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We Deserve the Government we get

By Yin, Ward 5, Tanjong Rambutan

Najib may be in jail but the sandiwara goes on. His supporters will spread the narrative that he has not had a fair trial. Simple kampung folk will believe that his oath in the mosque proves that he is innocent. Many may be persuaded that to err is human and to forgive divine as one opposition leader preached. Najib casts a long shadow. We cannot discount him pulling the strings from behind bars. UMNO will milk the Malays for sympathy votes.

GE15 is imminent – probably after the budget on October 7th where UMNO will  bribe the civil servants, bribe the kampong folk – panadols which do nothing to deal with the cancer which has spread through our body politic. And of course the trusty race and religion issues will loom large.

Other than party diehards with their own party agenda, the rest of us ordinary rakyat without party affiliation are only interested in getting a stable, peaceful, fair and prosperous Malaysia. A Malaysia without racial and religious divisions. A Malaysia for Malaysians. We want good governance.

We should ask ourselves which party is most likely to deliver the above. Time for voters to focus.

The Malay parties will continue to push for Ketuanan Melayu; a Malay Malaysia with the others as second-class citizens. Until GE14 this has been the unchallenged position since the first Mahathir government. These parties sell the myth that the Malays were here first and that the country belongs to the Malays -that the others are guests in this country. They blame the woes of the country in general and that of the Malays in particular, on the non-Malays and non-Muslims. Hadi Awang may have come out openly to say that the Nons are the root cause of corruption but other Malay and Islamic ultras think the same, that the simple-minded, honest Malays have been misled by the rapacious, money grabbing Chinese. This is an old narrative which many Malays (especially in the kampungs) still believe.

The more sophisticated urban middle-class Malays may not believe this but Bumiputraism has given them lots of privileges (discounts on housing, share purchases, positions in government and GLCs etc). The Malay parties will exploit this self-interest of the Malay middle class. The urban Malay poor – the hawkers, traders and workers may not enjoy the same lifestyle as their rich cousins but loyalty to race and religion is a powerful argument.

On the other side of the fence are the multi-racial parties and a progressive liberal Islamic party. However, the question in many voters’ minds is: Can we trust them again? The party leaders of DAP and PKR have done nothing to dispel any fear voters have that they will not be betrayed again.

On the contrary, Lim Kit Siang’s plea for forgiveness for Najib and his declaration that he can work with the disgraced ex-prime minister is cause for concern. This, echoed by the secretary general of the party “that anything is possible. . . “ makes one suspicious of DAP’s intentions.

When DAP convinced voters to accept Mahathir, voters had doubts how Mahathir’s Ketuanan Melayu philosophy can live with DAP’s Malaysian Malaysia. But they decided to go along on the assurance that DAP can handle the old fox.  We know what happened. Now DAP wants voters to trust them with a convicted felon. With Najib in jail the question of collaborating with him in GE15 is out of the question, but will DAP sleep with other unsavoury characters if it brings them into government?

Voters are entitled to ask: What does DAP stand for? What are its core values? If the party can sell its founding principle of Malaysian Malaysia just to get a seat at the table and is now making the same noises, can they really trust DAP?

Anwar Ibrahim is the same. His “big tent” philosophy means that he is ready to accept even shady characters from other parties. He is prepared to play ball with anyone as long as it increases his chance of winning government.

Winning government is one thing. Keeping government is another. We know what happened when you pick the wrong partners in a marriage of convenience.

Pundits and observers have slammed Rafizi’s “uncompromising attitude” especially against the “big tent” philosophy. They think it will not lead to government. Looks like the majority of PKR members think differently as they voted him deputy leader of the party.

Rafizi Ramli is right to suspect the ‘big tent’ approach. He is not being impractical to reject such an idea. On the surface it may look the clever thing to do (to include everyone) to win power.  But who do you let in the tent? Pejuang, Bersatu, PAS? You will have a tent of backstabbers and people of suspect character.

Do they share the same core values as you? If they don’t, how long will your government last. We have seen it in the failed PH government.

I am not so sure that an uncompromising stand will not deliver government. Voters are fed up of ‘marriages of convenience’. They have seen what it has done. They want a strong leader with conviction who will not bend like with the wind like lalang which infest our gardens. They have had enough of chameleons and people who speak from two sides of their face.

PKR must ditch the old politics and present a new vision – whether his present PH partners come in or not. In any case the noises DAP is making, I am not so sure if they will not ditch their partners if there is a hung parliament and UMNO offers them a seat at the top table. Going by what the party has said, they will jump into bed with the devil “for the good of the nation”.

Malaysians are crying out for leaders of integrity. People who spell out what they stand for and is unwavering in their stand. There are certain things that are non-negotiable and this red line must be made clear. It is better not to be voted into power than to get into power on false promises – selling a manifesto which the party has no intention of delivering.

Politics is the art of compromise so it is said. But good politicians do not compromise their core values; they stick to their message even if they don’t succeed at first. They will just have to tell it better the next time but at least they are consistent. Politicians of conviction would rather wait than to get into government at any cost.

UMNO, Bersatu, PN, PAS have little to offer the country as a whole. Their appeal is only to their race and fellow religionists. That will not take Malaysia far. It will not even help the Malays in the medium term when the economy collapses as it surely will under their charge.

I suggest PH set out its vision of what it will do for the country regarding the economy, social and economic justice for the B40, raising the education standard so that we can be competitive and at the same time produce a new generation of Malaysians who can think critically – not another generation of race bigots and religious extremists and hand kissers as UMNO has done.

In the face of rising food cost we should be releasing land for those who want to farm so that we can reduce imports and help our food security; not driving out farmers from land they have been tilling for generations.

PH should explain to rural Malays how their plan can improve the standard of living of the kampong folk. It should convince Malays that they will not be left behind. An honest and bold statement of intent will be a change voters will appreciate. They already know about the lies told at elections and the petty bribes offered by the government to win votes but which offers only more of the same for the future – corruption, abuse of power, racial discrimination.

Those who think that conviction politics will fail to deliver government underestimate the capacity of Malaysians to understand what is needed for the country to move on from Mahathirism and the corruption and abuse of power it has spawned. Even rural Malays can see how their money has been squandered by crooked politicians who use money meant for agriculture to buy hotels in London. The urban Malay poor can see how they are struggling when some of their fellow Malays live like kings on money from dubious sources. Religious Malays are aware how their leaders have stolen money from Tabung Haji depriving poor Malays who have saved their hard-earned money from going on their pilgrimage.

The 1MBD and LCS scandals are not just about corruption. It translates into how many schools, hospitals, affordable housing and welfare assistance are denied to the people because of the billions stolen. It is a debt future generations have to repay.

PH has a lot to offer without having to resort to the old politics of race and religion. If it tries to be more Malay than UMNO or more Islam than PAS it will fail.

Young blood with fresh ideas

For PH to move on the old leaders have to allow the next generation to play a significant role in GE15.

The present leadership in the component PH parties have outstayed their used-by-date. Their message has been rejected by voters time and again. Even when they won, it was on a manifesto of lies. What little trust ‘neutrals’ have for them is very fragile.

PH will be more saleable with a new generation of leaders. Leaders without the baggage of the present lot. This is not to say that the old leaders have no role to play but the new generation of leaders should take a more prominent role in GE15.

There are many capable and honest leaders in PKR, Amanah and DAP waiting to break free from the shackles of the old politics. Let them sell their vision of what our country can be and not be forced to sell the shop-soiled promises of “yesterday’s men”.

News of several DAP young leaders leaving politics is an indication of their disillusion with politics and a tacit criticism of their party. We will also lose many young talents from PKR and Amanah if they are not given a chance.

We deserve what we get.

Yes, it is the dirty politicians who got us into this mess – stealing our money, abusing their power, dividing us on race and religion. BUT WHO PUT THEM THERE?

The moral rot is not just the work of corrupt politicians. The fault lies less with politicians than with us who allowed it to happen. Malaysians have been cowed into a sullen sense of silent hopelessness by successive rotten governments and their bureaucratic minions and by a section of the public who stand to gain from the status quo.  In short, over a period of sixty years we have had the stuffing kicked out of us. Now we feel impotent to mount a challenge with any chance of making positive changes.

What truth poets speak

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”– Yeats.

How true, Mahathir, Najib, Zahid, Hadi Awang and all those who have ruled us till now, have shown extraordinary passion in pursuing their personal goals. Even those we entrusted to make positive changes in GE14 have not shown the same determination and passion to keep their promises to us.  The values they once so bravely fought for jettisoned to feed their egos. GE14 was a new dawn which curtain was brought down too soon by a spineless and unimaginative leadership of the component parties of Pakatan Harapan. Except for Mahathir with his “passionate intensity”, DAP, PKR and Amanah have allowed ‘the worst to triumph” by their caving in to the old man.

It is this underlying systemic malady which has remained largely untreated for six decades that has brought us to where we are – at the precipice.  Only we can save ourselves.

Unless a surge of progressive energy erupts from somewhere, animated by stirrings of ethical political sanity, we will lose. Bersih 2 was such an ‘uprising’ but not since, have we seen such stirrings.

Stop waiting for your neighbour to take action. It is not how well you can write, but how passionately you write (even if it is just one line) that delivers the message. It is not how much time you can give to activism; a little bit from each of us will make a big difference. It is not expected of you to make inspiring speeches, but don’t discourage those who strive to make a difference with your negativism, clever arguments and cynicism why it cannot be done.

“Little drops of water,

 Little grains of sand  . . .“ (Louisa Alcott)

Each one of us doing our little bit soon becomes a tsunami. It is up to us to keep them honest. A little effort from each one of us will make for a better Malaysia.

I remember the day after GE14: There was silence on the streets as people slept late after a night of celebration. Perhaps Malaysians were unsure if it has really happened – a change of government after 60 years. By mid morning the streets started to fill and Malaysians congratulated each other, strangers talking with other strangers. There was asense of  “family” between the races not felt since Tunku. At last we were going to build a united Malaysia for all Malaysians – Bangsa Malaysia!

But the euphoria was short-lived, Mahathir saw to that and his partners in PH allowed him.

GE15 will decide whether we sink further into corruption, racial division and religious extremism or we have a Malaysia where corruption is not tolerated, and religion is not used as a political weapon and institutional racism a thing of the past.

Only we can give our country the chance to heal; to recover from decades of mismanagement.

We owe it to ourselves and the future generation to do our bit.

GE15 is everyone’s Armageddon, the buck stops with us what government we get.

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

By Yin, Letters from Ward 5, Tanjong Rambutan

Rebuilding Malaysia
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