Tanjung Piai shows Malaysians tired of waiting for a New Malaysia

A. Kathirasen, Free Malaysia Today

The victory of Wee Jeck Seng in the Tanjung Piai parliamentary by-election appears to have thrown a lifeline to both the MCA and the Barisan Nasional.

The Tanjung Piai MCA division chief, standing on a Barisan Nasional ticket, has managed to increase the number of MCA’s parliamentary seats to two. While it is insignificant on the national level, for the party it is a rejuvenating factor.

Decimated after the May 9, 2018 general election, the MCA was floundering and even, at one time, considered quitting the Umno-led BN. The party is seen as being alive simply because of the regular press statements by its president, and sole MP till yesterday, Wee Ka Siong.

Now, it has one more voice. But if it expects Umno or the recently-formed Umno-PAS alliance to listen to it, the MCA will be sadly mistaken. If the party expects Umno and PAS to tone down on talk of ketuanan Melayu or Muslim supremacy, it will be mistaken.

If anything, this victory will embolden the two Malay-based parties and they will almost certainly ramp up their Malay-Muslim rhetoric among the Malay population.

After all, if they do win in the next general election, filling up the cabinet would be so much simpler with only a handful of MCA and MIC representatives and yet give the impression of being multiracial and multireligious.

For the equally decimated BN, the victory is a lifeline, too. It can continue brandishing its multiracial, multireligious image – despite the fact that it is now made up only of Umno, MCA and MIC and despite the fact that the MCA has two MPs and the MIC one, and Umno 37.

This victory will also embolden former prime minister Najib Razak, who is actively trying to win in the court of public opinion on the back of numerous criminal charges, to be more visible. Already, he has overtaken veteran DAP leader Lim Kit Siang as the politician who issues the most statements – these days, of course, on Facebook or blog posts.

But if Najib or the MCA or Umno or PAS think that it is an endorsement of them by the voters, they will be wrong. From grassroots sentiments, it is clear that the voters want to send a message to the ruling Pakatan Harapan government.

The message is simple: we are not happy with you; you have let us down.

There are various reasons for this unhappiness but the two major reasons are the rising cost of living and disillusionment with the PH for not fulfilling many of its promised major reforms, especially those related to freedom and democratic space.

PH promised to bring down the cost of living but, if anything, prices have gone up.

There have been many reports quoting residents of the constituency, especially oil palm smallholders, about how their income has been affected. I’m sure these residents are aware of how Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s accusations over Kashmir angered India and how palm oil orders from India have decreased, affecting thousands upon thousands who depend on it for a living.

The PH promised to repeal several laws that impact on the democratic space of citizens but has since reneged on them or is dragging its feet. Increasingly, people are saying that PH chairman Mahathir is to blame for this.

PH can learn many lessons from this humiliating defeat. I believe its leaders will make some noises about reviewing the situation and delving into the reasons for the defeat so as to rectify them. But don’t hold your breath.

PH is slowly becoming like an Umno-dominated BN. The only difference being that it is now dominated by former Umno president Mahathir.

For instance, Tanjung Piai voters were able to see how PH leaders, who had in the past accused the BN of using its government position and project allocations to entice voters, was doing just that now that it was in power.

Tanjung Piai voters and many other Malaysians are seeing clearly that parties may change and leaders may change but the business of politics, national governance and the problems they face remain almost the same, if not the same.

Malaysians are getting tired of waiting for the promised New Malaysia.