Let’s ‘school’ some political parties in the state elections

When political parties replace hard-working community leaders with ‘yes men and women’, they must be taught a lesson.

Shankar R. Santhiram, Free Malaysia Today

I recently read a piece by a Singaporean researcher, from a well-known institute who claimed that “…Malaysia’s state elections will be a giant spectacle for political parties with scant consequences for the people.”

The article argues that political dramas should not give us the false impression that the upcoming state elections are of any material importance. So, while Malaysians are easily vexed by the humbug of political parties in the run up to the elections, we should critically consider the paltry roles and resources of state governments, said the writer.

He goes on to give evidence that the federal government’s 2023 budget of RM388.1 billion overshadows the combined expenditure of RM29.4 billion for all the states in the country. The states depend on grants from Putrajaya, which they are entitled to, but they literally have to plead for money. And any such distribution of federal funds, is regularly criticised for its unfairness and political nature.

So, all in all, the writer argues that the state elections are much ado about nothing.

The fundamental premise of the article is not far off the mark, on paper. Our constitution vests enormous powers to the federal government for foreign affairs, homeland security, defence, education, trade, transport, and communications. The state government’s role is limited to land matters, Islamic law, and Malay customs, and local government.

There are “overlapping” responsibilities between the state and federal governments, which include social welfare, public health, and town and country planning.

In the overall scheme of things for a nation, the federal government’s responsibilities are by far, the more important ones. But for you and me, the common folk at the ground level, aren’t local government, social welfare, public health, and town planning equally vital?

I want to know where my tax ringgit are going in terms of education, public health, defence, and trade.

But if land tracts are being sold off willy-nilly to developers just to fund the incumbent political party in power in my state, or if the town planning where I am domiciled is slipshod, or if the disproportions of social welfare in my area are not being addressed; these are issues that directly distress my livelihood and day-to-day living.

For me, these state elections are significant for the minutiae in my life.

Your local representative or ADUN must be resolutely invested in the well-being of your area and the various communities therein. But often, we see politically motivated, parachute candidates planted in your “kawasan” just to prop up the leadership of their political masters.

State seats are “rewarded” by political parties to their sycophants or as political horse-trading.

Of course, by very nature, the discipline within all the political parties in Malaysia is paramount to the leadership. All their members must toe the party-line. But the “discipline” is usually maintained by a select group of people.

In some parties they are known as the “warlords” who control direction. In some other parties, there are “political dynasties” or scions of past leaders who determine who should be “rewarded” with a seat.

Hence, we see regular expulsions and side-lining of leaders who have their own mind, or speak up against the seeming injustices within their party, or who just are able to think rationally without being shackled by the chicanery of politics.

This is also why hard-working and well-respected representatives are arbitrarily dropped like a tonne of bricks. There is no justice or fairness in these actions.

And, an implausible narrative will be spun of rejuvenation and renewal being the reasons to remove a good incumbent and replace them with some unknown sycophant.

Implausible because the process of renewal never occurs at the top, and the warlords and scions will secure their seats. Some will even go for state seats while holding on to their parliamentary seats.

Sometimes, those who are dropped will be given “sweetheart deals” like a chairmanship of some agency where they can continue to earn some money, while licking their wounds and not rock the boat.

But the losers will always be the ‘rakyat’

So, these state elections are crucial for people living in a community.

Remember, even if the opposition coalition sweeps the six states, Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government does not fall. The state election does not directly impact the status of the federal government. But it will send a significant message to the prime minister for him to reflect on the sentiment of the people.

More importantly, political parties that are run like a “family-business” must be taught a severe and uncompromising lesson. When they drop well deserving, hard-working local community leaders as candidates, only to fill the seats up with their own “yes men and women,” we, the voters, should finally give them a black eye!

Remember, this state election affects our everyday life. Let us do some “schooling” of political parties.