10 things about our political circus (Part 1)
|Praba Ganesan is Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Social Media Strategist. He wants to engage with you, and learn from your viewpoints. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @prabaganesan|
APRIL 5 — My sister has two toddlers. While she can manage precocious Priya with Disney TV or toys, the younger rambunctious Nevin is a law unto himself. It is not easy being the mother. So whenever she turns to me every few months — because she is too busy getting on with life — to ask what is the state of the nation, I am fairly flummoxed. Where does one begin? There are just too many things, with too many side plots and all rolling along with no resolution.
My sister and millions of Malaysians — who do not get soft loans, bridge-building contracts or senior police officers on speed dial — want the single-sheet study note. They are busy, but they want to know enough to understand the big picture.
But Malaysia’s abnormal political reality demands academic study, just to keep up. So here are five of the 10 things Malaysians ought to know, if they have not been keeping up with the news.
Najib’s 1 Malaysia never ends
One is indeed the loneliest number, and it is the solitary phrase Prime Minister Najib Razak repeats over and over irrespective of the turmoil the country may be in at that moment.
To be fair to him, he’s been doing it religiously since becoming prime minister in 2009. Of course, when the PM holds the finance portfolio together with a department owning six ministers, everyone wants to be on the right side of the man. Which means everyone else with or without power is trying to make everything a 1.
Foundation, corporation, motorbike, provision shops... name it and if they don’t have it, they’ll start working on it. Add 1 to anything, and the chances of getting government support or approval improves exponentially.
But 1 Malaysia on its own does not do anything, it is akin to a hippie flashing the “V” sign. It does not denote any action, commitment or vision. It just means all of us are Malaysians and Malaysia is made of all of us.
Like it, don’t like it, you can decide. Just do not expect it to fight any injustice. Treat it as a benign object. Don’t be surprised reading it and all its permutations.
Najib might want to call himself “1 PM.” Malaysia has had several PMs, even one who still thinks he is PM, but no one has ever been “1 PM.” Najib can secure immortality by being alone on this one.
Mahathir keeps talking
I suppose everyone has the right to talk and Mahathir Mohamad talks about anything and everything, anyhow and anyway — takes no prisoners or blame — it does feel like he sets his own rules. Plus, there is no rule in a democracy that you have to listen, so he doesn’t.
He does live by the adage, to the winner the spoils. He was louder than loud in his post-Merdeka days in Umno, loud enough in a clinic after being eased out, grew louder after being brought back into the party and government by Razak Hussein.
Once prime minister, he stopped being loud, but only after shutting everyone else up. Then the Internet arrived. He stepped down, opened a blog and has been loud ever since.
When it comes to Mahathir, it is only the level of loudness that can be discerned.
For reasons beyond the comprehension of mortals, no prime minister can shut him up. His plum government positions are not in threat of being withdrawn anytime he threatens the PM who keeps him there.
Mahathir’s pet peeves are people, governments, nations, itinerant jeans peddlers and the rest who disagree with him or move away from his old policies. His key weapon is to point out that anything good is his doing, and anything bad someone else did and he had to suffer through the matter.
He’ll claim he suffered more than all the people he put in jail cells under the ISA, because he had to live with the decision. Yes, poor ol’ Dr M walking around bearing all our sins against his government.
Dr M’s themes are predictable, divisive and provocative. Do the one thing that annoys him and any six-year-old — ignore him.
(Unfair) Elections are forever and fair play is for sissies
This is all you need to know. The rest is just background noise.
Elections have never been fair in Malaysia. Mahathir, contrary to popular opinion, did not begin the practice of abusing democratic processes to prevent democratic elections. The British piled up the jails with lefties so that only their clerks could win the elections, and the support staff have kept the tradition.
The last five years Malaysians have taken the demand for fair elections up several notches through Bersih. The electoral reform movement has hit wall after wall, and its supporters in several instances baton after baton.
Despite all the promises from the government and the obedient civil servants from the Election Commission, nothing “fundamental” has come out of them.
No incumbent government in living memory has benefitted from reforming that country’s electoral process, they usually fall after they do that.
A Bersih victory is likely to mean a Barisan Nasional (BN) defeat in the following general election.
Second, the whole country has been on “there will be an election soon” mode for almost two years, it is pretty tiring. If you want to be less flustered, don’t ask the next politician, activist or party member you meet when is the general election. They don’t know, they can only guess.
I’m certain there are days when Najib wakes up in the morning not knowing.
Bersih’s rally on April 28 might just delay things even more.
Have PEMANDU will travel, just don’t ask where
He may be just a minister in a department that is run by the prime minister, but Idris Jala’s areas of concern probably take all the pages of a telephone book. Or for brevity’s sake, it can just be said Idris takes care of Malaysia.
The brilliant idea to have another layer of government to run government more efficiently has not slowed down one bit. Corporate dudes with “real-life” experiences scuttling back and forth, hand-holding millions of civil servants.
These last months it appears PEMANDU just has become Najib’s public relations team. Every error is misunderstood by Malaysians, every victory unappreciated by the same bunch of Philistines. And when that fails, then they say time is necessary. And after some more time they repeat the process.
For instance, I’ve not met a Malaysian who says there is less crime in the last 10 years. But PEMANDU will state unequivocally that I and the other sad souls I have met over the period are being anecdotal. We are just not befriending other people, we don’t know the millions of people who are in overwhelming support of PEMANDU and will say at gun-point (mind the pun) that there is less crime in Malaysia.
Because you see, PEMANDU says, we the people, the simple not so Harvard-educated people, only speak from coffeeshop gossip and cursory read of the newspaper. PEMANDU has the real numbers, and the police read them in press conferences. The rest of us are just amateur statisticians.
So watch out for a continuous drone of launches, announcements, policy statements, tweets, Facebook updates, 50-sen emails, SMSes, hip videos, Internet-friendly clips and TV shows.
PEMANDU will make us believe. That things have never been better.
My advice, trust yourself. Don’t trust me, that is fine but apply the same incredulity with government initiatives. Things are not better or worse because someone tells you, they are better or worse because you feel the effects. So go outside, smell the napalm. You tell me if PEMANDU is driving you anywhere meaningful.
A rally is coming, soon
For those above 30, Malaysia is a really different place to the one they grew up in. Authority is no more absolute.
Which is why many older Malaysians are fairly perturbed by developments, they don’t get it. Why is everyone up against some right, action or decision?
That discussion is moot as this column continuously stresses.
What the reader has to come to terms with is that disagreement is democracy. Democracy is not the absence of disagreements, rather the opposite, it is the celebration of disagreements.
Minister Nazri Aziz actually answers why there are so many rallies, when he says he does not understand what the people protesting want.
Minister, the people are protesting exactly because you don’t understand. They are raising the awareness of their issues by first showing you there are numbers, that a large number agree with them.
Whether what many people agree to meets your golden standard of acceptable is neither here nor there. They will protest until you engage them in a meaningful way, showing your willingness to engage on the terms of the protesters.
In brief, rallies, gatherings, candlelight vigils, hunger strikes, marches and sit-ins will happen, even if there is a fabulous government in power.
It is the frequency which slides up and down, and when you have ministers like Nazri, they can only go up.
Welcome to the present, your door-gifts are to the left before the exit.
End of Part 1
* Part 2: Economic future; corruption killers; the trio issues; spending to save you and media reality.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.