Malaysian politics today: Don’t get mad, get even

The pernicious development of mysterious deaths of those under police custody has become the Barisan Nasional lineage and infamous legacy of its governance besides other serious allegations on corruption by its fraternity of lawmakers and more recently political conspiracy in the Perak coup.

Stanley Koh, Malaysian Mirror

If Malaysians had generally thought that the changed political landscape would speed up the process of democratic reforms soon after the “308” political tsunami, they were in for a deep disappointment.

Instead, Malaysians found themselves and the nation being dragged back into an era they thought would be passing away.

The old racist language, old political characters, old mindsets and old faces, should have retired from the scene but no, they are still on the centre stage.abraham-lincoln.jpg

Once again, Malaysians are short-changed by an un-evolving political culture. A culture where more and more Malaysians are into believing that the ballot is stronger than the bullet, paraphrased by former American president Abraham Lincoln.

What we see in the domestic landscape are two obvious lagging problems: the political challenges seem insoluble and the economic ones are incomprehensible.

In truth, Malaysians perceived that local politics has become a mere diplomatic name for the law of the jungle.

Don’t get mad, get even

What Malaysians see and hear in the political chorus is an insecurity of the ruling regime-central to its survival and a “dragon slayer” Opposition, avowed to become an alternate government at the federal level.

The Malaysian current political scenario is apparently centred on three laws of politics, exampled by an observation from Everett Dickson.

According to Everett Dickson, the first law is to get elected, the second, re-elected. The third law is not to get mad but to get even.

Recent political developments in the country seem to follow Dickson’s assumption as we witnessed a fierce battle of strategic gamesmanship as one political drama unfolds after another.

teoh-beng-hock.gifTo non-partisans, it no longer matters whether the political landscape is an arena of morals or an arena of interests because it is common knowledge our local politics has rarely been dedicated on the basis of morals in the first place.

Both the opposition and the ruling regime may have their fair share of weaknesses but the generalised bias is heavily stacked against the ruling Barisan Nasional regime for woefully neglected national interests and instituting a warped democracy evident by a huge literature of a failed government.

Mysterious death of Teoh Beng Hock

Malaysians are becoming more and more eloquent against the ruling regime for trying to impede or prevent the nurturing of more democratic principles governing important institutions, including values and activities encompassing all aspects of Malaysian life.

The latest bizarre tragedy of Teoh Beng Hock, aide to a Selangor state executive councillor, plunging to his death at the Selangor headquarters of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) somewhat crystallised a characteristic of the Barisan Nasional governance.

The ruling regime is bankrupt of foresight and a moral driving force in governing the enforcement agencies, not just MACC, but generally law enforcement agencies in the country.

The MACC 2008 Act was rushed through parliament by the BN caucus in two days without a proper deliberation on the operating procedures by both sides of the August House. It was placed under the jurisdiction of the Attorney-General instead of the scrutiny of parliament.

One of its biggest blunder is its failure on delivering “essential demands” to the development of a civil society reflecting a new century to political democracy, media freedom, the rule of law, social security and fairness. 

The pernicious development of mysterious deaths of those under police custody has become the Barisan Nasional lineage and infamous legacy of its governance besides other serious allegations on corruption by its fraternity of lawmakers and more recently political conspiracy in the Perak coup.

‘Absolute powers corrupt absolutely’

In fact, the mistakes and failures under BN’s governance and leadership come in all shapes and sizes over the years which have tragically become an integral part of the Malaysian political culture.

A culture of mental captivity, a disease suffered by politicians who place political expediency over moral values and ethics, thinking they can get away with absolute political power at hand.

chua-pkr-4.pngThere is absolute truth in the popular catch-phrase that “absolute powers corrupt absolutely”.

A former prime minister once reminded Malaysians that democracy is not our nation’s religion. But as the political developments are getting “more hazy”, the statement can be a nail to a political coffin.

All human beings would like to be free to express their thoughts and beliefs, under the parameters of a humane set of laws and guaranteed under certain decent political conditions.

Who would not like the “right to life, liberty and security of a person?”

A new Malaysian political culture must emerge. People should not be arrested for peacefully criticising their government. There must be mechanisms to resolve peacefully political conflicts of interest and even to change a government in power, if most people desire it – through the ballot box.

Like the popular dictum which says: “There must be a fair game or a level playing field.”

Where is the separation of powers?

In a healthy political environment, true independence must be seen and seen to be carried out by guardians of political power in a parliamentary elected system of government.

Instead, Malaysians have heard all sorts of allegations linking abuse of power, rampant corruption and conspiracy to government institutions and enforcement agencies which were by statutory laws supposed to be independent from the executive in the corridors of power.

The principle of separation of powers in a Malaysian parliamentary system of government (executive, legislature and judiciary) remains an unconvincing truth, in fact more of a myth in the mindsets of many sceptical Malaysians.

As part of this political culture, there is yet to be seen any sign of reforms being instituted or taken place.

najib razak.jpgInfringement of human rights, arbitrary arrests, deaths under enforced custody, political conspiracy to overthrow an elected government and many more sleazy politicking methods have no moral justification to be a part of our governance system.

They should not be an integral composite of our Malaysian political culture regardless of ideological differences within our political divide.

Najib promised to change Umno

Our political cultural DNA as currently practised has been described by some critics as “convoluted politics” involving deception, hypocrisy and a gross breach of human dignity and integrity.

Aptly described by the Chinese saying, “yi shou zhe tian,” (literally meaning “shutting out the heaven with one hand’), our political aspiration has fallen way short of expectations in the eyes of civil society and Malaysians in general.

The inhumane practices by law enforcement agencies should no longer be accepted including those alleged to be part of an excuse for questionable political arrangements.

These frequent practices of infringing human rights and decency particularly lip-services, the old missionary zeal of the Barisan Nasional ruling regime, are in the eyes of many conscientious and thinking Malaysians beginning to wear thin.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has promised to change his Umno party, the dominant party in the Barisan Nasional. “Umno has already started the process of re-inventing itself.”

khir-toyo.jpg“It is critical that Umno undertakes such an exercise, for it has to keep up with the times. It is no longer an option, for we either change or be changed,” Najib Razak said when he was then the defence minister and vice president of Umno.

Look at Khir Toyo’s mansion

“We must also begin to stress the intrinsic value system by focusing on things like the inculcation of the love of knowledge, the competitive ethos, positive work ethics and a higher sense of commitment.”

“Those holding public office must strive for a higher standard of behaviour. I just believe that the lives of politicians are much more challenging than ever before. I guess this is a sure sign that the political progress is progressing and maturing,” Najib said this in a speech delivered at a public lecture at University Malaya with the theme: “Malaysian Politics at the Beginning of the 21st Century.”

Much change had indeed taken place since 2001, highlighted by recent developments of the Perak coup, including controversies of the PKFZ, former Selangor menteri besar Khir Toyo’s mansion and Teoh Beng Hock’s puzzling death.

With hindsight, Malaysians are still waiting for a change, not just for his party but more importantly for the nation. As the saying goes: “A white-washed crow soon shows black again.”

Malaysians will know whether indeed the truth of change has indeed taken place well before the next general election.

STANLEY KOH is senior researcher with the Malaysian Mirror.