Do you want the devil you know?

BN happens to have been in federal government for so long that people tend to automatically assume they have the required leadership. 

Kee Thuan Chye

I’m finding this frequent comment by people rather irksome: “But does Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have leadership? Can it take over the federal government?”


I’m prompted to ask: What do they mean by “leadership”? Is the Barisan Nasional (BN) leadership the kind we want?
I’d take it further: Does BN have leaders? I mean, real leaders?
People tend to forget to look at the states currently being governed by PR. I don’t know much about Kedah and Kelantan, but Selangor and Penang have been doing fine. I live in Selangor, and as a Penang-born-and-bred, I visit Penang from time to time. The Auditor-General has commended the PR government of Penang for its financial management and monitoring system for three consecutive years – 2008, 2009 and 2010. The Auditor-General has also commended the PR government of Selangor for its “very good” performance in 2010 of reducing public debt and loan repayment arrears. And from 2009 to 2010, its consolidated revenue also increased by 20.2%.
Leadership must have something to do with it, must it not?
As for BN, people think it has leadership because it is a perception that has been ingrained in them for more than five decades. BN happens to have been in federal government for so long that people tend to automatically assume they have the required leadership.
But look at BN’s leaders today. Which of them are really good? Quite a few have been making stupid statements, that’s for sure. And the statements have been getting worse and worse.
Look at Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s response to a question on why during the Bersih 3.0 rally, the police were confiscating memory cards from the cameras of press photographers and members of the public. “I don’t know,” he said. “This is the standard operating procedure of the police.”
And how about MCA President Chua Soi Lek blaming Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for Ng Yen Yen’s recourse to Australian permanent residence? He said it was because of Anwar’s “restrictive” policies while he was Education Minister that compelled non-Malays like Tourism Minister Ng to seek PR status abroad in the 1990s for the sake of their children’s education. Never mind that Anwar was not the Education Minister then, that it was actually Sulaiman Daud.
Another comment I find irksome is “Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t” – courtesy of ex-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad recently.
He was not saying something new; this had been bandied about for the last couple of years – by people trying to advocate that even though BN is a “devil”, it is safer to keep BN in power than to opt for a new government and potential uncertainty. What’s new is that Mahathir has now admitted that BN is indeed a “devil”. Unwittingly, I suppose.
Well, should we keep faith with the devil we know?
The devil we know has not brought us a single institutional reform yet despite Prime Minister Najib Razak’s numerous pledges. Just to quote one example, why hasn’t Article 121 of the Federal Constitution been restored so as to return real independence to the judiciary? Without that, the judiciary is still answerable to Parliament, which was not the original intent of our founding fathers, who recognised the need for the separation of powers between the Executive (Government), the Legislative (Parliament) and the Judiciary.
Neither has the devil we know done away with repressive laws like the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Sedition Act. It has merely replaced the ISA with the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, and is proposing to replace the Sedition Act with the musical-sounding National Harmony Act. In fact, the devil we know has restricted our democratic space by first enacting the Peaceful Assembly Act and then giving us the new amendment to the Evidence Act called 114a.
This amendment presumes the accused guilty and places the onus on him/her to prove his/her innocence. It goes against the principle of natural justice. Under this amendment, someone could borrow your computer to post a seditious comment on some blog or website and you could be held responsible for that comment. You may not even be aware of that posting but you’d have to produce witnesses to testify that you were not at your computer when the posting was done. See how ridiculous it is?
Furthermore, the devil we know has demonstrated that it has different sets of laws for different sets of people. A 19-year-old was arrested for baring his buttocks over photographs of Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, while the incidents of BN supporters burning photographs of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and urinating on the posters of Kelantan Menteri Besar Nik Aziz and DAP leader Lim Kit Siang have been ignored by the authorities.
And a 19-year-old girl who surrendered herself to the police for having stepped on the photographs of Najib and Rosmah got handcuffed like a criminal. But if you were to look at photographs of ex-menteri besar Khir Toyo and ex-minister Ling Liong Sik when they were arrested – one for land fraud, and the other for cheating the Government – you’d see that neither of them was handcuffed
It looks like on the one hand, we are told we are 1Malaysia, but on the other, there are these double standards.
The devil we know has also been spending public funds to the tune of RM5.77 billion for the political purpose of buying our hearts – and votes. And in other ways as well. Only recently, Najib, while attending the launch of the Sultan Ahmad Shah Environmental Trust, surprised everyone there by announcing that the Government would donate to it one million ringgit. Just like that – one million ringgit of the people’s money, given away at a glitzy launch party. Who gave him the permission to give away our money?
Meanwhile, our national debt keeps increasing at an alarming rate. According to finance expert Teh Chi-Chang, in his book Umno-nomics: The Dark Side of the Budget, “Our national debt now stands at nearly 54% of total national income or GDP …” This, he adds, is just one per cent below the 55% debt ceiling set by “our more prudent forefathers” in the Loan (Local) Act 1959 and the Government Funding Act 1983. The way Najib keeps spending, we might soon go through the ceiling.
The devil we know hijacked Merdeka Day this year and turned it into BN’s own day of celebrations and election campaigning, culminating in the setting of a “world record” in the number of tweets in an hour! How that would benefit the country only a twit would know.
The devil we know is currently drawing up a new curriculum for the teaching of History in schools that will supposedly instil “patriotism” in our students. What that probably means is that history being told by the victors about the achievements of the victors will be indoctrinated in the minds of our young. And our young will be captive because History has been made a must-pass subject at SPM starting next year.
So, what do you think? Better the devil we know, or the idea of a two-coalition system turning into reality that might convince sceptics that it is workable – and that it is the better option?
Even someone from the MCA, which is part of the ruling coalition, has come out to suggest that the devil we know has dark secrets to hide. Lee Hwa Beng, writing in his book PKFZ: A Nation’s Trust Betrayed, points out that if it had not been for the outcome of the 2008 general election, at which BN lost its two-thirds majority and four states plus Kelantan, “we would never have known what happened in [the] PKFZ [scandal]”.
He adds, encouragingly, “If a repeat of March 2008 occurs at the 13th general elections, which are due very soon, who knows what other truths could be revealed.”
For the sake of a better Malaysia , would you not want more truths to be revealed?
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, available in major bookstores.