The quiet wave of change
MAY 21 — Timing is everything when it comes to performing. And the same can be said for politics.
For politics is, in some part, performing to an audience. Watching every step, following every move, voters are always observing what and how politicians do things and, in doing so, forming their own opinions. And sometimes, some opinions, once formed, can be unshakeable.
It is especially true when such opinions are drawn from the unspoken. In the days of the Internet and social media, the unsaid makes up most of what we hear and see. It is no surprise that many politicians, and political parties, painfully find themselves in the buff now.
Today, carefully crafted facades are now a thing of the past. Today, politicians and political parties are constantly evaluated in real time; not just on what they say and do, rather, also the manner in which they say and do things.
It is, for the most part, a matter of timing.
Amusingly, that is seemingly lost on Barisan Nasional. Despite the apparently hip and tech-savvy prime minister’s leadership, many of those leaders are still dangerously slogging through the quagmire of self-contradiction. Like moths to the light, many took to Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere in droves. Yet like moths to the light, many haven’t got a clue what they’re doing.
And that fact didn’t take long to show. The social media is rife with gaffes. As we live in a time where public blunders easily, quickly go viral, the margin of error in social media is nearly non-existent if public image is the mainstay of one’s career. Many are failing the test of impromptu.
In kind, recent developments over the Bar Council’s criticism and apparently dismissive treatment of graft concerns (especially electorally) augment the increasingly dishonest aspect emanating from the ruling coalition over recent years. With the mainstream media struggling with conflict of interest issues, it’s an open secret that many Malaysians are still only seeing part of the whole picture.
A case in point: Last month, Suaram filed a complaint in a Paris civil court over the Scorpene submarine sale to Putrajaya, with allegations of bribery and kickbacks involving the prime minister and possible links to the Altantuya murder case. It would have been a massive scandal in most countries. Against expected journalistic tendencies, however, it is hardly reported here.
Quite telling, too, is the sudden abundance of public service advertisements highlighting the recent government-funded financial aid to the needy. The uncannily close timing to the looming general election smacks of vote-fishing. Most suspicious is how the assistance and the assisted are portrayed. In portraying those receiving aid with well-known, state-specific dialects, the different advertisements carry the same flavour: It is the Barisan Nasional government that is always there for them, not their elected representatives from the opposition.
And that is without even touching on the unprecedented and conveniently timed windfall for FELDA settlers, or the controversial passing of the Peaceful Assemblies Bill, or the relative silence on the NFC “cowgate” scandal.
Hence for many Malaysians grows a sense that this was an entity that can dish it out but cannot take it, leading to what amounts to suppression of information in the name of maintaining order. An entity whose own interests underlie many good things done in the name of the people. An entity whose overt, tactless manner belies the artificially crafted public image of honesty and integrity. An entity doing things for the wrong reasons.
It is an aftertaste that spoils the honest efforts of some politicians who earnestly try for those they represent. It is a nearly unshakeable perception of dishonesty and corruption that discolours everything they do.
Yet perhaps it is a blessing in disguise. As Barisan Nasional begins to realise the futility of censorship, so will they realise that the only way to go is to walk the talk. The same goes for the opposition should they come to power.
Perhaps we will gradually see less overtly timed efforts for the needy and more consistent focus on making lives better. Perhaps the irrepressible transparency of the information age will lead to better accountability, better governance. And perhaps, someday, political motivation will take a back seat to genuine desire to serve the people.
After all, in this day and age there is no hiding for any politician. Voters see them as they are, the good and the bad, and everything they do is in public view. And the public will hold them accountable for everything.
Earlier this month, the prime minister asked Kelantan to give Barisan Nasional a chance. The same might be said by the opposition to the rest of the country. Whatever happens in the coming general election, may the people win in the long run.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.
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