Strong man politics

adenan satem

Has Team Adenan earned enough goodwill to generate a landslide for BN?

Ishmael Lim, Free Malaysia Today

It is our love of father figures that makes us put strong men in positions of power. In a crude democracy like ours, strong men types personify the “one-stop” or “go to” for all of our problems and fears. We have high expectations that they possess the no-nonsense resolve required to cut through the red tape and divisive politics that worsens a problem.

So we want someone we can trust to remove those obstacles and deliver us from the endless bureaucracy and politicking that keep us tied up when we should be moving forward.

We love it when we hear fictional characters like Jean-Luc Picard saying, “Make it so,” or the gruff Don Corleone saying, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Many of us, deluded into thinking that the strong man politician is able to move mountains with only a crack of his whip or a wave of his wand, have no conception of the horse trading and realpolitik that plays out in the corridors of power before a leader is able to declare that a mission that was once impossible is now accomplished.

We look up to leaders who get things done without any ifs or buts, expecting them to stay on the right side of the law while making it so.

The Sarawak state election is more about Chief Minister Adenan Satem than anything or anyone else. He has provided Sarawakians with bold policy moves to show that he is his own man. It seems that he has managed to break from his predecessor’s past, which is a lot of baggage to discard.

Adenan has used his incumbency as Chief Minister to his best advantage, wielding power to mould a strong man image unlike that of his predecessor’s through positive shifts in policy. No one doubts that Team Adenan will win, but has he earned enough goodwill to generate a landslide for his own mandate? A cleaner break from the past and not mere cosmetics would see Adenan making an attempt at cleaning up a systemic legacy perceived to have a foot stuck in a nepotistic and corrupt past.

Sarawak’s huge land mass and low population density have made the question of investments in infrastructural development the top issue for every election in the state so far. People still without roads, water and electricity won’t get too excited about electricity tariffs going down. And a state government sitting on billions in reserves does nothing to reassure them that their lot will improve while they are still without roads to send their produce to market or to get to a medical facility. The scrapping of quit rent should benefit town dwellers more than the rural folk, and Sarawak is mostly rural.

If Team Adenan has won bouquets for re-engineering the CM’s image and spreading cheer among the townsfolk, it will be quite another matter to face the have nots and come up with reasons why the BN government hasn’t delivered on the most basic needs since 1969.