Usually we start off the process of writing an article by scouring all the happening stuff that’s been erm…happening on social media. But not for this story. This time round we were actually INVITED to the press conference. And not just any press conference, a political press conference, more specifically the launch of a new political party.
And not just any invite – we were invited with a personal call from the party president yo! #CILISOSlegitnao
Why is this such a big deal? Well, aside from the fact that we felt super important…when was the last time you heard of a new political party being formed?
So yea, this new party is called Parti Ikatan Bangsa Malaysia or just IKATAN for short. IKATAN was founded nearly 2 years ago, but it’s taken them that long to be registered as an official party (a kindly judge helped them to speed up the process).
Full disclosure: There were some forms available for all attendees to join as members of the IKATAN party, but eventhough some of us were tempted, we declined cos y’know… we’re media. Sorry Tun!
Anyway, we weren’t the only media there la. There were others like Free Malaysia Today and The Malaysian Insider who already wrote the reports which you can read here and here. And of course we were reading them, while thinking of how to approach this article.
But then something caught our eye. We started looking into the comments of these articles and what we found, what the general mood was in regards to this new party, was either caution or skepticism (though there were a few optimistic ones).
But we’re not totally surprised. Some of the CILISOS staff admitted that if they weren’t there at the press conference, they’d probably be skeptical too. And don’t worry, we don’t judge anyone for being skeptical. We understand. And that is why we are writing this, to look deeper into this new political party that hopefully might help change some perspectives.
1. Its president was asked to leave UMNO after being a member for 56 years
Please, please don’t rage just yet about how this means Ikatan is just another UMNO party. Give us a chance to talk about this guy, IKATAN’s president, Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Bin Hj Sheikh Fadzir.
This guy joined UMNO in 19 friggin 56 – when our current Prime Minister was 3 years old. He was a former member of the UMNO Supreme Council, and a former Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism, among other things.
But why did he leave? Well, he said he was asked to leave because he accused the government of corruption. That doesn’t happen every day does it? A government official openly criticising the government. We could only think of one other instance of this happening and it didn’t go well for the guy either.
#Skeptics: some of you might say that he is doing this to get back at UMNO for making him leave. Fair enough, but before jumping to that conclusion, why not hear what he had to say about why he left UMNO?
CILISOS‘ main investor, Tan Sri Vincent Lee is a long time friend of Tan Sri Kadir, and had this to say about the man.
“I think he’s very passionate about a Malaysian Malaysia and even though it’s a new party, I feel the course he’s setting for this party is the same course most of us would want for our country.” – Tan Sri Vincent Lee
Okdok… let’s also address the elephant in the room.
Our investor has never pressured us to cover anything (although he does suggest stuff from time to time, sometimes a bit enthusiastically).
2. Its top guys have no reason to politick
Besides looking at IKATAN’s leader, we also had a look at the council members of this party. What we found was some interesting stuff because quite a number of members are actually people who would have very little reason to join the political scene. Most of them are either
- Too old to make a realistic run for PM
- Too rich to risk joining a new anti-establishment party
Let’s have a look at their profiles. A lot of our info on their council comes from the IKATAN official website itself which you can see here.
The grandson of Tunku Abdul Rahman
That’s right. The grandson of our Bapa Kemerdekaan himself, Tunku Muinuddin Putra, is the vice president of IKATAN. If you’re thinking why have you not heard of such a person, it’s because he’s probably very low key. We googled his name and besides the recent news regarding IKATAN, we could only find like 2-3 articles that mention his name.
But then you wonder, why did he not venture into the political world sooner? In an article on The Rakyat Post, he mentions that he has had a number of invitations to join other political parties. However, he turned them all down because he didn’t flow very well with their politics. It was only after seeing the enthusiasm of IKATAN’s president (whom we will talk about later), that he started to consider politics.
He’s had stints at various companies, and he’s done very well to stay out of the public eye for so long. So why choose IKATAN? Surely he sees something that would cause him to finally join the political scene.
The founder of Station One
Dato Winson Chan, founder of Station One Leisure Cafe, is IKATAN’s treasurer. Just some background info on Station One cafe if you’ve not heard of it, it’s a popular cafe in Malaysia. According to their official website, Station One has opened more than 50 outlets in Malaysia in just 8 years of operation.
So why would someone doing so well in the F&B industry choose to be part of a new political party that calls for less corruption?
And besides him, there are also people like the CEO of Ban Lee Hin Group (a multi award winning company), a member of the Kedah royal house, and a few other people whose time would better be spent preparing for retirement.
Anyway, our point is these guys don’t have a reason to join politics, what more a new political party, with no affiliations whatsoever. Truth be told, they now have more to lose because they are now involved with a new political party which isn’t err…a part of giving out those things in which you agree do stuff for someone so that they pay you handsomely for it.
3. They’re haunted by the ghost of Tunku Abdul Rahman
Well not literally….we think.
But that’s what Tan Sri Kadir said (we think)! This might not be a 100% accurate quote cos we’re bad at taking notes when people talk a bit fast
At the press conference, he said that after stepping down from UMNO, he should have gotten a good rest but he could “…never sleep well because he would see the faces of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and other Malaysian leaders telling him that something was not right.”
And that was what the party was built upon. The values of our Founding Fathers.
In case you couldn’t tell from the Imprint of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s iconic pose replacing UMNO’s keris at the centre of the flag. While we think it might cause some confusion, you can’t deny the rather nice gesture of replacing a weapon with a fatherly figure to all Malaysians.
These values are based on the apparent words of Tunku Abdul Rahman himself, an excerpt of which is prominently featured on all the press kits we received.
“If we really want to come together as a family and live under one roof called Malaysia, we must be sincere with one another – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Dayak, Kadazan, Siamese and others – Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian etc. If we are sincere then we cannot say anything that will hurt one another. We cannot also do anything that will hurt each other. As sincere members of one family, we must always be there to help one another. The rich must help the poor and the successful must help the unfortunate. Only then can we become one people and a country that is united and strong. Everyone will be happy. Only then will Malaysia be respected by the world.”
We couldn’t actually find this quote anywhere on Google, but it’s not difficult to imagine him saying it (let us know if you can find a source). We did however, find his MERDEKA speech here on Malaysian Insider. Tunku was quite the orator 🙂
Kadir also related the current situation to the difficulties Tunku faced in pursuing a peaceful independence (not by force), when seeking the permission of the Rulers of the country to cede their power to the Rakyat, and convincing the British to grant Malaysia independence.
However, when asked about what IKATAN’s strategy was to achieving this… that would be the biggest surprise of all.
4. They have no intentions of winning then next elections
During the launch, Tan Sri Kadir said this numerous times
“We are not a party for the next election, we are a party for the next generation.” – Tan Sri Kadir Sheikh Fadzir
But what does that mean? How would a political party be able to advocate change without first being in power? Well this was addressed during the press conference.
When pressed about how being a party for the next generation would affect the way the party operated, Tan Sri Kadir talked about how their focus isn’t so much about the elections as much as it was about issues. This was mentioned in their speech extract as well.
“IKATAN is a party created for the future generations. It is not a party for the next election. Hence we are very free to push our position on the various issues facing the country that would bring maximum benefit to the country and future generations. IKATAN need not be just “populist”.” – Extract of speech by Tan Sri Kadir
As great as that may sound, it remains to be seen how their issues based approach to politics will affect their ability to cause change. But the way we see it, they’re just content making their voiced heard, and seeing if the Rakyat resonate (which would give them more clout). And while we realise that winning an election is needed to be able to affect change in an area, it is refreshing to hear about a party that is does NOT have winning elections as a priority….at least for the time being.
Do we really need a third party?
Perhaps a huge concern about this party is that it turns out to be another BN ‘sub-party’ due to it being run by a former UMNO man. And that’s a valid concern seeing how every other political party in Malaysia is either for BN or for PR.
We really don’t have an answer to that. For all we know, they might end up becoming a BN sub-party… we all know how the political scene in Malaysia can get very incestous. On the other hand, they might even end up with the opposition. It’s more or less a guessing game. On the other hand, why not consider that they actually did address this question?
“What is good, we will support, what is not good, we won’t support.” – Tan Sri Kadir
If it were to come down to the question in the meme above, we really don’t know. Which party is wholly good or wholly bad? But maybe what Kadir means is that they support individual actions, and not the party’s direction as whole?
Another issue that people may bring up is how the existence of a 3rd party would upset the balance or hinder the progress that has been made thus far. That the 3rd party would cause certain parties to not gain the results they want. But as we looked into this, we found out that is exactly what a 3rd party is supposed to do!
“The two political parties are a lot like the two giants of the cola world, Coke and Pepsi. Although each wants to win, they both recognize that it is in their mutual interest to keep a third cola from gaining significant market share. Coke and Pepsi, many people have argued, conspire to keep any competitor from gaining ground.” – “Third Parties” from Sparknotes.
What we learned the role of the 3rd party is not so much to dilute votes or win big electoral gains, but to do things like introduce new ideas, put issues on the agenda, keep the major parties honest, or even spoil the election. You can read about them here or even just google 3rd party politics but essentially, a 3rd party is meant to keep the major parties on their toes.
P.S. if you wanna read more about how 3rd parties can play a role in politics, read up about the 1992 United States Presidential election. In it an independent, Ross Perot, was a key figure that forced the other 2 big parties to address budget problems.
Speaking to insiders within IKATAN, the word that keeps coming up is ‘catalyst’, in that they feel being in line with what the Rakyat really want can hopefully influence the other two parties to do the same.
So IKATAN can solve all of Malaysias problems!? YESSS LAAA!!!
The general consensus in the CILISOS office was that IKATAN is a very idealistic project. They don’t have a game plan (or have yet to reveal it), they aren’t looking for electoral gains (yet), and it’s difficult to get things done without a bigger stick. But we’re idealists too, so we take picture with them lor 🙂
What do you think?
As we mentioned earlier, time will tell. But in a time when political confidence seems to be declining daily, IKATAN is a breath of fresh air because of how they’ve positioned themselves.
“Kita bukan pro-Barisan Nasional dan kita bukan pro-pembangkang, tetapi kita pro roh pemimpin mulia yang sudah, pro-rakyat dan pro-generasi akan datang.” – Tan Sri Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, as quoted by The Malaysian Insider
We’re under no illusion that IKATAN is going to solve all our problems. It’s impossible for one new party to effectively be the answer to a country that seems to be going through a really rough patch. However, as with anything new and idealistic, at least they’re going to try. And that’s more than we can say for ourselves, or some of our current parties.
“Tragically, it has been said by many wise people and 6,000 years of recorded human history did prove, that any government that remains in power for more than 30 years continuously then decadence and bad habits would set in. This would corrupt and weaken not only the political leadership but the whole structure of government. It is this situation that has seen the fall of so many successful civilization and governments in the past.The present government in our country has been in power continuously for more than 57 years. It is not surprising, therefore, we see decadence and corrupt practices setting in and eating into the body fabric of thewhole administration. Democratic principles and individual and human rights which were upheld and moulded so beautifully in our early years are now been blatantly and widely abused. Democratic ideals which was one of the main pillar of our Constitution is being abused so blatantly. Corruption at all levels of political leadership is now a common subject everywhere. And these corrupt practices are committed in such a scale without any feeling or consideration for the ordinary rakyat. Let alone the future generations.” – Tun Kadir’s speech at IKATAN launch
Hmm… after those kinds of words… we think it’ll be a bit hard to join back UMNO 🙂