Seeking Change for the Sake of Change

Seeking change for the sake of change would not be better for the people if the changes that are being sought for would eventually turn out be worse, with gloomy days ahead instead of bright sunny days.

Mohd Jefri Radius

SPECULATION is rife now that the Nation’s 13th general election is just around the corner. The card is in the hand of premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak cum UMNO President and Chairman of BN component parties, who has the sole prerogative to announce when the election is due to be held, despite several reforms that have yet to be made on The Malaysia’s Electoral system as proposed by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC). So far, the usage of indelible ink and nomination of a person to accompany and to mark the ballot sheets on behalf of the disabled registered voter has been given the green light and was gazetted recently.

Presently, the premier looks hectic and tight with strings of tours scheduled nationwide; so do his deputy and other members of his cabinet. The primary objective is clear and obvious that the present top leaders in the government aim at finding the right momentum, tips of the riddles and clues from the crowds for the right timing and signal, before the current parliament terms, which expires on April 24, 2013 could be dissolved, thus paving the way for fresh mandate from the people via a democratic and free general election.

In the forthcoming polls, a number of straight fight contests for State and Parliamentary seats between BN and PR in Peninsular Malaysia looks imminent, despite much talk about the emergence of political parties grouping together as one entity to form “The Third Force”.

Over to “The Land Below The Winds” across the South China Sea on the island of Borneo, unlike in the 12th GE, it is hard to rule out the possibility that a quadruple or more cornered contest would likely take place in several constituencies in Sabah, which now has strings of opposition parties outside the Pakatan Rakyat including the latest entry of Sarawak-based State Reform Party (STAR) into the State led by former PKR Vice President Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan as the party’s Chief and SAPP, a local-based party once a member of BN spearheaded by
former CM Datuk Yong Teck Lee.

In the neighbouring East Malaysian State, Sarawak will only focus on the Parliamentary election, as the State Poll was just held last April 2011, which showed local parties in the BN Coalition Front namely (PBB ,SPDP, PRS except SUPP) successfully retaining most of the rural seats and securing the majority and mandate to continue ruling the State for another five year term, despite losing several urban seats to Pakatan
Rakyat with DAP taking the major slice of the victory winning 12 seats and PKR three seats indicating that the party is making inroads to Sarawak politics, while PAS a member of the Pakatan block and SNAP, the local party that had opted to stay out of the PR during that particular election, failed to secure any seat in the general election.

Strategically, the opposition PR had set a compromising formula in the recent Sarawak Polls, whereby only one party was permitted to contest against the BN in any seat depending upon the candidate’s suitability relevant to the constituency in question, without the participation of other members from the opposition block.

As an example, in the predominantly Chinese Urban State Seat of N.09 – Padungan (23,576 voters) DAP candidate Wong King Wei won the seat defeating BN–SUPP candidate Sim Kiang Chiok with 7,884 majority in the straight fight contest while neither PKR nor PAS fielded their candidates in honour of the understanding as agreed upon before nomination day for this particular election.

Realistically, this election strategy is nothing new to the BN, which had in fact subscribed to such political methodology over the years since its inception and bore amazing results.

So far there is no precedence of this nature ever taking place whereby two component parties in the BN coalition clashed with each other to contest against the Opposition in any constituency in the country’s political history other than those made out of betrayal or those who had quit as members of the Coalition Front.

In the recent UMNO General Assembly, UMNO President Najib addressed party members that the party’s leadership will only field “winnable candidates” to run in their respective constituencies in the coming polls.

Generally, the definition of the term “Winnable Candidate” refers to any prospective candidate as having the potential to win with the solid backing of the grassroots or constituents apart from fulfilling other criteria upon full screening and evaluation by their respective parties’ leaders.

On the broader screen, it is worth to bear in mind that as our nation enters the advanced stage of the 21st Century’s Globalisation Era, the choice of fielding political candidates with low levels of academic qualifications to contest in any election has become a liability and will soon become a thing of the past.

Literally, Politics is a science of government, the prospective politicians must at least be a product of the learned world, in possession of better general knowledge relevant to modern politics, keeping abreast and well updated with current affairs taking place domestically, regionally and globally.

Candidates with the recognised qualifications could fit well in today’s politics, especially those mastering in International Affairs and other Social Sciences majors earned locally and abroad. Apart from the intending candidates’ academic attainments, other aspects that need to be considered is of course the backgrounds of their families, the nature of their personalities and attitudes, their level of exposure and past contributions to the local communities within the respective constituencies.

Are they the approachable and cordial type, ready to mingle with every strata of society? Are they truly good by nature, characters that deserve support and willing to serve the people humbly and fairly upon getting the mandate from the people and not merely good as they appear to be during the eve of the election period?

Theoretically, IF the check list is affirmative, the prospective candidates in question stand a better chance of winning if they are chosen to be the candidates in the election.

Not surprisingly, as the polling day gets closer, the situation does not spare us from seeing certain groups comprising members of a political organization, believed to have the blessing of some “hidden hands” that are openly active to go all out with a mission, to infuse the public with the impression that incumbents in certain constituencies need to be replaced due to some reasons that appear to be sensible but disputable of course.

Their sole intention may be seen by others as the means of attracting the attention of the top party leadership on the status quo of the incumbents. The irony is their course of action is obviously seen as contradicting, by-passing or going against the procedures which could adversely affect the roles and jurisdiction of the State Party Chief to endorse his recommendations to the profiles of potential candidates even before it reaches the desk of the party’s president for the final say. The local Daily Express Report on Feb 23, 2012 with the headline “A ‘Mystery Man’ behind it : Anifah” is a case in point.

Argumentatively, those minor rallies staged by the group in question is democratic and considered timely and rational ONLY IF the present incumbent truly deserves to be tagged as “a sleeping partner“ in the government or synonymous with the saying that “Najib’s Administration is Flogging Dead Horses in his cabinet”.

If in reality, the incumbent has a fine track record, that augurs well for his constituents during his term of office as the honourable representative of the people proven instrumental in bringing tremendous socio-economic developments for the general well being and prosperity of his constituents, then the sensible question that needs to be posed is : Will there be any urgent justification on the need of replacing such an incumbent in question despite there being other alternative candidates trying hard to bid for a takeover via a series of media publicity thus creating mixed impressions and reactions among the people especially within that particular constituency?

A Bernama Journalist once quoted UMNO President Najib as saying that “If the winnable candidate is put forth by a group within certain division without considering the wishes of he majority of voters that candidate would not succeed”.

Former UMNO Treasurer and Finance Minister Administration Tun Daim Zainuddin too has a relevant message for many UMNO members to ponder at all times especially during the election period. He said, “Indiscipline among party members can destroy the party. We lost many seats in the 2008 election because of this. We lost because of our own weakness due to disunity and not because of the opposition’s strength” (D.E Feb 12th, 2012).

Statistically, the latest figures of young Malaysian citizens who have yet to register as voters throughout the country is about 3.3 million including 311,884 in Sabah. In the 12th GE, no one could deny the fact that a number of new faces regardless of their political affiliation had won with landslide victory in their respective constituencies particularly in the Peninsular through the support of the younger generation voters. BN-MCA candidate Chua Tee Yong (MP for Kulai), and PR-PKR Nurul Izzah Anwar Ibrahim (MP for Lembah Pantai) are cases in point. Let alone other factors that might have contributed to their victories.

The opinion of Dr Jeniri Amir, the political analyst of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) is worthy to be taken into account as well. He said, “BN can still win, but it would not be as easy as in 2008, while there is also a need for the ruling coalition BN to identify candidates earlier and put up as many new faces as possible”.

BN leadership had set a strategic winning formula via reasonable allocation of seats to every component party in the country both for State and the Parliamentary level, by virtue of the studies made on the existing racial compositions and statistics of voters within every electoral constituency nationwide.

In the 12th GE held four years ago, Sabah BN only lost one Parliamentary seat to DAP out of the 25 seats contested. UMNO won 13 seats, PBS – 3, UPKO -4, PBRS – 1 (uncontested), LDP-1, SAPP -2 (now an opposition) and DAP – 1.

BN too had victoriously won almost all the 60 State Legislative Assembly seats it contested in the GE held spontaneously. UMNO won 34 seats, PBS – 12 seats, UPKO – 4, LDP – 3, SAPP – 4, PBRS – 1, MCA – 1 and DAP – 1.

On the Sabah political chessboard, BN will certainly stick to the same formula or gambit versus the PR (PKR , DAP & PAS) and other opposition parties the STAR and SAPP etc. in the forthcoming polls.

Unlike PKR, DAP and PAS, which need a consensus before any party can field its candidate to contest within a particular constituency be it at State or Parliament level, the Opposition parties have the advantage of having a free hand to decide on the numbers of seats that they wish to contest as they are not governed by certain restrictions. That is the beauty of going solo, so to speak, which means both STAR and SAPP could field candidates in all State or Parliamentary seats; but of course the respective parties do have their own strategies and will definitely focus on constituencies where they stand a good chance of winning, based on grassroots feedback and the availability of effective and operational election machinery, which is the vital factor to consider during the crux of the campaigning period.

Based on talks in most towns in the Interior Residency, there is strong possibility that the opposition party STAR which has a number of KDM professional leaders will intensify its effort to field candidates in constituencies currently held by PBS, UPKO, PBRS as the current incumbents are mostly from the same stock or communities and so forth. However, this guess can only be verified on nomination day.

It is more likely though that the local opposition in Sabah may have to adopt other alternatives deemed fit as one common election strategy if the tripartite coalition of three political parties namely STAR, SAPP and USNO come under one umbrella of the United Borneo Alliance (UBA), which according to Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, the Sabah Chairman for STAR that they are now in stages of discussion with PR to incorporate a united opposition to face the BN Government in the forthcoming polls.

When every party seems ready to wrestle in the rings politically in the 13th GE, the question now is : Would Sabah BN be able to achieve more and further retain its current seats which the coalition won both at State and Parliamentary level during the 12th GE, so as to continue administering the State with fresh mandate and bring more robust socio-economic growth and development for every Malaysian in Sabah as it does, have done and will continue to do with amazing flying colours to this stage under the dynamic leadership of CM Datuk Seri Musa Aman, who has the “Midas Touch” to turn the State’s socio-economic visions and missions into reality for the benefit of all?

Consequently, do we really need to change the political landscape of Sabah without giving our second thoughts deep and serious consideration? Seeking change for the sake of change would not be better for the people if the changes that are being sought for would eventually turn out be worse, with gloomy days ahead instead of bright sunny days.

The people have the answer this quiz when the time comes to do so and they are now smart enough to point out the difference between “Reality and Fantasy”. As the adage goes, “All that glitters is not Gold” and neither is it a Diamond when it sparkles.