June 3, 2018
Inclusive Politics is Malaysia’s Future
By K Haridas
There are many opinions about the role that Dr Mahathir Mohamad played in winning the 14th general election. Yes, it is true that he played a part, but not an exclusive one. He came in towards the latter part of the struggle, and while we acknowledge his role, we must never miss out on the many others who for years (since 1998) have been challenging the establishment and creating an alternative to Barisan Nasional (BN). This struggle cannot be seen in the context of just one general election.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and The Iconic Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, 4th and 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia
BN lost the popular vote in the 13th General Election but never reflected or learnt any lessons. The arrogance and blindness as well as political skulduggery of its members were astonishing. Cash was king, and with gerrymandering and constituency delineations to their benefit, they felt they could do as usual.
Perhaps more than anyone else, the one person who contributed the most to the opposition’s victory was none other than Najib Razak and his excesses.
The entire opposition played a significant role. Leaders in PKR and DAP must be credited for their persistence, perseverance and vigour in taking on issues left by Najib. They fought in Parliament, had issues in court, and went to the people. Neither should we forget the relentless work of Rafizi Ramli and his Invoke team. I can appreciate their feelings when undue importance is placed on Mahathir’s contributions.
Invoke was on the ground for several months, doing the needed legwork, raising money, and educating the public. Rafizi put down a sizeable amount of his own cash, crowd funded, and led a team on the ground. If you have done this, then speak; otherwise let us be wise when we take issue with him. It is easy to comment without commitment.
While we respect Mahathir and his leadership, the fact is that PPBM only managed to secure 12 out of the 52 parliamentary seats and 22 out of the 102 state seats that it contested. If Mahathir was such an icon, PPBM should have done better. Further, the party is only open to Bumiputeras. There is no future for such exclusive parties, and it is amazing that Mahathir leads such a party and Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman with all his intelligence succumbs to it. They are just UMNO 2.0. Mahathir himself needs a mindset change.
We must also thank unsung heroes like Zahid Hamidi, Ahmad Mazlan, Nazri Aziz, Rahman Dahlan and Salleh Keruak. Their remarks and the intelligence they exhibited over the years made many lose confidence in BN. They should each be awarded the erstwhile “broom award” that a former Selangor government used to hand out.
Destiny has its way of working into the issues of the day. The fact that PPBM was deregistered led to the idea of the opposition standing under one logo. The willingness of DAP to forgo its rocket emblem and PPBM to stand under the PKR logo for the larger good were strategic moves. The timing was also significant in that Najib waited and procrastinated until the very end to call the election. Mahathir came in and provided some leadership.
Najib’s leadership qualities were tested over the last nine years and many times, he failed badly in holding the nation to one direction. His divide-and-rule approach, playing the Islamic card when it benefited him, using money in shameful ways, all eventually caught up with him. It is amazing that he lost the UMNO bastions of Johor, Kedah, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Melaka. It would be unrealistic to deny that there was a tsunami.
With the many good examples of affirmative leadership within the opposition and a cause that was built over the years, culminating with the 1MDB scandal, one can conclude that this election was Najib’s to lose.
However, many also speculated that he would win. Journalists like Manjit Bhatia and even Bloomberg, as well other international media were seen as being on Najib’s side. Yet, the many who had worked relentlessly held on, and the momentum carried them through. East Malaysia responded by breaking BN’s fixed deposits and voting for the opposition. Its people can no longer be taken for granted.
In the end, it was a Malaysian victory and credit must eventually go to the Malaysian voters. Now that we have achieved what many felt was impossible, it is important to focus on what is ahead. Power has the uncanny ability to divide individuals when the focus is lost. It is therefore very important for those in power to ensure that in the first two years of their rule, key issues in their manifesto are met.
Power corrupts, absolute power corrupt absolutely. Najib was consumed by power and greed. He was an exponent of “Politics without Principles (Mahatma Gandhi)”. He must now full account for his misdeeds.
Power also distorts character because suddenly a lot of adoration, new friends, and temptations invade the minds and lives of those in authority. All the trappings of power require a newfound sense of humility, grace and a capacity to manage oneself. Otherwise, arrogance and pride soon take over and the ego ensures that issues that were previously not of concern become sensitive matters.
All the trappings of power require a newfound sense of humility, grace and a capacity to manage oneself. Otherwise, arrogance and pride soon take over and the ego ensures that issues that were previously not of concern become sensitive matters.
Imagine what this does to Najib and his legacy. For a man who has been in power in one way or another for over four decades, the rot does set in. A sense of invincibility, a belief that you are God’s chosen person for the job, and that cash is king and everyone has a price. This has worked before; why not again? All his sidekicks and the people around him just sang the same song, and soon many were out of touch with reality. Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power, says Abraham Lincoln.
Money, power, women and the fast lane provide the track, and soon one becomes numb to the realities around. It is only when you have lost power that sobriety returns. That is why a term of not more than 10 years is a much-needed period before one becomes susceptible to the ways of power to corrupt and rust one’s character. The Putins and Xis of life can extend the period of their terms in office, but soon realise that more power and autocratic rule is needed to sustain themselves in their positions.
Those who have lost power will do their utmost to divide those in power. It is therefore important to ensure that those now in power will not fall victim to such attempts. Secondly, there will be those who also attempt to infiltrate and divide. Those in power will have to learn how to lead and deliver as a team, and this calls for much patience and understanding. Among themselves, they must hold power to truth in a respectful way.
One must be aware in the Malaysian context of the ethnic fissures as well as the religious card that can be used to exploit differences. The Malaysian agenda must be at the forefront of all who are now in power. We placed you there to make a difference in our lives and to give us a sense of belonging to this nation.
The activities of UMNO characters like Tajuddin Abdul Rahman and Jamal Ikan Bakar must be monitored. They are racists
Leadership requires action and stern warnings. The first should go to Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, who has indicated that race and religion are under threat. This is UMNO playing its old game. We should ensure that such expressions are not welcomed in the new Malaysia. As Malaysians, we are here to protect all interests including the race and religion of every community. He should be asked to explain in specific terms how his race and religion are now under threat, and he should be taken to task.
This is what being a Malaysian represents. It is time we sent the Tajuddins of life for re-education programmes. Perhaps we will need a new BTN for this purpose. I hope the government will take a stand, otherwise we will soon have all sorts of interest groups fanning issues of race and religion. I hope the present leadership will send a clear signal that such expressions are not welcome today. Is it not fair to expect this leadership from Pakatan Harapan?
Malaysians voted for an inclusive Malaysia. UMNO, MIC, MCA and other ethnic parties who have divided us over the last few decades have to move on to new turf if they are to remain relevant. I hope BN will become a party of consequence, with the earlier coalition members accepting their irrelevance and merging into one opposition reality that champions the Malaysian cause. It is only in this context that they will have a future.
New blood will have to come into BN, and herein is the opportunity for young and committed Malaysians who have politics in mind to go in and reshape the cause, idealism and direction that BN so desperately needs. It is only when we do our best by the whole that we are also fair to everyone. Such is the nature of inclusive politics.
K Haridas is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.