PH must do some sincere soul searching to find out why the hope from the general election last year has waned, writes JD Lovernciear.
Even before balloting began for the by-election for the Selangor State Assembly seat of Semenyih, talk was rife among netizens and warong folk that Barisan Nasional (BN) was on course to capture the seat from Pakatan Harapan (PH).
In the event, the BN win, despite a large voter turnout, is a red flag for PH. Pro-PH analysts may be tempted to dismiss the outcome as merely a slight blip in support for the ruling coalition.
Yet, the BN win in Semenyih must be viewed within the context of the big picture of the 2018 general election and the months that followed.
PH won the general election riding on a wave of sentiment against the old kleptocracy. Citizens placed their bets on a new Hope.
Soon after regime change, many were shocked by the van loads of cash, jewellery and expensive accessories that were seized. Many could scarcely believe the huge loot, the scale of which had never before been seen in the country’s history.
But in less than a year, some folks appear to be harbouring doubts about the mounting charges against several political leaders including former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife.
Has the element of Hope waned?
It cannot be that the person on the street is naive or gullible about the claims, allegations and denials.
But when many are willing to crowd in adulation around some politicians even though they know these same personalities will soon be making frequent appearances in the Palance of Justice, it suggests a general mood swing on the ground.
Both BN and PH need to take cognisance of this.
BN must quickly announce its leadership succession plan. It cannot continue riding on sensationalism generated by one man if it wants to capitalise on the ebbing hope in the hearts of citizens.
PH, for its part, must align its power and control instead of firefighting internal battles. If the public continue to see former Umno MPs defecting to PH, subsequent by-elections will swing in BN’s favour. And if PH continues to lose momentum from its 2018 general election battle cry, the DAP may become the whipping boy.
For both BN and PH, a decisive commitment towards nation-building will be the best hope for their political salvation. It has got to be a combination of breakthrough policy, action plans and visionary leadership that would see the emergence of a government that can capture the imagination of the people.
If we continue to hurl allegations which would then be met by a volley of denials, it is not going to do any good for the rulers and the ruled. In a nutshell, people are going to be deeply divided between BN and PH and that is going to weaken both giants. It will then be the start of a long-drawn destabilising political landscape, which would weaken the economic and financial outlook for the nation.
With the Semenyih by election behind us, PH must do some sincere soul searching to find out why last year’s hope has waned. Continual claims that PH needs more time, well beyond the 100-day promises, will not go down well with voters. Of course, it is also true that 100 days to clean up and turn hope into fulfilment is a tall order.
PH leaders should now reflect on the following:
- Revamp the police force. Bring it to mint condition from the top all the way to the front-liners. This in fact should have been mission that should have been the priority from Day One. If PH cannot achieve this with a thorough sweep, with the mandate given to it by the citizens, its leaders must take personal and collective responsibility.
- Sweep clean all law enforcement institutions from the Customs to the Immigration. In doing so, corruption would be drastically nipped. We would save money for the country.
- Empower institutions and civil society watchdogs. These are people with almost zero vested interests. Provide them with accessibility to government leaders and allow them to take part in the many platforms for debate and disclosure. They are the conscience of the rakyat, and the politicians must embrace civil society groups willingly.
- Restructure government-linked companies by ensuring zero political appointees. Prevent them from thriving on the gravy train. Hire the best brains. Make public accountability a prerequisite. The wealth from these companies is not for political coffers but to nourish the rakyat. Immediately block politicians from holding shares (directly or through proxies) or dabbling in business. Politics must always remain separate from business.
- Have the moral courage to separate religion from politics. Politicians should not be allowed to manipulate issues of faith for political gain. Let properly schooled religious heads handle these issues, as they are the ones entrusted to guide the faithful, while all the time staying aligned to the Constitution. Let the rule of law reign supreme.
- Make education and healthcare the number one priority. Transform these sectors with policies that are above race and religion. If these succeed in becoming the showcase of governing success, PH will have easily crossed the halfway mark in fulfilling its promises.
- Go beyond the pursuit of investments. When a nation is cleansed of corruption and reaches the standard of Nordic countries, things like employment prospects and opportunities for every citizen will fall into place. We may not even need a national economic blueprint or race-based protection as the needs of every citizen will be protected, in line with the Constitution.
Let us hear the politicians respond to these thoughts. They must know that if citizens were able to throw out a six-decade-old political behemoth from the seat of governance, removing PH in the next general election will not be difficult, if it comes to that. We’ve just witnessed it in Semenyih.
So it’s now or never for PH – for tomorrow may just be too late.