lies in the hospital, after a failed assassination attempt.

The story on Karma would not be complete without mentioning the dramatic return in Brazil of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from jail and the political wilderness to beat controversial President Jair Bolsonaro. Lulu polled 50.9 per cent of the votes in run-off while Bolsonaro came a close 49.1 per cent. Although the margin was narrow, it was an amazing feat for Lula nonetheless as he had to spend 19 months in jail for corruption charges which were later overturned.

True Strength

All this brings us back to the headline and subheadline i.e. the collective good as the raison d’etre. If party leaders abandon the culture of taking “safe seats” for themselves, the number can increase in the legislature!

Here, it can be argued that collective good begins with the realisation that we will never know the true strength of political parties unless heavyweights give way to new faces, preferably after two consecutive wins. Perhaps the young can take over the “safe seats” while the incumbents move to marginal seats lost previously by slim margin. A political party can increase the seat count in the legislature by adopting this approach, win or lose.

Instead, party leaders generally pick safe seats for themselves while sacrificial lambs fight a losing battle in those thrust on them.

Eventually, the sacrificial lambs and others denied seats may drift away. Such parties, especially where their leaders are returned unopposed in party elections, can never increase their strength in the legislature.


Mahathir Mohamad, it will be recalled, was always returned unopposed as Umno President except for the 1987 party election which he lost. If High Court Judge Harun Hashim had discounted the votes from 30 illegal branches created for Mahathir, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah would have won. In law, no election is free of fraud. What matters in court was whether the extent of fraud affected outcome. Judge Harun Hashim, who like Mahathir traces his roots to Kerala in southwest India, declared Umno unlawful instead of discounting illegal votes. Mahathir formed Umno Baru. The rest is history.

If Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) had its numbers in the legislature slashed in GE14, Mahathir can be faulted more than any other leader. He destroyed Umno single-handedly, in his pursuit for power, and drove away many good men and women. He still hangs around at 97 years, having formed Bersatu, Pejuang and Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) as he desperately tries to rescue his politics for family and a small group of Malay capitalists, and non-Malay cronies, and Malay and non-Malay nominees and proxies. Ironically, both Pejuang and GTA have pledged to fight corruption. Mahathir’s children, based on their holdings in publicly listed companies alone, are all multibillionaires.

Culture and Greed

Mahathir single-mindedly introduced the soul destroying culture of greed and unbridled materialism in Umno and Malay society. The local Chinese were the bogeyman.

Mahathir allegedly created the system of inflated government contracts, under the politics of patronage, and observed the “special position by way of a reasonable proportion” in Article 153, and the related New Economic Policy(NEP) and quota system, in the breach.

Therein lies the dilemma. Umno leaders are being dragged to court for “acts in office” viz. political donation and corporate social responsibilities being argued in court by Prosecution as abuse of power, conflict of interest and criminal breach of trust based on allegedly “deriving personal benefits” from bribery, corruption and being party to illegalities i.e. money laundering activities.

Criminal Court

If anyone should be in criminal court, it should be Mahathir, the Guru on corruption as Najib labelled him.

Instead, he stays in a glass house and throws stones at all and sundry, at Najib in particular. It was Najib’s father, Tun Abdul Razak, who re-admitted Mahathir to Umno. First Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman expelled him from the party in the wake of the 13 May 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur. Tunku predicted that Mahathir, unless stopped, would use the judiciary to destroy Malaysia. The cases against the Umno cluster were brought by Mahathir and then Attorney General Tommy Thomas — also from Kerala — after GE14.

Everyone remembers that Mahathir visited the Crimea State Medical University (CSMU), before he stepped down in 2003, and withdrew the recognition. Ninety per cent of the Malaysian students at CSMU were local Indian. Eventually, all this and more drove away Indian and Chinese from MIC and MCA while Malay drifted to other parties. – NMH

About the writer: Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez keeps a keen eye on Malaysia as a legal scholar (jurist). He was formerly Chief Editor of Sabah Times. He is not to be mistaken for a namesake previously with Daily Express. References to his blog articles can be found here.

The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.

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Joe Fernandez
Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez has been writing for many years on both sides of the Southeast Asia Sea. He should not be mistaken for a namesake formerly with the Daily Express in Kota Kinabalu. JF keeps a Blog under FernzTheGreat on the nature of human relationships.

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