Politicians in Malaysia, Boon or Bane?

Stephen Doss

You would think that politicians, who profess that they love their country and political party continuously would take a good look at themselves, spend much time soul searching and being introspect before offering themselves as candidates for elections or for high office. But that does not seem to be the case.

Malaysians have had to endure substandard politicians who are appointed by their political parties and unwittingly elected by the unsuspecting public, into public office. A back ground check will reveal that a few of them not only do not have the best reference in terms of academic achievement, worse still some of them list dubious degrees from universities unknown or listed as degree mills. Don’t just take my word for it, you should go to some of our ministry’s websites and look at the profile of some of our ministers and deputy ministers. While you’re at it don’t forget to also look up some CVs of some of our state assemblymen from both sides of the political divide.

Putting aside the need for a good academic grounding as some may argue that to be a good people’s representative one does not need to have a sound education, then you would think at least being able to communicate well would be another pre-requisite. But even this is not often the case as some of these politicians are only mono-lingual and can hardly communicate in any other language, although in Malaysia we have many who are if not tri-lingual, are at least bi-lingual. Worse when these are elected representatives who have to serve abroad and can hardly speak English that can be understood.

Malaysians have become only too familiar with politicians who constantly put their foot in their own mouth when they speak to the press; of late with the introduction of social media this has become even more frequent. Clearly these are politicians who do not have an aptitude for public office, never mind being a people’s representative when clearly they can’t even represent themselves.

What makes a good politician in the eyes of the public and I mean not just one who is good at scaling the heights of his party for his own personal achievement, but what would make a good politician who is able to serve the public?

Honesty – For once it would be nice to have politicians who only promise what they actually mean, you know the kind who says the same thing in private to his friends and family which are the same things he says to the public. The one who consistently stands up for what he believes in even if it means sacrificing his popularity among his own party members.

Integrity – the kind of politician we can depend on to stand up for what is right for the country not just his immediate boss. The kind of politician who will not backstab the people who voted him into office just because a rival political party gave him a better offer.

Patriotism – the kind of politician who would put community and country ahead of their own political careers or legacy.

These are only a few of the qualities the public would expect our politicians to have, besides being hardworking, humble and charismatic.

Knowing all this, why are political party leaders still not able to choose the best leaders in the best interest of the country? Why do they continue to choose substandard politicians who do little else but enrich themselves, parrot the leadership and make a right nuisance of themselves?

Is it because our political culture produces political warlords that can easily hold to ransom their political leaders which then leaves almost no room for the leaders but to pick the warlords or their nominees?

Or is it because our political leaders would rather compromise with these political warlords for their own survival rather than to think of the interest of the nation they lead?

Whatever the reasons, it is clear that Malaysians too are to be blamed for not being discernible enough, for voting in candidates at elections based on the party they represent without even knowing if they are voting in substandard politicians.

For as long as we continue to vote in substandard politicians, political leaders will continue picking them as their candidates to represent their party as these are the kinds of politicians who pose no threat to leadership.

We are now in the 21st century, we cannot afford to vote based on party lines, not if the choice we make would mean substandard politicians in office, but then again it is often said we deserve the politicians we elect. So you decide.

Stephen Doss is a social activist and a political observer. He is President of the International Social Media Chambers and Secretary-general of the Malaysian Interfaith Network. He can be followed on twitter @stephendoss