One for all and all for one

Wikipedia defines a frog as “any member of a diverse and largely carnivorous group of short-bodied, tailless amphibians composing the order ‘Anura’” (scientific name).

Anurans (frogs) come in several types, shapes and sizes such as bullfrog, tree frog, flying frog, leopard frog, pickerel frog, spring peeper, ranid, tadpole, polliwog, toad, croaker and many more.

Interestingly we seem to have some extra varieties in Malaysian politics. Sabah traditionally has had the whole range over the years. Keeping track of some politicians’ political affiliations there would make your head spin.

Are we in Sarawak going in the same head-spinning direction? These past few days have seen yet another turbulence of sorts in Sarawak politics.

Recent machinations might indicate that we might be heading towards a period of uncertainty. But so what if we have “frogs”? Is it a bad thing? To try to answer this, let’s do a bit of head spinning.

United People’s Party (UPP), a breakaway faction from Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), recently changed its name to Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB).

Its approval by the Registrar of Society has brought with it some shifts in Sarawak politics.

It has seen some disaffected and past members of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) move over to PBS including those from the basically defunct Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras) and some past displaced People’s Democratic Party members.

This has triggered a response by PRS to demand the removal of the current PSB cabinet members in the Sarawak government. This demand is backed by SUPP, which is what members of a partnership are supposed to do for each other.

An alliance is basically an agreement to work together to try to achieve the same thing.

An appropriate term might be “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno” a Latin phrase meaning “One for all, all for one”. This phrase which signifies comradeship within an alliance was made popular by the novel The Three Musketeers.

In Sarawak’s case, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) is “The Four Musketeers” comprising PBB, SUPP, PRS and PDP. All were formerly part of Barisan National Sarawak.

In an alliance, it is said that if you mess with one partner you mess with all. Meaning the other partners will come to the aid of the one being messed with.

So now we have a scenario where one or two members in an alliance have been “messed with” supposedly by PSB that claims to be friendly with GPS but is not part of the alliance.

In keeping with the spirit of the alliance, all four parties now need to close ranks, especially in times of need.

Some would surmise that if you claimed to be GPS-friendly, then you ought not to poach members from the alliance.

Generally, the positions of PRS, SUPP and PDP in this matter are clear. But where does PBB, the senior member in the alliance, stand in all this?

In PBB, there are some mutterings of support in some online chat groups that the alliance membership will stick together.

Others opine that PBS will stand in the next election under the GPS banner.

This ambivalent approach, if stretched out too far, could lead to dissatisfaction among members.

In politics, the right to associate with any political party is a freedom we are entitled to.

The right to form a political party is also a freedom that is guaranteed.

In fact, this freedom we have to associate with whichever party we choose is evidence of a thriving democracy.

So are the hues and cries by some of the component GPS parties about PBS’s political manoeuvres valid?

Yes, if you look at the scenario from within, they seem to have a legitimate grievance.

However, if one looks from outside, as most of the public do, they could not really be bothered with the goings on. At the most, the whole thing is political entertainment to them.

After all, it is the norm in Malaysian politics to move from party to party for either personal political survival, inducements or (perhaps less likely) ideology.

Why do I say ideology is less likely? Well, in countries such as Britain and the United States political ideologies fall on the left or right and all sorts of shades in between.

Left-wing means having socialist type tendencies or at least elements of it. The right-wing means supporting minimum rules and free-market economics while liberals/progressives have a mix of both.

In Malaysia, our major political party alliances seem to encompass “all the wings” with the only difference being the racial elements. Of course, I am perhaps oversimplifying the descriptions above, but I hope you understand my point.

So based on this lack of ideological differences between our parties in Sarawak, why “jump”?

From what have happened, it can only be deduced that “jumping” occurs due to either personal political survival, neglect, lack of leadership, various forms of inducements or the desire to climb higher and perhaps a mixture of all the above. But not it seems for ideological reasons.

Even our current Prime Minister falls into the category of “frog”.

In one way or another perhaps we are all frogs. We have all changed our views from time to time. Occasionally we have even changed our circle of friends and organisational affiliations for various reasons.

There is an idiom that states, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes,” meaning before you judge a person you must understand his or her experiences, challenges and thinking processes. Basically, this idiom is a reminder to us to practice empathy because frogs in our political system have their own reasons and justifications.

Whether the latest development in Sarawak is a storm in a teacup or a significant storm is yet to unfold.

But the potential for a “Black Swan” event is there.

Otto Von Bismarck once said, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.”

This leads to the concept that politics is also the art of the impossible.

So even if it seems that at the moment it is impossible to reconcile all the differences between the parties, the impossible can become possible.

Whether the latest political developments make a politician’s career or break it, the public generally is not really bothered. For them, life goes on.

What is essential and critical to Sarawakians as a people is that whatever the “fallout” from the latest development in Sarawak’s politics, the people must not be made to pay the price.

Overall if we want to be pragmatic, it is not about what is right to do or what the best thing to do is.

It all boils down to what the GPS leadership can actually get done for the people.

This is real politik, whereby pragmatism is applied over ideological goals.

So with that, from one “Anura” to another, let’s hope everything works out well for Sarawak.


The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.