On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

A duty not to be taken lightly

The elections should not be reduced to such

Voters hold the fate of the nation in their hands. They will decide which party
will lead the nation effectively and efficiently  into the next millennium.

The next government must be  able to
fully grasp the complexities of modern economics and  finance.

Political rights alone have no  meaning
if they do not include  the right to
development, the  right to employment and
the  right to move around freely.

Malaysia, unlike some of our  neighbours,
has been fortunate.  We have come out of
the Asian  economic turmoil relatively

But many of us have taken the  economic
recovery for granted  because there were
no painful  experiences such as massive
job  cuts, sharp increases in food  prices and the closure of banks.

Steering the country out of the  economic
turmoil was perhaps  the Government's
biggest  achievement. For that, we as
voters have to consider whether the  Barisan
Nasional has done  enough to deserve our
continued  support.

If voters seek a change, they  must ask
themselves whether  the opposition front
is capable of  governing the country. Are
we  sure that the component parties,  which are diametrically opposed  to one another like DAP and PAS,  can work together in the government?

As for Parti Keadilan Nasional, 
Malaysians must evaluate  whether
there is a likelihood of  its elected MPs
returning to  Umno. If that happens,
where  would it leave the non-Malay  members if the party becomes  defunct like Parti Melayu Semangat 46?

Some of us say that the Opposition will never come to power  and that it is all right to vote for  them to deny the Barisan its two thirds
majority in Parliament.

No one can dispute the fact  that in a
democracy, opposition  is needed to
ensure a check and  balance of the

But there is a flip side. If every voter adopts this approach, it  means that every vote will go to  the Opposition.

This happened in Penang during the 1995 elections when Penangites, fearful of a
DAP state  government, almost wiped
out  the DAP. The reverse may happen if
every vote cast is presumed to check Barisan.

Barisan supporters must not  come under
the illusion that the  coalition is going
to win anyhow  and that whether they turn
out to  vote or not is immaterial.

On the contrary, they must  turn out to
vote for their candidates to ensure victory.

For the Chinese, their responsibility in this general election is  heavier because their votes are  regarded as crucial.

They must understand that  representation
in the government is vital. In the 1969 elections, the MCA lost ground because
of the community's anti establishment stand.

And because of its dalliance  with the
Opposition, the community has lost many important  Cabinet portfolios over the years  including finance.

Now is certainly not the time  to gamble.
Take the case of the  Tunku Abdul Rahman
College. It  did not come about by

The college has expanded to  many states
through the commitment of the MCA and the community. Today, it is offering
degree courses through its twinning programmes with US universities despite its
college  status.

A vote for an MCA candidate is  an
endorsement for the party's  work.
Chinese voters must ask  whether the
Keadilan, PAS or  PRM candidate can work
tirelessly for Chinese education and 

They must realise the implications of an Islamic state. It  means the end of civil liberties,  which the middle-class greatly  appreciates. It means the end of  their liberal lifestyle.

The fact that Keadilan keeps  emphasising
that it is contesting  more seats than
PAS is an indication that it, too, is wary of PAS.

Election Commission records  show 63
Keadilan parliamentary  candidates
against 59 from PAS  while at state
level, PAS has 235  contenders and
Keadilan, 69.

The opposition threat is very  real
because Barisan candidates  cannot depend
on the Malay vote  this time round. If
the non-Malays, too, wish to vote for change, 
talk of a new government is no 
longer far-fetched.

For the silent majority, it is  time to
speak up through the ballot and decide whether they want  to see scenes of violent street  protests again.

The criteria for deciding who  to vote
for should be whether the  party they
pick can ensure continuity, peace and harmony for the  nation. In the end, it is not about  a picture, an advertisement or a  personality but you and your  family's future.