Game of thrones a la Malaysia

Ivanpal Singh Grewal, The Star

As I write this column, I am travelling on a train from Paris to Amsterdam. One of the things I enjoy the most in my post-political life is being to travel freely without having to worry about a phone call  with a complaint that a house has burnt down or there is a flood somewhere.

I’m not trivialising the everyday problems of some Malaysians, but it is slightly liberating that it’s no longer my responsibility to address them – it is the work of the winners, not the losers.

The words of St. Augustine of Hippo have always resonated with me: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

However, the Europe of today is a far cry from the Europe of yesterday.

Economic stagnation, uncontrolled migration and social malaise have cast a pall over the once vibrant and vivacious continent. It’s sad because Europe has always been my favourite place to visit, but I don’t know that with certainty anymore.

The entire anti-Palm Oil campaign also keeps coming back.

I think Europe, in particular France, has so much more of its own problems to focus on, and if they so do with the same vigour with which they attack palm oil, perhaps things will be better for them.

With the benefit of technology, I have nonetheless been in tune with what is happening back home.

If the last couple of months of Malaysian politics is anything to go by then, George RR Martin may have some inspiration for a new book – Game of Thrones ala Malaysia.

Malaysians, particularly the government, have been convulsed by the sex video that has entangled Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, the deputy president of PKR and Minister of Economic Affairs, and a young former aide of a Deputy Minister from his party.

Further, conspiracy theories are abounding.

Everyone, from the Prime Minister to the man street, has their version of events. But one thing seems certain based on the preliminary investigation – it’s an inside job.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the president of PKR, has found himself on the backfoot, and with his political secretary arrested for allegedly being part of the sex-video sting, he must the most hapless PM-in-waiting ever.

The Inspector-General of Police has also not helped to defeat the innuendo surrounding the sex video by stating that it’s highly probable that the video is genuine, but the identity of those in the video cannot be adequately ascertained.

That statement has poured cold water on Pakatan activists’ assertions that the video was probably a “deep fake”. It now seems like a pathetic defence of their leader’s alleged imbroglio.

However, after the PKR retreat, things have taken a sudden and unexpected turn.

Azmin now says he will work with Anwar after the latter said he is not the man in the sex video. Further, Azmin has also says he knows the person behind the whole video conspiracy, but I am quite sure he will not name that person.

This game of chicken is as old as politics itself; I played it myself for part of the 10 years I was in politics.

All of this drama is wholly unnecessary and a stupid distraction, and it has ebbed the people’s confidence in the new government.

Before I left, I met up with some friends who, like me, are retired politicos. The conclusion we reached about the new government is that they are akin to the Malay saying “Seperti kera mendapat bunga.”

Literally translated to English, it means they are like monkeys receiving flowers. The monkey will not know what to do with the flowers and will probably destroy them.

I see a stark similarity between that analogy and this new government.

Politics is the pursuit of power – anyone would be foolish to think otherwise.

But this new government still has an avowed liberal base that sees no signs of lessening its fidelity to the leadership of Malaysia Baru. Everything wrong with the administration of Malaysia Baru is because of Umno and PAS, and only good can come of this administration.

My only word of caution to this bunch: Quit drinking the Kool Aid.

The constitutional amendments to lower the voting age and provide for automatic registration of voters was a rare moment of political maturity. Despite all the nasty fights and debilitating bickering, our politicians proved they are capable of doing a good thing, and that gives us hope.

The Undi 18 amendments will unmistakably alter our political landscape, and the number of registered voters will jump from circa 14 million to 22 million.

Many have been debating about who will gain from this change. My view: the Malay and Muslim parties.

Probably that is the reason why the Prime Minister agreed to the amendment. With automatic registration, the demographics of our electorate will mirror that of the country, and that will further lessen the relevance of multi-racial and non-Malay race-based parties.

While we hope for more Malays and Muslims will move away from ethnocentric parties towards multi-racial ones, I posit that this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

The reason? This new government has systematically alienated the rural community – the majority of whom are Malay and Muslim.

Umno and PAS understand this way better than Bersatu and Amanah, and that is why despite an offer from some Harapan leaders to join them, PAS has made it clear that it is sticking with Umno.

So, as the government grapples with internal bickering, sex scandals, lacklustre leadership, broken promises and underwhelming governance, the Opposition is preparing the for the next election – something they are confident they will win because when it comes to this government, the more things change, the more it remains the same.