(Penang, Tuesday): Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said yesterday that it is up to the Barisan Nasional component parties to decide whether or not the so-called “invitation” of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to Opposition parties to join the Barisan Nasional is still open, following the rejection by the opposition parties.
The question that immediately crops up is why the question whether Mahathir’s so-called “open invitation” should remain open to the Opposition should be left to the Barisan Nasional component parties to decide when in the first place, this “open invitation” was made without consultation, consent or knowledge of the other Barisan Nasional parties – in clear violation of the “consensus rule” of the Barisan Nasional that no new policy or decision could be taken without consent by all the 14 component parties or if there is opposition even from one Barisan Nasional party, however small or insignificant.
It is on this “consensus” principle that the 11-year application of Datuk M.G. Pandithan’s Indian Progressive Front (IPF) to join the Barisan Nasional had been stonewalled by Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu and the MIC, despite IPF’s yeoman service in two general elections and countless by-elections to help Barisan Nasional candidates in the past 11 years.
Yesterday, Samy Vellu said that Barisan Nasional was willing to accept the opposition parties into its fold because people would be united and development projects could be implemented successfully.
Samy Vellu said: “If they reject Dr. Mahathir’s offer, it means they are thinking more of their political future rather than the good of the country.”
Was Samy Vellu and MIC “thinking more of their political future rather than the good of the country” when they persistently and successfully blocked IPF’s application to join the BN in the past 11 years?
This instance raises questions not only about the genuineness and sincerity of the reactions of Samy Vellu but also those of other Barisan Nasional leaders, like the MCA President Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik and the Gerakan President, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik firstly to the so-called “open invitation” by Mahathir to Opposition parties to join the Barisan Nasional, and secondly, the rejection by the Opposition parties.
When Mahathir first made the so-called “open invitation” to Opposition parties to join the Barisan Nasional at the Penang State BN Convention on Saturday, there was stunned silence from the leaders from the other Barisan Nasional parties – who clearly had not been consulted nor given their consent, and were totally at a loss as to how to react without being seen to be disagreeing with Mahathir.
It was only when the Opposition parties rejected the so-called “open invitation” that the leaders of the other Barisan Nasional parties struck the position that the opposition’s rejection would not contribute to the progress of the various races of the country, with Liong Sik even asking the opposition to reconsider their stand.
In fact, the manner of the “open invitation” by Mahathir to Opposition parties to join the Barisan Nasional to work together to face threats from external enemies raises the question as to whether it is genuine or pure political gimmicry.
The so-called “open invitation” came in the course of an attack on the Opposition and directed at Parti Keadilan Nasional members to dissolve the party and rejoin UMNO and that UMNO was prepared to accept them just as it had accepted back members of the Parti Semangat 46.
It was only at the subsequent media conference, when asked to elaborate on his call to Keadilan members to join UMNO that he said in an off-handed manner that the invitation was open to all Opposition parties to join the Barisan Nasional on the ground that BN practised an open policy and was willing to share power.
Mahathir is seriously underestimating the intelligence not only of the Opposition parties but of the Malaysian people if he expects his so-called “open invitation” to be taken seriously, when he is not prepared to reach out to Opposition parties to reach a national consensus on a whole gamut of vital issues to create a more united and resilient nation to withstand any form of external threats.
Mahathir should prove that his so-called “open invitation” is no pure political gimmicry by convening all-party conferences to reach a national consensus on vital issues such as the following:
Ensure that Malaysia become a terrorism-free country and that the war against terrorism, whether national, regional or international, should not be an excuse to clampdown on democracy and human rights;
A modern and progressive education policy for plural Malaysia in line with the “123 Formula” which firstly enhances English proficiency, secondly, maintain or ensure high standards in mathematics and science, and thirdly, preserve the character of mother-tongue education. The “2:4:3” proposal decided by the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council last Thursday for English teaching in Std. One in Chinese primary schools beginning next year should be presented to an all-party conference as basis for discussion to reach an all-party national consensus on the issue.
Fair and just solution of the Anwar Ibrahim question, restoring freedom and justice not only to the former deputy prime minister but also for the country.
*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman