The 12th General Election is crucial for Malaysians. It will set the
direction for the nation and will determine the status of democracy in
this country. More importantly, the outcome of the results will decide
the secular status of this nation which is under grave threat, says P Ramakrishnan. We don’t need a strong government. We need a just government.
The rot has set in
Extremist elements are aggressively in the forefront pushing the Islamic agenda and ignoring the pluralistic character of this nation. They completely ignore the historic social contract, assiduously negotiated by the main communities in a give-and-take understanding to secure independence and forge a nation from our diverse cultures and religions.
Various groups and people have toiled and contributed to make this country what it is today. Our strength has always been in our ability to work together in a co-operative and compromising spirit to accommodate the interests and welfare of all Malaysians.
This live-and-let-live spirit is being undermined deliberately by certain politicians posturing uncompromisingly as champions of a single community to the detriment of our shared unity. While this stance may make them popular among certain sections of the population, it sends out very serious danger signals for the future well being of this nation.
Our democratic space has disappeared. We cannot hold discussions on issues deemed to be of utmost importance because certain elements oppose such discussions. We cannot walk peacefully to highlight certain grievances without the police resorting to high-handed tactics to break up such democratic actions. We cannot publish anything without a permit. We cannot form any associations without being registered. We cannot go to court to challenge unjust decisions of the Executive because that right has been taken away from us. We don’t get television and radio air-time or media space to articulate legitimate criticism against the government. This – and much more – has been taken away from us.
Our judiciary is in a shambles. It is a pity that a noble institution set up to safeguard justice has been destroyed by uncaring politicians only interested in perpetuating their power and position. It is so tainted and corrupted by unsavoury characters promoted to high places to do the biddings of the powerful. Deserving, honest and honourable judges were deliberately by-passed to keep the judiciary pliant to the Executive. The last hope for the common person to seek justice has been made a complete mockery.
Our education system has deteriorated to pathetic levels. It is no longer seen as a means of ennobling young minds and empowering future leaders of the country with the right knowledge and values to mould them into healthy, mature, thinking and discerning citizens. The school system has become so polarised that it no longer reflects the multi-cultural make-up of the country. It is so bad that Marina Mahathir in her column in The Star revealed that she had pulled her children out from the national schools because they have become Malay schools.
More disappointments and worries
Our parliament has turned out to be such a disappointment. Our elected representatives no longer stand as tall as the building itself unlike previous parliamentarians who came imbued with parliamentary traditions and healthy respect for democracy and vibrant debates. They crossed swords in a dignified manner without anger or rancour. These days debates have become shouting matches, spiced up with sick jokes and shocking sexist remarks. Even if certain members were to speak the truth and act according to their conscience they are punished for crossing party lines as was the case with the two MIC MPs and Shahrir Samad, the chairman of the Back Benchers Club.
Worse, the Barisan Nasional-dominated parliament has over the years passed terrible and demeaning bills and amendments that have taken away most of our fundamental rights and freedom. Instead of acting in the larger interest of the people and the nation, the BN-controlled parliament had passed all those obnoxious bills to keep the Executive in perpetual power.
Our unity over the last 50 years, instead of strengthening, has dissipated to worrying levels. It is a tragedy that we are now more divided than we have ever been before. Public policies and practices have widened the gap. People feel discriminated against, not only the non-Malays, but the Malays as well, when it comes to contracts, licences, promotions, loans, and scholarships, which invariably went to cronies and the well-connected. While we can blame the British for the divide-and-rule-policy, the BN has mastered this art to perfection to remain in power.
Corruption has pervaded our entire system. Through corruption, billions of ringgit have been lost at the expense of development and help for the poor. We have squandered our wealth through un-tendered projects, seeking and securing contract sales through middlemen, writing off billions of ringgit lost mysteriously, and through failed projects and contracts. Though the fight against corruption has been declared with pious intentions, so far nothing has happened to stamp out this scourge.
Well, fellow voters, the list of things that are wrong in this country can go on and on. The point is, do we want to let it go on? This is what we have to decide.
Do they need another huge mandate?
The BN asked for a strong mandate in all the previous elections. This mandate was given without fail. Indeed, the last mandate was unprecedented. It was a whopping 91 per cent of parliamentary seats.
What did this huge mandate amount to for the people? In what way has it benefited the country? The huge mandate produced a strong government. But it did not produce a just government. It made the politicians powerful. But it did not empower the people or safeguard their fundamental rights and freedom. It is this huge mandate that has robbed us of our human rights and made us powerless. It is this huge mandate that has made this BN government so arrogant and unjust in its policies to the poor and the powerless.
Do they need another huge mandate? The answer must be a resounding NO! We don’t need a strong government. We need a just government. A just government does not need a huge mandate.
Another point to take into consideration is this: How did this strong government become so arrogant and uncaring? Simple. There was no strong Opposition in parliament. There was no Opposition to provide the necessary check and balance. There was no strong Opposition to force the government to act justly. There was no strong Opposition to prevent the numerous amendments to the Federal Constitution to take away our fundamental rights and freedom. There was no strong Opposition to ensure that the policies of the government were just and fair.
My fellow voters, vote for democracy. Vote for a strong opposition. Vote to deny a two-thirds’ majority. Do this and you will see the difference when the next parliament meets.
Do not fail yourself.
Do not fail the country. – Aliran Monthly
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