The winds of change

We cannot afford to have crooks or prima donnas represent us. We need those men and women of unquestionable good character to step forward and present themselves. We need to outnumber the baddies at least 2 to 1. We need to provide the average voter with a choice he or she has no trouble making.


Americk Sidhu

In my naivety I have often wondered why people choose to become politicians. It is a seemingly thankless task. Thankless because you are theoretically representing thousands of people and there is no way you can please them all. You have to deal with disgruntlement almost every day. This can be quite soul destroying, especially when your salary is not commensurate with the headaches associated with the job. A job that actually takes up 24 hours of each day, 7 days a week and no one ever says ‘thank you’. You would have to be a masochist to want to be a politician.

But people do become politicians. Few are driven by a sense of sincere altruism and a desire to be part of the guiding process that brings about necessary improvement and change for the better. Unfortunately these few are fast becoming an endangered species. They are the ones who get left behind. They are the ones who are laughed at by the rest. And because of the ‘system’ in place, they don’t last very long. If they want to survive past the next election they have to either beat the system or become part of it. It is easier to swim with the tide than against it, especially if you are a novice in this game and are awestruck by the endless possibilities that access to power delivers to your doorstep via a code of unwritten convention.

Let us look at the possible reasons why a semi decent human being gets derailed once he or she becomes a politician. This is contrast to those whose aspirations are far less than commendable a long time before they embark on the road to stardom but are nevertheless honed in to the current and relevant methodology. In other words, there are those who know exactly what they are doing and what they expect out of it.

The first reason would have to be a lack of stamina when it comes to the financial implications of being a YB. One would be forgiven for thinking an ADUN or an Ahli Parlimen would be rewarded handsomely for their efforts. This is not the case. Let’s just study the current salary scale of our elected members of Parliament.

Prime Minister :                 RM 22,826.56

Deputy Prime Minister:       RM 18,168.50

Minister :                          RM 14,168.50

Deputy Minister :               RM 10,847.56

MP (Dewan Rakyat) :         RM   6,580.59

MP (Dewan Negara) :         RM  4,112.79

Now who on earth is able to survive on these figures and yet afford to lead the type of lifestyle expected of our elected representatives? You cannot possibly be a ‘Yang Berhormat’ without a Mercedes, Lexus, BMW or a combination of all three, a home to put ‘Southfork’ to shame, Gucci suits, a wife and a couple of mistresses or a couple of wives and a mistress, apartments in London, New York and Monaco, Swiss bank accounts, children educated in expensive English boarding schools and Ivy League Universities and drinking copious quantities of ridiculously priced red wine every night.

If you didn’t do all this you would lose respect. The ordinary rakyat is expected to honour and admire an elected representative who is able to portray this air of prosperity, ill defined elegance, bad taste and excessiveness. The ordinary man in the street has been programmed to expect and accept all this without question.

How do these YBs afford all this on their miserable stipends?

This query becomes even more relevant when one considers the extra and necessary expense incurred in the handouts any elected representative is expected to dish out to members of his or her constituency who request one for a variety of reasons ranging from having to purchase school books for the kids to having to pay overdue electric bills.

There has to be a fund set aside to appease the potential voter, who, of course, has been indoctrinated to assume that his YB is a man of means and can therefore afford to pay his bills for him. This voter is playing the system. He knows he will get money if he asks for it. He knows YB cannot refuse him because YB needs his vote to perpetuate his own political existence. He knows old YB is scamming on the side so why not ask for a few bucks?  After all, they are only the crumbs.

Therefore, the YB not only has to pay for his mistresses, expensive clothing, financially debilitating education fees, his BMWs, overseas property, Chateau de Rothschild Cabernet but also the everyday expenses of his constituents.

All this on RM 6,000.00 a month?

Now let’s get real. That’s not the way it works. That RM 6,000.00 a month is not even pocket money. It is merely a token gesture. The real bucks come from all those side deals. This is the real reason why the YB is in politics. Lucrative contracts for the company set up in his wife’s or sister’s name. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. That’s when the money pours in. Everyone wants a piece of the action because there is a never ending supply of money. You just turn the tap on and leave it dripping forever. The problem is the water supply is coming from Sungai Rakyat.

What happens when this river runs dry? Well YB et famille will be fine. They would have stored all this water for a rainy day. The chaps on the river bank will die of thirst. It wouldn’t matter anymore whether they could vote or not. The heist would have been complete. The victims would be left in a stupor, stunned and bewildered. They kept their peace during the robbery and chose not to be involved. It was best then not to rock the boat. Live and let live. After all we still had our rice to eat. Status quo was hunky dory. Everyone knew YB was amassing great reserves but no one cared because that’s what YBs do. Par for the course. That was the system. Why would we want to get involved. Money is power and vice versa. Our station in life was to sit by the banks of that river and watch the waters flow away. It was not our culture to complain, or at least that was what we were led to believe. Damage now done. What to do next?

Rant, rave, sulk, criticise, condemn and remonstrate? But it will be too late for all this. Hindsight would be as useful as an ice cube in an oven. The horse would have bolted so forget about closing the stable door. You brought this upon yourselves. You wouldn’t listen. You had the choice but you chose instant gratification instead. You were too spell bound by hollow rhetoric to be able to think. You were too mesmerised by talk of grandeur and prosperity to see the bigger picture. You were hoodwinked and now you feel pretty silly. It was a scam from the start. You gave your vote to the wrong guy. You sold your soul to the devil and the devil fed off your weaknesses. You are now up the creek without a paddle…… but take solace in the fact that there will be many many more joining you. You are not the only sucker. Hallelujah.

It all boils down to the issue of corruption and enough has been said and written on the topic to make any further attempt to do so a precursor to mass boredom.

Suffice to say you reap what you sow If you can live with a corruptible politician then so be it. Vote for him or her. It is your choice. That’s what a democracy is all about. Yes, it is you, the ‘member of the rakyat’ who charts the course of this nation. It is you who is going to be responsible for the nation sinking or swimming. You are the owners of the ship and you get to choose the crew.

Don’t you think it is therefore imperative that you pick the correct crew members? A captain of impeccable pedigree and learning who can be relied upon not to sail the ship into rocks. A first mate of the highest caliber responsible for ensuring navigation is precise. Dedicated sailors who won’t jump ship at the slightest opportunity and no chance of any mutiny lest we all end up as inbred misfits on the Pitcairn Islands in the middle of nowhere with only a very bleak future to look forward to. (Remember Mutiny on the Bounty?).

It is therefore imperative that the right choices are made and made fast.

We cannot afford to have crooks or prima donnas represent us. We need those men and women of unquestionable good character to step forward and present themselves. We need to outnumber the baddies at least 2 to 1. We need to provide the average voter with a choice he or she has no trouble making. We need to get our act together right now. There is no time to pussy foot around. We need to identify all those good men and women who are ready, willing and able to sacrifice themselves in both body and soul to this just and noble cause. We need these people to be known and we need them to be known right now.

May I be so bold as to suggest that the first step after the formation of a new Parliament would be to revise these silly salaries and increase them 5 to 10 fold. Yes, we need to pay our representatives a decent wage comparable to the market rate in the private sector. We must ensure there is no excuse to breach the boundaries of your God given responsibility to King and country by participating in nefarious financial deals of self enrichment at the expense of the taxpayer.

At the same time I would also venture to suggest that the Penal Code be amended to make it an extra special offence carrying an extra special sentence in respect of any elected representative caught with his or her hand in the kitty. Hopefully at this stage we will have a brand new AG who will not hesitate to prosecute at the drop of a hat. No more selective closing of files and sham trials only when it becomes politically expedient to have one. You are now being paid a decent salary so there is no excuse.

This relatively small investment will provide huge returns in no time at all with the savings made on unnecessary projects at inflated prices alone. We have yet to mention all the other potential savings in every single government department. Culture shock is the best way to describe the phenomena that will surface from every nook and cranny. It will take time to get used to but it must be adhered to at all costs and this can only happen with the right people in charge.

So there you have it. We are living in a democracy. This means we have the power to choose. Your vote is yours and yours only. No one can interfere with your choice of representative. You know in your heart of hearts the difference between right and wrong. What you decide to do will change the course of history, if that’s what you want. If you are happy with the way things are, then that is also your choice. You will now be given the opportunity to right all past wrongs. You have a very powerful tool in your hands so use it wisely.

You have seen the results of the change already. The seeds were planted in March 2008. Things are beginning to work. Yes, there have been some hiccups, but the sentiment is intact. There are good people out there and this shows. We need more of the Lim Kit Siangs, the Lim Guan Engs, the Yusmadis, the Theresa Koks, Hannah Yeoh, Sivarasa Rasiah, Karpal Singh, Gobind Singh Deo, Dr. Zulkifi Ahmad, Dr. Hatta Ramli and many more elected representatives of impeccable character who have proved to the world at large that you can do the job and do it properly without the need to resort to extracurricular income. OK let’s call a spade a spade. These good men and women have proven that you don’t have to steal from the rakyat to be respected. You can be a politician and still maintain your principles and ideals. God bless these true patriots.

Now all we need is many more like them.