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Party politics dictating country’s fate - Lim Sue Goan

Although Malaysians are celebrating the Malaysia Day with much enthusiasm and joy, given the deteriorating standards of our party politics, our advances forward could very much be hampered.

Because of fear of losing political control, the ruling coalition has not only failed to think forward and contemplate ways of reforming itself after the 13th general elections, it has instead clung even more forcefully onto its fundamental support base.

The country is in a pathetic dearth of fearless political leaders who would boldly push ahead national as well as party reforms, and put the nation above themselves.

Prior to the general elections, slogans of 1Malaysia and economic transformation were shouted loudly but after the elections, race-driven politics take the centrestage while "national reconciliation" bows out gracefully, resulting in exacerbated polarisation.

These few points have served to illustrate the fact that party politics has indeed moved into a dead-end.

Firstly, the meanings of democratic elections have been distorted. Under the spirit of democracy, it is an indisputable right of every Malaysian to vote for any political party of his choice. The political inclination of the voters must be gauged and explored from the perspectives of the big picture, and no voters should ever be retaliated for his voting priority.

During the US presidential election last year, Barack Obama lost some of the support of White Americans. Some 80% non-White Americans still voted for him, including 93% of African Americans. However, Obama never implemented any policy that distinguishes between his supporters and non-supporters.

Churning out racist policies just to please a particular community for its support in an election will bring a political party to utmost populism, and it will be very difficult to steer the government back after party elections.

If the party fails to understand the essence of democratic politics, democracy is at best a tool in the manipulating hands of politicians.

Secondly, party and politics have become indistinguishable. Although BN won fewer seats in the 13th general elections, Umno's parliamentary seats jumped from 79 to 88, giving the party a bigger voice in mapping the direction of the government.

By right the government should first consult the public and then deliberate thoroughly in the Cabinet before implementing any major policy. Unfortunately, the decisions of one party are now construed as those of the government, shunning the participation of other component parties in the ruling coalition.

Thirdly, ambiguous direction of the country's economy. Before the elections the government knew very well economic transformation was imperative, and that meritocracy should be adopted to lift the country's competitiveness in addition to maintaining the existing quota system. But with the bumiputra economic empowerment policy, economic transformation is poised to take the back seat.

The economic transformation programme succeeded in luring some foreign investments prior to the elections. With the ghost of New Economic Policy now revived, the New Economic Model is bound to be nipped in the bud.

If economic transformation was repeatedly chanted before the elections, why are we backing down now?

Fourthly, government's wavering stand on patronage policy. During his premiership, Mahathir criticised bumiputras of being too reliant on government handouts. Umno today seems to have forgotten what Mahathir said, and the policy to empower bumiputras could very much become yet another "crutch" the Malays would claim as their birthright.

It is essential for Umno to set a timetable on when this race-oriented patronage policy will come to an end.

On the deteriorating ranking of Universiti Malaya in the QS World University Rankings, an Umno minister said the government should give priority to the 40% undergraduates who lagged behind academically.

The government must make a decision whether it wants to keep protecting the lagging or uplift the brilliant.

Fifthly, hindrances in Umno's transformation. As the backbone of the ruling coalition, Umno by right should implement more diverse, multicultural policies. Unfortunately, it appears that it is now heading the other way.

The hawkish in the party are gaining momentum and the more liberal and open-minded have to back off. If such a trend is fixed, there will be no prospects of any real transformation come the next general elections.

Sixthly, accentuated political risks on fundamentalism. If Umno moves decisively towards monoracial politics, there is no way for it to gain back non-Malay support. Unless a split in bumi society does not take shape, Umno is very likely to lose the next general elections.

Embracing fundamentalism also exacerbates national mistrust which is detrimental to national integration. Racial emotions are bound to run high.

History has proven monoracial politics wrong, but for the sake of their own interests, some will still recalcitrantly cling on to it.

The current political environment provides a unique opportunity for Pakatan Rakyat to expand its vote bank to check the right tilt of Umno. However if Pakatan leaders also follow suit, then the future of this country is doomed. -, September 18, 2013.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.


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