Dalam membicarakan soal "politik baru" dan pembentukan pakatan ke arah perubahan politik, teringat saya kepada ulasan saya mengenai buku Meredith Weiss, "Protest and Possibilities: Civil Society and Coalitions for Political Change in Malaysia", yang diterbitkan dalam Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics (Vol. 45, No.2, April 2007). Di bawah ini saya petik beberapa perenggan penting dalam ulasan saya mengenai buku Meredith:
"Meredith Weiss has sought to find the locus of political change in Malaysia. For a country in which the ruling coalition of race-based political parties has been helming the political leadership for almost fifty years now – since independence in 1957 – that task can be gruesome. A couple of authors had previously attempted to locate changes, or something ‘new’, beneath the surface of Malaysian politics, especially following exciting events in 1998-99, but ending up having to put caveat on their works. It is hardly surprising therefore that this book too, like other literatures in the same genre, has not been keen on over-emphasising that there is something ‘new’ in Malaysian politics, though there seemingly is".
"Meredith however categorically points out that the 1998 Reformasi movement, which was ‘one in a succession of opposition attempts to forge for Malaysia a new political alternative, grounded in the ideology and principle of justice rather than in race and patronage’ (p. 2), provides opportunities for coalition building among and between reformist civil society actors and political parties seeking political reform along democratic, non-communal lines."
"The core ideas of this book can be found in chapters 5 and 6 where the ability of reformist civil society actors and political parties across racial and religious cleavages to forge coalition for political reform and to bring about changes, both at the institutional and normative level, is presented with solid empirical evidences. It also captures a defining moment in Malaysia’s recent political history, i.e. the Reformasi movement following the ouster of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and the attendant cross-communal and cross-sectional popular call for political reform, which shows that creating and fostering an alternative vision of Malaysian politics – one which is essentially non-communal and fully democratic – is not altogether out of everyone’s imagination."
"Though the process of political reform seems inevitable, Meredith is cautious in reminding that racial and religious fears are still very significant in Malaysia’s deeply plural society (p. 17), and that such fears may inhibit the internalisation among the general public of lofty ideals of multiracialism and social justice as promoted by the reformists. I suppose, in hindsight, this is the real challenge facing any initiatives for political reform in multiracial and multi-religious illiberal democracy such as Malaysia. Recent public debates on religious freedom and the perpetuation of 35 years old race-based affirmative action programs, an extension of the New Economic Policy (NEP), are bordering on the ‘old’ politics of communal divide."
"Be that as it may, this book as a whole is about how reformist civil society actors and political parties across social and religious cleavages seek to build coalitional capital to further political reform in an illiberal polity. I would say that this book is a good guide for those who are interested to find a glimpse of something ‘new’ within the old framework of politics of race, religion and repression in Malaysia."
Buku Meredith ini, yang membicarakan tentang pembentukan "modal pakatan" ke arah perubahan politik, amat patut dibaca oleh bekas para aktivis reformasi, yang sekarang ini mungkin begitu teruja dengan "kebebasan politik" Anwar Ibrahim dan sibuk dengan pembentukan Pakatan Rakyat. Berehatlah sebentar daripada kesibukan berpolitik dan renung-renungkan ....