JAN 10 — With the pendulum swinging in Malaysian politics, more and more want to hedge their bets. They may not be able to tell apart an election manifesto from a teapot, but they do know it is not cool, or safe in some instances, to be the guy who supports the guy about to lose.
So far, so obvious — as evidenced by the various allegiances shifting in the political landscape.
Yet, there is the inconvenient structure of the country impeding many others from crossing the divide. Because in this tropical wonderland almost everything is tied to the federal government, translates to “you can’t let go of BN until they lose, oh boy, oh no, conundrum”.
Therefore hundreds of thousands are beholden to the present government — financially, legally or for job security. They can’t appear not supporting Barisan Nasional (BN), even if their conscience objects.
Why am I so overtly concerned about this group — the teachers, policemen, undergraduates, civil servants, etc — shouldn’t I be overjoyed enough with their votes for Pakatan Rakyat?
Their votes would be enough, except there are nefarious forces set to circumvent the will of the people, and to fulfil those intentions they rely on among many this quiet dissenters’ group.
While this remains a feudal country, with the non-use of family names rather than patronyms hiding the vast wealth and power within a small group of people, the traditional lords are by definition too few to do their own dirty work.
Which is why BN can plan and spend all it has — but in a low-tech, highly labour-intensive environment which is Malaysian political campaigning — it is the people in the machine who make it happen, or not happen. When they stall, the whole machine collapses. No matter how many janji (promises) they want to tepati (meet).
Which is why Umno’s claim that it got hurt by many party members refusing to vote for some of the selected candidates being a key reason for surprise defeats in Election 2008, has some truth in it.
If some stayed home in 2008, we need those who do think BN should fall this time but do not think they can do anything more than vote, to rethink.
There is so much more they can do. And here’s the list. Feel free to add.
Have you seen an Election Commission (EC) officer lately, in your neighbourhood?
You probably have, though they do not put on jumpers adorned with the words “election officer” — and probably not badges, caps, wristbands or other paraphernalia.
Still, every twice or thrice a decade non-EC staffers but civil servants — like teachers and district officers — manage the ballot casting and counting for a voting room. Five hundred-plus votes under the supervision of a group of four non-EC employees — they are pulled in to ensure fair polling for the day.
And later, a senior civil servant at the parliamentary seat’s election vote centre tallying the various voting rooms and announcing the overall win.
Thousands of them across the nation, and all the rakyat ever see on the telly are the senior EC leaders.
While Pakatan is training as many willing members of the public willing to serve pro-bono so that they can keep a set of eyes in the room, right beside their honourable BN polling agent who is on shift and on the payroll, it is the EC-deputised election officers who are in the vantage point to prevent vote aberrations.
They just have to do their jobs, let genuine voters in, count their votes impartially, record them accordingly and tally rigorously all the voting rooms, and call the right decision.
Without fear or favour.
If the thousands of them do that because it is the right thing, that goes a long way to guaranteeing fair elections, and the probable Pakatan win.
If doing your job right means Pakatan wins, that does not mean you are a Pakatan supporter, it just means you are a supporter of democracy and the Federation of Malaysia.
Planes, trains and automobiles
Here we go, a bunch of even ifs.
On election day, if there are phantom voters set to travel from constituency to constituency voting repeatedly, they’d need logistics.
As a friend noted, a designated phantom voter stuck on the roadside of a stretch on the North-South Expressway near Taiping is not a potential harm to our democratic process, he’s just a guy out of luck.
Which is why if there were to be cheating, those perpetrating the cheating have to collude with an array of people. Phantom voters are placid, like cattle, I am told. They, if they exist, stand and wait where they are told, walk into buses they are pointed to and carry identity cards passed to them.
It takes managers, operators, contractors and party workers to move the resource where they need to be and when. Logistics will determine the success of any phantom voters, if such a group existed.
If this fictional account was true, and I am not alleging it is, then it would be an operation requiring thousands to execute and in logistics the whole chain is only as strong as the weakest link.
So people, those who are inadvertently dragged into this presumed fiasco, each of you can play a role.
Bus drivers may not show up, organisers might organise badly and some may just ask those showing up to go home. Why not? It would be the easiest thing to do.
Slowing down things is a Malaysian forte, time to put that to some use, for a good cause.
The BN campaign offices are places of excess. Why a coalition with zero public fundraising has so much fat is moot with Malaysians, but with many of my countrymen foraging for a decent income then it is also disgusting.
How do you blame financially-strapped people trying to get a few extra bucks by being BN election workers? Even if those they are working for are those who engineered the oppressive income distribution regiment handicapping them?
Take the money, drink the teh tarik and eat the rendang, but don’t feel too bad if your lack of conviction in the cause leads you to less than enthusiastic work.
While I will resist accusing the money being the rakyat’s to begin with, I won’t hold back on the naughty remark that those disbursing the money from bags won’t remember who they are paying, when they are paying. It is a gravy train with no end. It’s a gravy train all year round, just that in campaign period the largesse is opened up to many more.
Reminds me of my neighbour of 30 years who used to drag all his boys to the BN operation centre during elections. For the retired serviceman on a NCO pension, being paid per head for all his boys and the free T-shirts were like gifts from the stars.
Everything you can do
And even if you are not an election officer, phantom voter enabler or BN election worker, you are still worth more than your worth even if your silence is the price of living in Malaysia.
This is a country that talks about being seen, a country of coffeeshop gossipers. So do that, keep that gossip up, tell those you are willing to tell that you have lost faith in the government of the day, that nothing will change things unless there is a shift of government.
Tell others that though Pakatan has flaws, the monopoly that half a century of hopes but little delivery can very well end if people voted with their conscience.
And if you dare take a further step, you can call, email and Facebook tag so many about how you feel, and don’t be surprised by the number of election officers, phantom voter enablers and BN election workers who are in your friends’ and friends of friends’ list.
You may not shout at the top of the highest building in your township, but you are worth more than your vote, time to pick up the phone then.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.