It didn’t take the media long to broached their most fancy question: is Ambiga going to be a candidate in 13th General Elections, given her new found fame in relation to Bersih? She has been sent death threat, aasked for her citizenship revoked by numerous deperate politicians, and her house featured in some UMNO linked mainstream media! But she said without a pause: NO, thank you! In her words: `I have no stomach for Malaysian politics!’ That speaks a lot of politicians from both sides of the fence-but seriously raise an issue if civil society movement can exist for its own cause-oriented sake? Some strong opinions-spoken and less spoken, are against such a notion-and you may well guess where they come from!
The foremost opinion against civil society leaders not becoming candidate come from the parties: both ruling BN and opposition PR and Independent parties scout for high profile opinions-leaders to become their candidates so as to boost their winning chances. Are they short on winning candidates? Going outside of their party to locate candidates seems to suggest that their party are inadequate to prepare their candidates to become winning candidates and that they are not prepared to get their candidates judged by the candidates’ own standings.
In the past we have seen how BN and PR do this in previous elections.
But back to the more serious issue: can civil society exist for its cause-oriented mission? This is an issue that challenge the notion that socio-political change are pushed along by `vanguargist’ party-just to loan a less used word that has been the term used to give recognition to the motivation force in history. This is seen as exclusive ie there is nothing else or nobody else capable of doing it!
Whether this is true factually can be debated-and there are some such debates which stretched back to the WW2! Did the poeple wanted to change or the small party leaders who pushed them, inspired them into it?
There are numerous ways to answer the question other than factually. On the whole the answer has not been conclusive and on the whole too, there is a recognition that socio-political change are complex processes which include many actors often acting in isolation at times; these include the scheming backroom activists, the occasional dare devils Che Guevarras, the likes of the catalytic graduate vege seller who burn himself in Tunisian market, the poets who pen revolutionary poems etc etc. To pin-point that there is a precise organisation or some individual that motivate the whole chain of event can be almost impossible. That does not stop some ego-maniacs from making the attempt.
Another way of looking at the issue: can social movements achieve much if not for the political parties that help them along behind or in front of the scene? This is a question like asking : if not for god how can live forms achieved the sophistication that they possess today? This suggestion put a humanly touch above any accidental chanced upon natural, organic, biological and chemical processes. Definitely the BN sees that PR’s hand in the Bersih’s rallies-both behind and up front. Definitely the PR also happy to claim credit openly and behind the scene for the Bersih’s mobilisations. Is the answer closed then?
Yet the social movements seems to act out of script so to speak throughout history! Eg the MDF of Philippines seems to take an anti-party position after the People’s Revolution in 1987. Then the famous Pakistan lawyers movement defied the `supporting’ PPP to insist on re-instating the sacked Chief Justice -much to the resistance from the PPP president and party! It seems that as far as there are mass participation in certain social movement the people are capable of making more strategic and even more principled positions than the clandestine cliques within the parties that try to push the socil movements towards their favoured positions!
So the story as it stands: social actors in socio-political change are interacting in numerous levels with each probably trying to control others/impose their will on other actors. There is no guarantee that one will get to control the other. Nor is it even desirable for it to happen.
It is all possible that for some common target the actors from different positions may cooperate -yet no need to be organisationally subsumed under the other. It is all rationally justified and there is no obligation for the relation to last till conditions change!
As a small conclusion: do what which are positive within your capacity and circle-the sum total of all people pushing in a certain direction will determine if the change will come to pass. No need to worry about/immobilised by some conspiracy theories that there is someone pushing you in one direction or the other-propagated by parties from left, right or centre. The people are the rightful driver of our own common history!
Ambiga has all the right to decide what she want to do. The questioner is simply echoing the common-place prejudice that any public interests advocates will have an eye on public positions. Ambiga has nicely put to rest such a prejudiced view.