Persecutions and ethno-religious controversies mark return to political Dark Age?
Posted on 16/03/2014 - 09:30
Khoo Kay Peng
OUTSPOKEN: Looking at some of the events unfolding, any right-minded Malaysian would feel disappointed and worried about the future of this country. Since 1998, the country has been going through a rocky period and a series of challenges.
On the political front, the sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from the government and his conviction for sodomy that was later overturned by the federal court had changed the political landscape of this country.
Through Anwar, the frontline political battle had shifted from a Malay-Chinese (Umno-DAP) racially charged struggle to a battle for freedom and justice. Anwar became a natural leader of the cause.
Some critics had argued that the persecution of Anwar in 1998 had led to a growing political awakening of the electorate. Anwar wasted little time to put together an electoral pact, which had led to a breakthrough electoral success of the pre-Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance in the 2008 general election. Barisan Nasional (BN) was denied its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority and lost its electoral dominance over a few states.
The political awakening did not come without a price. Since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the local economy has failed to recapture its pre-crisis growth miracle. Political contestation took precedence over a number of policy, structural and institutional reforms.
With the fear of losing more support, the BN has preferred to go back to its playbook by favouring ethnically oriented policies and subsidy programmes. As a result, short-term relief measures were often used to substitute socio-economic reforms to address real issues.
Subsidies and cash handouts are still being used to ease inflationary pressure due to subsidy rationalisation and to mask toll rate and utility tariff increases due to lopsided privatisation agreements. In the recent years, cash handouts have broadened to include more income groups and purposes, e.g. from purely cash handouts to subsidy for books and smart phones.
Now many Malaysians are worried about the sustainability of the subsidy programme. Even the opposition Pakatan Rakyat is doing the same in the states under their leadership. Selangor, a state that is currently suffering from water rationing, is giving free water to the state and it wants to extend the offer to Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya too.
Penang is giving out cash to all residents over the age of 60 years and for a host of other purposes. Its government claims that the handouts are dividends from reducing corruption.
The outcome is going to be catastrophic. The governments (federal and state) continue to fumble over reform promises and to address real socio-economic challenges and issues. Both sides of the political divide are taking populism to the highest level.
Hence, some of us were quite relieved when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak floated his national unity idea and proposed to hold a dialogue with the opposition. Unfortunately, his own party leaders quickly hijacked his proposal and they were only keen to pursue it in the name of Malay unity.
The subsequent actions were steps backward instead of a step forward to try correcting the post-2008 political impasse. A few events had given us a good indication of what to expect of those who were entrusted to lead this country.
The “Allah” controversy and the growing influence of right-wing communal groups such as Perkasa are the two most significant indications of the political mood in the country. There is not a chance that the country is going to abandon its post-colonial social construct and move forward to embrace its post independence multiracial and multicultural society. There is a growing opposition against pluralism and a greater push towards exclusivity.
In recent days, two more events are going to destroy totally our hope of ever coming out from the political impasse and usher in a new dawn for Malaysia. It is going to be a bloody political brawl all over again.
The second prosecution and conviction of Anwar on a similar sodomy charge, regardless of whether or not the act did take place, has reopened old political wounds. The fact that a prominent parliamentarian, Karpal Singh, was found guilty on a frivolous sedition charge and may lose his seat is probably the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Both the Kajang and Balingan by-elections are going to provide a perfect setting for the two political forces to kick-start their war way before the next general election. Leaders and supporters from both sides did not spare even the MH370 rescue effort from political mudslinging.
The society is deeply divided along the political lines. The only way to make Malaysians more sobre and less emotional is the emergence of an independent civil society who would put politicians firmly rooted on their purpose and responsibility.
But the hope is getting slimmer by the day. The civil society appeared to be a victim of the ongoing political impasse. Most of them have decided to take side and join the war rather than being rule keepers.
The question is how far can this madness continue before the society reaches its breaking point?
Khoo Kay Peng is a political analyst and a management consultant. He believes that this nation can only progress with the collective will of its people.
“The civil society appeared to be a victim of the ongoing political impasse. Most of them have decided to take side and join the war rather than being rule keepers.”
Masyarakat awam tidak boleh lagi berdiri di luar gelanggang sambil berpura-pura dan menyedapkan diri sendiri bahawa dalam negara kita sekarang ini, semuanya dan segalanya berjalan dengan baik. Adalah tidak benar bahawa sesungguhnya negara kita berada dalam ‘keadaan yang cukup munasabah’; kacau bilau yang sekian lama melanda kita sudah terlalu parah untuk dibiarkan berlalu tanpa mengerdipkan mata.
Masyarakat awam, termasuk segala NGO, tidak boleh lagi memujuk dirinya supaya berasa aman tenteram, ‘ayem’ kata orang Jawa dan akur bahawa semua ini adalah politik semata-mata. Dan oleh kerana politik itu ‘sememangnya kotor’, maka NGOnya TIDAK perlu masuk campur. Oleh kerana ia politik, maka persoalan politik ini kita biarkan dan serahkan kepada orang-orang politik untuk menyelesaikannya. Kita kira ini adalah pendirian yang salah.
Masyarakat awam, termasuk segala macam NGO itu, tidak boleh berkata bahawa mengikut pandangan kami ― kami berkecuali. Dalam melawan kejahatan, pendirian segala manusia, termasuk segala macam NGO ialah ibarat keadaan rahimnya seorang wanita. Sesungguhnya rahim seseorang wanita itu tidak pernah berkecuali. Pada setiap ketika, sama ada ia ‘berisi’@mengandung atau pun ‘kosong’. Ertinya dalam hikmah percambahan benih segala manusia, tidak ada rahim wanita yang berkecuali. Dan dalam hal melawan segala macam kejahatan, tidak ada istilah ‘berkecuali’ dan mereka yang sering melaung-laungkan seruan ‘amar makruf nahi mungkar’ tentu amat arif dengan maksud.
Apakah maknanya semua ini? Manusia Malaysia, ayuh bangunlah. Segala macam NGO, ayuh bersuaralah.
Ya, Allah. Hari ini sama seperti hari-hari yang telah lalu, aku sekali berpesan kepada diriku untuk TIDAK berdiam diri dalam melawan kejahatan. Amin.