ON THE BEAT
By WONG CHUN WAI
THERE’s no middle ground left in Malaysian politics – that’s how divisive politics have torn the people apart.
You are either with the Barisan Nasional or the Pakatan Rakyat: there’s no room for those who want to choose the middle ground.
You are either left suffering from political fatigue as a result of this endless round of politicking since the March 8 general election, or you just want to have more fights with more by-elections.
By-elections used to be held because the elected representatives passed away but now it is forced – in the name of democracy.
Defections, which should be condemned if one is genuinely principled, are now treated differently.
The planned Sept 16 massive defection exercise was perfectly acceptable and anticipated with glee by some sections of Malaysians, even when a democratic government had been elected.
But when a few Pakatan Rakyat assemblymen declared themselves independents, resulting in the collapse of the Perak state government, a different set of moral rules was applied.
Never mind that the whole political circus we saw last week started with a Barisan Nasional assemblyman who crossed over to Pakatan, was welcomed ceremoniously, but before you could even remember his name, he was back in the Barisan.
Worse, can we still remember that two of the independents were charged with corruption? Before they jumped ship, his PR colleagues had claimed they were framed by the Government but the minute they quit, they were branded as opportunists.
In fact, last week, PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa told the press that PAS was wooing a Barisan assemblyman in Kelantan. We don’t recall Husam being criticised by anyone, particularly those who see themselves as righteous political leaders.
Even as we call for fresh elections in Perak, we have not heard any politician say we should enact an anti-hopping law first. What is there to prevent another round of defections after the elections?
In short, your political integrity now depends on which colour you are wearing. In the case of last week’s fiasco, black was the wrong colour as far as the police was concerned.
Peaceful protesters wearing black T-shirts were reportedly hauled up at a coffee shop. Five lawyers, who probably wore black suits, were arrested at the Brickfields police station when they turned up to defend their clients for allegedly taking part in an illegal gathering.
It was a classic case of over-reacting and the result was the police ending up with a black eye as far as public image was concerned. The Government was blamed for this, the result of some over-reactive police officers’ actions.
Transparency has also become the most abused word. The Government deserves its share of criticism for the lack of transparency, particularly in awarding massively expensive projects.
Direct negotiations seem to be the preferred method instead of open tenders, where the information should be put online for everyone to scrutinise.
The lack of proper information and denial of access to information fuel speculations and even rumours, resulting in bloggers earning more credibility than journalists. Malaysians are seeking more information because they want to know more about what’s happening in the country and, as stakeholders in the country’s future, they ought to.
Democracy does not merely mean voting in an election every five years. We have a right to have a say in how government and the relevant institutions function. That’s how democracy works.
But transparency seems to mean different things to different people. Some politicians can still talk about transparency and credibility despite having a record of making “expose” which never took place.
One Member of Parliament produced an amateurish doctored picture with outlandish claims, attempted to pass off the picture as the real thing but seems to have been quickly forgiven. He is still talking of transparency and is perceived to be a hero in some circles.
Intelligent debate needed
Consistency is lacking in Malaysian politics, with principles giving way to political ambitions and expediency. There are not many leaders like Karpal Singh, who are prepared to speak up even if it means incurring the wrath of his colleagues.
He has become the lone voice in the opposition when it comes to the topics of Islamic state and party defections. This is both sad and dangerous.
In the blogosphere, many still cannot debate intelligently or remain focused, preferring to pick an argument over a simple word or sentence of the blogger and ignoring the context of the entire blog.
Name-calling, mudslinging and condemnation seem to be the preferred mode with the commenters hiding behind anonymity.
There should be respect for different political opinions and inclinations but one is quickly condemned if one does not adhere to a certain leaning. Such frightening intolerance often comes from those who see themselves as fighting for freedom of speech.
It has been pointed out that Malaysia is now entering a new stage of democracy, infant in its own way, but the growth process should take its course and then participation in democracy would be done in a more mature way. Perhaps, when that happens we may then see greater maturity and rationale in political discourse.