The September 11 terrorists attacks in New York and Washington have been used by governments all over the world to justify a clampdown on democracy and human rights, but it is now being used by the PBS to justify its return to the Barisan Nasional 11 years after its sudden departure on the eve of the 1990 general election.
Speaking at the 16th PBS Congress on Monday where the PBS leadership sought a mandate for the party to return to the Barisan Nasional fold, PBS President Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan said:
"If Malaysia can reconcile with the US to fight terror, if other countries could be united for the same reason, if we in Sabah in the bid to protect our country's sovereignty from being violated could cooperate in one committee on illegal immigrants. Then perhaps in this changing times of globalisation and in realising the need for nationalism, we now have the opportunity to take all these changes in the world as a point to ponder for the sake of our state and country’s unity."
One reaction to the news of PBS’ applying to return to the Barisan Nasional is that “It is good to have a government of national unity in turbulent times”.
The question is whether this is the real basis for PBS’ decision, to pave the way for a national coalition of all political parties to face a national political, economic and security crisis or is it purely motivated by PBS’ instincts of political survival.
A visit to the PBS homepage would show a list of 17 seats won by the PBS in the March 1999 Sabah state general elections, but eight of the 17 PBS ssemblymen elected 30 months ago have the notation against them of having “leap-frogged to” PBRS or UMNO, and early this month, the PBS Moyog Division was suspended for planning together with the PBS Assemblyman for Moyog, Datuk Clarence Bongkos Malakun to defect to the Sabah Barisan Nasional.
If the Moyog Assemblyman defects to the Sabah Barisan Nasional, nine of the 17 PBS Assemblymen elected in March 1999, or more than 50%, would have left the PBS.
It may be understandable that instead of seeing one after another of the PBS elected representatives “leap-frogging” to the Barisan Nasional, the PBS leadership decided to pre-empt the whole process with the whole party “leap-frogging” to the Barisan Nasional!
There are of course other considerations why Pairin and PBS are making the application to rejoin the Barisan Nasional, such as the Kadazan-Dusun Chief Ministership in the rotation system although I doubt Mahathir would agree to allow Joseph Pairin to be Sabah Chief Minister under the Barisan Nasional umbrella, but these factors are eclipsed by the body blows such a move has dealt to democracy and secularism in Malaysia.
PBS’ application to rejoin Barisan Nasional - from a position of its greatest weakness - would be particularly welcome to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, as it could be used as a further endorsement of national support for his declaration at the Gerakan general assembly on Sept. 29, 2001 that Malaysia is already an Islamic state!
Or is Joseph Pairin and PBS prepared to publicly declare that they are applying to rejoin Barisan Nasional although they fully disagree and disapprove of Mahathir’s declaration that Malaysia is an Islamic State and that the PBS remains committed to a democratic, secular and multi-religious Sabah and Malaysia?