On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

A lesson for politicians

Be a Nelson Mandela. It is better to leave behind a legacy, where real people will remember you in their hearts and minds forever.

THIS is not another long article about Nelson Mandela but a reminder to our politicians on how they want Malaysians to remember them when their time comes to meet the Creator.

More often than not, our politicians only think about winning the next general election or worse, the next party election.

Their political goals, which are, in most cases, purely selfish and personal, will never take them to greater heights. They simply lack the vision and cannot see the big picture.

Holding the nation together as one in a multiracial and multi-religious country is never easy but Mandela held the respect of the blacks, whites and the ethnically mixed people of his country. He also won the admiration of the world.

In short, many of our politicians will never be another Nelson Mandela if they continue to preach race, religion and divisive politics.

The world has moved on. The media, through the various platforms, have brought people closer than ever. Travelling has become easier, faster and cheaper. Malaysians can see for themselves the changes.

No one can hold back Malaysia. No politician can continue to preach hatred and believe that this is the best way to get elected.

The pettiness of some of our politicians, regardless of their political allegiance, has simply not fired up the imagination of Malaysians, especially the young.

From the recent debates in Parliament and the respective state assemblies, I doubt if anyone can name a single politician whom we think is our Malaysian Hope. The debates at party general assemblies are worse where those delegates who look at issues through racial lenses seem to score points, judging from the enthusiasm on the floor.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, initiated the 1Malaysia concept but since the general election, it appears to have taken a slide. It did not help that the Chinese did not support him in the polls, which has put the entire multiracial integration goal into a jam.

The communal-minded party leaders, unfortunately, are now reminding him to ditch whatever inclusive plans he has and to opt for a more Malay approach because the Malays are the ones who kept the ruling coalition in power. That is a fact, whether you like it or not.

The point is this. Malaysia is not about just one race but about all ethnic groups. In a general election, every vote counts. The battle to win hearts and minds does not begin three months before the polls, and granting cash allocations on the eve of the polls is not going to get anyone the votes once the people’s minds are made up.

Bashing any ethnic group instead of trying to convince them they would be better off with the winning side is political suicide, unless these politicians think they have invented a new political theory that deserves a case study.

If a customer refuses to buy your pro­duct, you have to find out why and work on improving it, especially if that person has been a long-time customer. It’s the same when the customer is angry. You have to find out why and work harder to improve the product.

We cannot scold the customers, in this case the voters, or worse, tell them we do not need them to buy our products because we already have enough customers.

The reality is, if we read our history books, which unfortunately many do not, political sentiments are never static, even among the Malays. It’s the same with the Chinese, who have changed sides many times. In a demo­cracy, that is hardly unusual and more so in a two-party system.

In any case, the point of having an election is to let the people choose. None of us can fault anyone for their choices.

And what has all these got to do with Mandela? Well, he came out of prison after 27 years and declared that he would never seek revenge against those who imprisoned him. One of his most famous quotes came from that moment: “As I walked out the door towards the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Mandela didn’t blame anyone for what had taken place but instead he chose to move on.

He didn’t preach hatred and he certainly didn’t play the race card, which would have made him even more popular as South Africa is predominantly black.

He refused to be like Robert Mugabe, who chased off the whites to cover up his own incompetence and his authoritarian ways.

And when Mandela died, the whole world remembers him for what he stood for. We are sure no one will bring down statues of him as has happened in certain countries.

There’s really no point being a political leader if it’s just about winning hefty contracts and getting endless praises from mindless supporters, many of whom have their own interests.

It is better to leave behind a legacy, where real people will remember you in their hearts and minds forever.

Be a Nelson Mandela. Preach the politics of unity and moderation, please.