We’re healthier from sweating out the fever

I think it is but a symptom of a self-cleansing in the body politic; it is but a fever. We should not fear the fever, especially since all the players have shown maturity in keeping the conflict non-physical.

A. Kathirasen, New Straits Times

ARE the intra-party and inter-party altercations and arguments playing out on the political stage today detrimental to the nation's well-being? Many think so.

National politics is not just fractious, but irritatingly messy, too.

For instance, Barisan Nasional is trying to reassert its dominance after losing five states in last year's general election while a resurgent opposition is flexing its muscles.

For instance, there have been many instances of parties within the opposition coalition — the Pakatan Rakyat — articulating divergent views and, sometimes hammering, each other.

For instance, the BN coalition is witnessing a surge of public posturing and airing of differing, sometimes acrimonious, opinions by its members.

Even within the individual parties, the normal tensions have exploded into aggressive language and overt moves.

Note the mutiny, last week, among the ranks of Umno assemblymen in Terengganu who want Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said replaced. Note the unrest in Parti Keadilan Rakyat over the naming of S. Manikumar as its candidate in the recently concluded Bukit Selambau by-election.

On the larger canvass, note the rift between the party that has ruled the nation for 52 years and the people, so much so that they denied BN a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

The whirlwind of events since March 8, 2008 continues unabated. We have had five by-elections since the general election with a sixth on the cards; the tussle for power in Perak between BN and Pakatan continues; and, now, the courts have entered the fray, deciding on matters that once were thought to be the exclusive domain of the legislature.

A friend is worried the nation might be tottering towards disintegration. Another thinks there may be no end to this morass of manoeuvring.

I think it is but a symptom of a self-cleansing in the body politic; it is but a fever. We should not fear the fever, especially since all the players have shown maturity in keeping the conflict non-physical.

But we must treat the disease. And fast.

If I may interpolate a study about married couples into what is happening in the political sphere, these irritations might even portend a more mature nation.

In a study published in January 2008, researchers at the University of Michigan concluded that a good argument with your spouse can improve your health, and marriage.

They found that couples who held back their anger died earlier than those who expressed their anger and dissatisfactions openly.

Researcher professor emeritus Ernest Harburg was quoted as saying: "The key matter is, when the conflict happens, how do you resolve it? When you don't, if you bury your anger, and you brood on it and you resent the other person or the attacker, and you don't try to resolve the problem, then you're in trouble."

Other findings indicate that those who express anger might be more optimistic about a situation.

Fevers are not new to Malaysia, and, before that, Malaya.

For instance, when the fight for independence was gaining strength, there were arguments, and deep divisions, between Malay groups about how to proceed.

Umno founder Datuk Onn Jaafar quit the party in 1951 to form the non-communal Independence of Malaya Party when Umno members rejected his plea to be inclusive and admit non-Malays as members. And there were loud differences between the Malay, Chinese and Indian leaders on the role each would play, followed by plenty of bargaining.

Remember the vitriolic poured by various parties and leaders during the months leading up to Ops Lallang in 1987? Or the demonstrations after former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's arrest in 1999?

So, I think, the conflicts raging now — between political spouses and members of the political family that is Malaysia — are a fever, a call to treat the disease ailing the nation.

A catharsis, if you will.