January 6, 2013
S.Thayaparan responds to his Critic and restates his political stance
However, Santino is operating under a few faulty assumptions that I hope to correct in this response.I apologise in advance for the length of this reply but I wish to be thorough since this is the election season and as someone whose writing is pro-opposition, I wish to state my positions unambiguously.
The writer begins by not “faulting” me for “biasness” every time I write for Malaysiakini but does not explain what this “biasness” is. For my part, it is not that my biasness have been “exposed” in my columns but rather I have declared my support of the oppositional forces in this country and specifically Pakatan Rakyat in numerous pieces that have appeared in Malaysiakini. A cursory reading of any of my articles would have confirmed this.
From what I managed to decipher of the letter, there are four major points of contention that the writer has of my piece (or rather me). The first is my characterisation of this upcoming general election. The second, my “elitist” position as far as politics is concerned.The third, my stance on the two-coalition paradigm and the fourth point, the apparent contradiction in my criticisms of Pakatan and BN and my belief in a two-coalition paradigm.
Apparently, to the writer my “confusion writ large” is my contention that this coming election is a “grudge match” between Pakatan and BN. Santino offers two assumptions of his own (coloured no doubt by his own biasness) as to why this characterisation is wrong.
The first is that this coming election would be Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s last shot at the head job in Putrajaya and the second, that this election is for the “soul of Malaysia” which the writer then goes on to buttress with “well-rehearsed points that have long borne the realities of contemporary and even historical Malaysian politics” in contravention of his own rejoinder to me.
As for the first, what makes the writer think that this is Anwar’s last shot at the title? Anwar has made many claims and gone back on them.
Going by Anwar’s history, I think it would be safe to assume that this may or may not be his last attempt at the throne in Putrajaya and his protestations of the former may be just political spin.
Furthermore, if many others and I assume it is a grudge match, it is an assumption that has at least some credibility since the guts of Pakatan comprises UMNO outlaws and malcontents who for whatever reasons have joined Pakatan as a possible re-entry point into the corridors of power.
Let us not forget that Anwar himself on various occasions has stated that his “retribution” would be against those power players in UMNO and not the regular members. To be fair to Anwar, he has on many occasions stated that his desired goal is to move Malaysia out of this UMNO quagmire and not any personal vendetta against those who have wronged him in UMNO.
In this context, I do not think it is misleading to characterise this election as a grudge match and this is not taking into account the revenge fantasies of partisans who at any chance they get in the alternative media vomit out their desires for retribution against a regime that has wronged them.
People (who the writer likes to remind us) are the vehicle of change, so I see no problem in lumping them in with political parties of their choice. I see no problem with this description because politics is an endeavour fuelled by various human motivations and as always, it is up to us (the people), to monitor the corridors of power and see to it that our voices are heard above the din of backroom dealing.
As for the whole “soul of Malaysia” showdown, this is arrogant partisan posturing that unfortunately is the rallying cry of both coalitions in this country.It would be a credible proposition if the polices of both were completely different, which of course they are not. However, the real problem with this “soul” assumption from my side of the political divide is that it furthers the narrative that UMNO and BN are without support and the whole of Malaysia is behind Pakatan, thereby reducing BN supporters as “ignoramuses” who would be better off under a Pakatan administration with all the flaws the writer himself acknowledges.
In addition, as far as dangling the worthless “ringgit”, is the writer aware that Pakatan is doing the same thing with all its populist policies of free education, subsidised fuel and (sic) affordable housing?
I have no idea where the writer gets the idea that I am “ever so prone to situate politics at the elite level, almost as if ordinary Malaysians would be untouched by all the politics.”If anything in the comments section of my pieces, I am vilified as being too “idealistic” which I take to mean placing principle over political expediency.
Again, a cursory reading of any of my articles would confirm my vox populi stance. If the writer had bothered to do some research, he would have discovered my support for grassroots level movements like Hindraf, PSM, my criticisms of the UMNO system of patronage, the MCA and slowly (emerging DAP) plutocracy, the crass reactionary politics of urban middle-class voters, the impact of Islam on the average Muslim (my disdain for the separate but equal Pakatan stand with regards to hudud is well documented), not to mention the holiest of holies, my no-holds-barred (some would argue, reckless) criticisms of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), etc. points to the exact opposite of the writer’s contention.
If anything in most of my articles, I have been raging against the “elitism” in politics and the plight of the disenfranchised that, political elites use as talking points in their political campaigns, a rather unfortunate reality of democracy.
The writer than goes into a long ramble about my preference for a two-coalition paradigm central to which is his dismay of the state of “third world democracies”. He does not define what he means by “functional democracy” and his rejection of so-called “third world” democracies like India and Indonesia, is puzzling since he neither gives reasons why they are dysfunctional nor does he elaborate on how “substantial changes” in South Africa and Fiji, does not accurately reflect the will of the people.
To be honest, I have no idea what point the writer is attempting to convey.There seems to be some confusion on the part of the writer of the concept of a two-party paradigm or rather his conflations of the form of democracies and the post-colonial realities of the countries he cites.
All a two-party paradigm ensures is that conflicting forces through the ballot box influences the way in which the system operates through cyclical elections. Substantial changes are only possible if a discriminate electorate tames the vested interests within these conflicting forces.
Anwar Ibrahim and Pakatan’s UMNO-BN Busters
Is this a perfect system? Not by a long shot but the writer does not suggest an alternative.On the other hand, maybe he does. May be he would prefer it Pakatan has a monopoly on “change” for decades? I really cannot tell.
The writer has trouble understanding what my “beef” is and goes on to whine that I “can’t have it both ways”. Does anyone else see the problem with this? First, the writer accuses me having “biasness” which he does not define.Then he claims that my criticism of Pakatan and BN is somehow having it both ways. Moreover, how does being critical of both coalitions and subscribing to a two-party paradigm, incompatible?
If anything, by assessing the agendas of the two coalitions and making an informed choice not predicated on blind loyalty, this would ensure that the two-party system works.
The problem here in Malaysia, is that we have never attempted to allow another coalition (for various reasons) the opportunity to lead this country but more importantly, UMNO cannot rely on its track record or at least this is my thinking as an opposition supporter.
However, the punch line is the writer then goes on listing his own criticisms of Pakatan and BN regurgitating the same examples I have used in my various comment pieces.The Perak fiasco, the Kedah shenanigans, “UMNO’s bribery”, the Selangor quagmire, Pakatan “turncoats”, PAS and its “coy Islamic agenda”, Anwar’s September 16, 2008 debacle… nearly every issue on his list with regard to BN and Pakatan, is something that I have written about before and a couple in the very article the writer finds so problematic. So, dear reader, who is the one “re-boiling” boiled eggs, now?
The writer says it is crunch time for Pakatan and BN. This was explicit in my comment piece. He singles me (and by the way, it is “the old commander” not commodore) out for rehashing old issues, which is ironic because rehashing “old issues” sometimes happens in the echo chamber that is the alternative press, not to mention what BN and Pakatan often do.
It would have been beneficial to me, if the writer elaborated on those policy issues of BN and Pakatan that he thinks should be dated and that I may have missed, but what I got was a confusing polemic in which the writer could not even follow his own advice.
As far as me not dwelling on critical policy issues, perhaps if the writer had done some research, he would realise that policy issues be it the demands of Hindraf, losing the secular battle, the nature of press reforms, affirmative action policies, Pakatan and BN reactionary educational polices (with regards to the PTPTN debate, for example), the Armed Forces, are front and centre of my pieces.
The writer obviously disagrees with the piece but the question is, is it something I wrote or is it something he is projecting on the piece? Santino’s makes many assumptions about my political leanings and my writings in Malaysiakini but offers no evidence to substantiate his claims.
For someone who takes a shot at columnists’ inability to recognise the “truth”, I was hoping the writer would provide some enlightenment as to where most of us writers go wrong. The truth is, I get more honesty from the commenters of my regular pieces than this particular writer.
Santini ends his letter with a quote from my piece he finds confusing. What can I say? It seems perfectly clear to me and to many others who read the piece. Go figure.