Good political acts and bad political acts

I’m not sure if they are hard of hearing, but from what I know, the demonstrators were not asking for the ISA to be amended, they were asking for the ISA to be done away with altogether. 

Azmi Sharom

According to the Prime Minister, the Anti ISA rally on 1 August 2009 was a political act. It is rare that I would agree with him, but in this case I do. Yes, it was indeed a political act.

As long as we are social creatures, we will always be political creatures because politics ultimately is about the distribution of power in a society. The government has a lot of it and they would like to keep it that way. The people on the streets last Saturday do not want them to hold so much power; in this particular case via the Internal Security Act, so they got together to make that point clear.

Last Saturday was, at the heart of it, an expression of dissatisfaction with the distribution of power in Malaysia. Thus it was very clearly a political act.

Now the Prime Minister and his merry men and women keep on going on about how they are in the process of amending the ISA, therefore the demonstration was pointless. I’m not sure if they are hard of hearing, but from what I know, the demonstrators were not asking for the ISA to be amended, they were asking for the ISA to be done away with altogether. What is the point of saying you are taking last night’s cold rice to cook me nasi goreng when what I am saying is I don’t want rice at all thank you very much.

Oh, by the way, I must thank the pro ISA group (I can’t remember their lengthy acronym I’m afraid). That wonderfully brave group of linguists and martial arts experts who just a few days ago were so willing to be arrested for their cause and then suddenly discovered that they did not want to be arrested after all. They have been calling for the arrest of the Pakatan Rakyat leaders as well as the president of the Gerakan Mansuh ISA (GMI), for bringing thousands of people onto the street.

The sheer cheek of this statement is beyond hilarious. This was the same group that just last week boasted they were going to bring tens of thousands onto the street even if it meant breaking the law and now they are saying those who did not get cold feet like them should be arrested? How their minds work is a mystery to me.

But what I am really grateful for is their call for the ISA to be used on the Pakatan leadership and the GMI; because by making this call they are illustrating exactly why the ISA must be done away with altogether. The ISA has historically been used extensively for political reasons; reasons which were not the intention of the framers of the Act or the ruling elite at the time the Act was passed (including a certain father of a certain prime Minister). For that misuse alone, it has to be discarded with.  And here we have its supporters calling for its use (or should I say abuse) to lock away political foes. Res Ipsa Loquitor methinks.

And there is that word again; politics. Since so many things in a society are about politics, am I suggesting that all sorts of political acts are acceptable? No I am not. In its purest form politics, as I said earlier, is about power and in a democracy a constant debate about power is essential because it ensures that we do not slide into despotism. But in its lowest form it is about political party power plays.

Let me give an example. On the 21st of July 2009 (reported in a Malay daily), the Minister of Agriculture and Agro Based Industries gave a direct order to all the civil servants in the Ministry’s various departments, not to attend meetings with any of the Pakatan state governments. Failure to do so would result in disciplinary hearings.

The reason being since the Pakatan state governments do not provide money to the projects being discussed, there is no need to co-operate with them. After all, they will get the praise when it is really the Barisan Federal government that provides the funds.

There are several points of contention here. Firstly, if the Federal government has the responsibility to provide funds, then it is their responsibility to do so. Let me make this clear to the good minister, a responsibility is something you have to live up to. That is the meaning of the word “responsibility”. Check it out in a dictionary if you have one.

Secondly, I thought that the government is supposed to help all the people in the country, not care about who gets praise or not. Or perhaps praise is the main motivation behind the actions of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro Based Industries.

How on earth can the civil service help the people when you do not co-operate with the state governments who have authority over the land in their respective boundaries? This kind of childishness means that the people of the state are the ones who suffer; unless of course they don’t count because they did not praise you and vote for you in the last elections.

This is another kind of politics; the politics of putting party over duty to the nation. If the Prime Minister is so keen on stamping down on “political acts” then this is this kind of obtuse and infantile “political acts” that he should be dealing with. It is this kind of politics that is the real danger to the country, not the kind of politics that sees unarmed people walking in the streets demanding the abolition of a draconian law.