April 26, 2010
The Hulu Selangor Saga
A congratulatory note is owed to Barisan Nasional and its candidate, now Hulu Selangor Member of Parliament, Kamalanathan for their victory at today’s momentous by-election. Pakatan Rakyat and its candidate, Zaid Ibrahim, lost by 1,725 votes in the final count. Political scientists are now doing the number crunching, to emerge with analyses on which areas each coalition lost or gained respectively in comparison with the 2008 12th General Election. Long pieces will emerge in tomorrow’s portals and sites, stating reasons – from both sides – for the outcome. Central theme was without a doubt: “buy-election”. Enough said.
I write as a Pakatan Rakyat supporter, which is clear since I work for, and therefore support, a Pakatan Rakyat government. I also therefore make no apologies for the dejection and disappointment reverberating across all such similar supporters at the moment, those who have been inspired by the cause to better Malaysia directly or indirectly. I write on behalf of those who have spent a significant amount of time and energy, both mentally and emotionally, placing their belief in the possibility of an alternative system and one in place of a Federal coalition government we know to be corrupt and unscrupulous in its thought and practice.
Where does this dejection stem from? Its source is deeper than just the loss of an important Parliamentary seat and a by-election. It emerges from the sense that not all is well with the solution we thought we had figured out. That, put simply, Pakatan Rakyat would have been the alternative coalition government that would prove no one government (namely, Barisan) could wield such omnipotence with such unapologetic means of outright bribery and childish antics – and worse, get away with it. This, we thought, was easy enough to achieve: Get people to support an alternative, and voila! We obtain a two-party political system. This way, neither coalition can claim to have ultimate say since it is the people who place them into positions of power.
What we failed to recognise was the possibility of numerous challenges within and without, all of which have threatened this one golden opportunity we had to produce a two-party system. I am not saying this is no longer possible, nor probable, but that perhaps it is time to remind ourselves of why we – all of us – are in this in the first place. Before that, let me add a caveat that I believe some bi-partisanship needs to be activated if either side desires to move forward in the project that is Malaysia. This means people interested in policy and planning from both coalitions agreeing on some common denominator and pushing those forward. I am sure (and I hope) this does happen at the Parliamentary front, but more must flourish: Brainstorming on education policy; youth policy; utilities; local government.
Why does it matter that Zaid Ibrahim lost? Because it means that Malaysians are still culprit to the mass bribery of cash handouts, announcements of goodies (Najib’s RM3 million for Chinese schools in Rasa “only if BN wins” sticks out like a sore thumb) and under-the-belt (and rather stupid, in my opinion) doctored images of beer-clutching. It tells me that as long as the Big Boss has the world of resources to draw from, and has no hesitation in using, whatever else wrong that is being perpetrated by the government will not count a drop.
Where do we go from here? Apart from the usual droning on that one could do (have better campaign financing and political funding laws; fairer media exposure; allow independent election monitoring), I believe that Pakatan Rakyat will need to do two things. First, to remind itself of the original cause for which they strive, and second, to act upon this belief and demonstrating to its electorate the same.
Pakatan is where it is today because of its ability to convince people of its being an alternative to a corrupt, inefficient, unfair system. We must remind ourselves that at no point in our administration can we tolerate behaviour that departs from adherence to a transparent, fair and just system. Demonstrating this equals proactively working towards these ends, even if it means a radical shift from the way in which any part of government and administration run. This requires boldness. Berani kerana benar. This we are indeed doing, and we must continue to do, despite the obstacles that come our way.
The most common lament, even amongst those who were starry-eyed about the tsunami of the March 8th 2008 election is this: that there is over-politicking, and that neither side is giving them what they expected. This we have to recognise and acknowledge (despite our arguments of justification), for fear that even a greater number of already apathetic youth disengage themselves from political participation. This becomes a failure of both the Barisan and Pakatan, because, in order to propel the country forward (yes, into a high-income nation ala the New Economic Model), you need young people, and you need them physically present to contribute. Hence many plea for some semblance of sanity and temporary suspension of political expediency.
I am painfully aware of the many issues involved, such as a non-level playing field, and neither am I doing justice not covering them all in this short post. However, for the sake of proving that it is indeed possible to break the backbone of a power-obsessed Federal government (any one such government, for that matter), we must learn to dance to a different tune, and not one which has been provided to us thus far. We are a different animal altogether, and this we must prove. Here’s to Hulu Selangor, all who were involved and those who followed it from afar. Till the next round, and it is back to work – and hope – we go.
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