Our nation is facing the bleak prospect of the collapse of the rule of law, the creation of an absolute dictator and the establishment of a kleptocracy as a norm, warns Ambiga Sreenevasan.
In our system, the prime minister is the member of Parliament who enjoys the confidence of the majority.
As such, it is the right of the opposition coalition whose MPs will be in Parliament, to identify their prime ministerial candidate taking into account the views and interests of their members and the public.
There is no doubt that it was foreseeable that the naming of Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Pakatan Harapan’s prime minister candidate would invite controversy – and it did. It is to be expected that some members of the coalition built on the clarion call of Reformasi may have issues with this decision.
Many of us who saw the birth of Reformasi driven by Anwar Ibrahim were inspired by his courage and the courage of so many Malaysians who stood up to the oppression that existed then.
That feeling and that passion has not dissipated. If anything, it has intensified with the current administration. Reformasi was the platform upon which the opposition parties earned success in the last two elections. Reformasi is here to stay.
In a twist of fate, Mahathir now embraces Reformasi, and it is important that the agenda of reform remains a central theme of his leadership. The Pakatan Harapan manifesto, as revealed thus far, is fundamentally about reform.
The good news is that the announcement of the candidates for prime minister and deputy prime minister has brought the incessant and often meandering discussion on the issue to an end.
But one must understand the differing views now emerging from party members and the public who have for so many years invested time, energy and emotion in the reform movement. Perhaps, the party leaders did not prepare them well enough. The brave Sangeet (very much her father’s daughter) is one of them.
We must not dismiss the dissenting voices as they have earned the right to express their views. Leaders must engage with them and persuade them to come on board quickly, for time is of the essence and PH must proceed with the task at hand. In other words, we must move on.
Urgent need for change
In my view, our nation is facing the bleak prospect of the collapse of the rule of law, the creation of an absolute dictator and the establishment of a kleptocracy as a norm. We have leaders who have infringed upon the law but who continue to hold the reins of power, consolidating their positions. Some of them should not be in Putrajaya but ought to be housed elsewhere.
Malaysia deserves better. Much better.
As the saying goes, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Unfortunately, Malaysians are staring at absolute power.
Despite all our instincts leading us to believe that change must be likely, some respected pollsters and analysts have predicted that the Barisan Nasional will win the next general election. How is that possible?
We have to be realistic. Stating the obvious, our society is complex. What may matter to one voter may not matter to another.
Moreover, we must factor in the massive cheating that is taking place (and will continue to take place), the delimitation exercise, the absence of the dynamic Anwar Ibrahim and Pas’ apparent change of heart. The last three critical factors were not present in the last general election – although we must now factor Bersatu into the equation, not to mention Warisan and developments in Sabah and Sarawak.
Regard must also be had to the fact that ceramahs are not good indicators of what actually happens in the elections. Nothing can replace sheer hard work on the ground.
Having said that, the Opposition has always had many seemingly insuperable hurdles, yet gains were made. In the last general election, they won the popular vote. The Opposition is certainly no pushover. Just look at the success of Selangor and Penang.
Nevertheless, the polls and analyses although negative, should not be dismissed. Leaders should have the humility to hear differing points of view rather than to believe only what they want to hear. The smart tactician would listen and learn and use the findings to be better prepared. It is better to be over prepared than under prepared.
Sun-tzu’s art of war states:
“Know the enemy,
Know yourself, (emphasis mine)
Is never in doubt,
Not in a hundred battles.”
We are facing a crisis and we must all unite for the higher cause of our nation. There is one goal and one goal only: to bring change for the betterment of the people.
Mahathir is disciplined, hardworking and focused. This is just what is needed now.
Voters must vote
To all those who are unsure, who do not want to vote or who are on the fence, hear my plea: the country needs you NOW. Every single vote matters. At least do it for the rakyat who are voting, so that their efforts are not in vain.
This is not the election to boycott or spoil your vote because the nation cannot afford for the present state of affairs to continue. By not picking a side or by not voting, you may believe you are punishing both parties. The reality is, you are punishing only one. You know which one.
Voting in a new government will mean the start of a healthy democracy. It means democracy wins and by extension, the people win.
No government has the divine right to rule, and certainly not for ever. A true democracy is where people can replace a recalcitrant government through clean and fair elections and when power returns to the people, where it belongs. It is a system where the people are boss.
Those that impair the people’s right to free and fair elections are traitors to the people, and we must come out in droves to mitigate their negative effect.
Voting in the coming general election is therefore not just about choosing one side or the other, but also about taking the opportunity to make a statement against a system that would render our fundamental rights, including the right to vote, meaningless.
Just imagine, a nation built on the rule of law, with honest leaders who serve the people and not themselves, who uphold the Federal Constitution and who enrich the rakyat in every way. This can be our Malaysia.
For that to happen however, we must act, we must vote and we must live in hope. Together, we can create a wave of change for a better future for all.
Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan is president of the Human Rights Society of Malaysia (Hakam).