The possible crossover by Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament to Pakatan Rakyat

The undersigned civil society organizations view with cautious optimism the proposed plan by the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat to affect sufficient Members of Parliament from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition to crossover to the opposition in order to form the next federal government on Malaysia Day 16 September 2008 (or in the near future). Whilst this is not the most ideal path for a new democratic government to be formed, we are of the view that there are several historical and present mitigating
circumstances that can make such a crossover not unethical, unprincipled or immoral as alleged by some government officials, mainstream press, commentators and activists.

First of all, there is nothing ethical, principled or moral in remaining within the BN government which continues to perpetuate racial and divisive politics, human rights and democratic abuses. Despite the stunning losses of the BN in the recent general and by-elections to the opposition, nothing seems to have changed as internal reform within the BN is proving to be highly unlikely as further evidenced by UMNO’s handling of the Ahmad Ismail’s racially charged statements and the subsequent Internal Security
Act arrests of top blogger Raja Petra, journalist Tan Hoon Cheng and opposition MP Teresa Kok.
While crossovers are not extremely common in Malaysia, it is certainly not a new phenomenon in the country or in other parts of the world. It is undeniable that in politics, things are not black and white and involve
multitude processes, considerations and compromises. It is a political reality that political party coalitions are formed or dissolved; and MPs associate or disassociate themselves from their political parties.
Nonetheless, we wish to state that in order for the crossover to command long term respect and legitimacy, the crossover must be done for the right reasons – reasons that are ethical and consistent with the demands of democratic, nation building and human rights ideals. It goes without saying therefore that any crossovers that are motivated by any form of unlawful monetary or personal gains, fraud or cheating will be indefensible and therefore lack legitimacy. We thus call all MPs concerned to state clearly and without reservation the reasons for their crossover and to pledge that they have not obtained or been promised any form of unlawful monetary and personal gains.
Further recalling that the primary rights and duties of the MPs are to their electorate and not to the political parties they belong to, it is incumbent upon them to be more open to their constituencies and explain why this crossover is necessary for the betterment of a new Malaysia. In any event, if the constituencies are not convinced that the MPs have crossed over for the right reasons or that they have failed to live up to their pledges, then it is the prerogative of the electorate to reject such MPs in the next election.
If the crossovers successfully form the new government, we call upon the new Pakatan Rakyat government to initiate plans to hold a genuine free and fair general election within one year from the date of the change of government.
In order for this to take place, public institutions like the police, the Attorney General’s Chambers, the judiciary and the Election Commission must be restructured and reformed accordingly to promote their independence, accountability and fairness which thus far have been abysmally poor.
Further, the new Pakatan Rakyat government should endeavour to return to the spirit and principles agreed upon in agreements signed in 1963 during the formation of Malaysia. This must be in line with supporting changes and reform for more equitable political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights in Sabah and Sarawak.
In the scenario of possible transition, the police and the armed forces should not get involved in party politics and they must remain neutral, impartial and professional in discharging their duties.
As we celebrate Malaysia Day, it is timely to remind ourselves that political transition and change are healthy norms in modern, civil and vibrant democracies around the world. It is hoped that if the crossover is successful, it will prove to be the exception rather than the norm as Malaysia aspires towards the highest democratic ideals and practices.