When the Barisan Alternative common manifesto “Towards a Just Malaysia” was launched on 24th October 1999, not a single Barisan Alternative made a mention of the Islamic State issue because the coming-together of the four opposition parties had nothing to do with an Islamic state but represented an unprecedented opposition effort to break the Barisan Nasional political hegemony to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance in Malaysia.
As I said in my speech at the launching of the BA Common Manifesto, the Barisan Alternative Parties had come together “not to share the spoils of power but to break the Barisan Nasional political hegemony to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance to build a new Malaysia in the new millennium … as never before in the history of the nation had public confidence in the system of justice and governance fallen so low as at present, with every other day, new examples of gross injustices and abuses of power adding to the long catalogue of national shames and wrongs”.
The Barisan Alternative parties pledged to rid Malaysia of its
many ills - whether corruption, cronyism, nepotism; subversion of the doctrine
fo the separation of powers; undermining of the independence, integrity
and professionalism of the key institutions of state, whether the Judiciary,
Parliament, the Attorney-General, the Auditor-General, the Police, the
Election Commission, Bank Negara Governor, a free and independent mass
media, a vibrant civil society; or
undemocratic and repressive laws which violate the human rights of Malaysians and placed the country in the half-light of democracy.
When DAP leaders signed and endorsed the BA Common Manifesto, it was a manifesto which we could present to the electorate and declare that a vote for the BA was a vote for democracy and justice and not a vote for an Islamic State.
If the DAP could not present such a common manifesto to the electorate, then neither the BA Common Manifesto nor the Barisan Alternative would have come into existence before the 1999 general election.
The BA Common Manifesto “Towards A Just Malaysia” was concluded with BA leaders fully aware of the deep ideological differences among the component parties especially on the issue of Islamic State.
DAP knew of PAS’ ideological stand for an Islamic State and PAS knew of DAP’s ideological opposition to any theocratic state, but we decided to put aside our differences for the sake of the immediate task of saving Malaysian democracy and justice from savage and fatal attacks by the Barisan Nasional government.
This was why there was the important agreement in the BA Common Manifesto committing all the component parties to uphold the fundamental principles of the Malaysian Constitution - which would exclude any pursuit of an Islamic state.
The situation has been changed considerably in the past 20 months with PAS leaders publicly reiterating their pursuit of an Islamic State, where the principle of the sovereignty of the people in a democracy will be replaced by the principle of the sovereignty of God based on the Quran.
This is a major departure from the BA Common Manifesto committing the component parties to the fundamental principles of the Constitution and the present system of democratic governance, rendering the position that a vote for the Barisan Alternative is a vote for democracy and justice and not a vote for an Islamic State completely unsustainable.
The Barisan Alternative must find an answer, and quickly, to the dilemma of how to find a formula that a vote for BA is not a vote for an Islamic State if the present format of BA is to survive, as time is not on the side of BA.
The Barisan Alternative Leaders’ Council meeting next week will have the onerous task of deciding whether the BA can continue to be tenable.