Honourable wakil and downtrodden rakyat

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raniIt is ironic how the wakil can be so honoured while the rakyat are treated with such ignominy, observes Rani Rasiah. Yet many wakil are not aggrieved when the rakyat are oppressed and humiliated. Many wakil don’t see it as an assault on their honourable selves. It is no wonder that in many cases, the rakyat are so seldom and so poorly represented by their wakil.

Parliamentary democracy is such a contradictory affair. The widespread understanding is that it enables the voice of the 25 million rakyat to be heard through the 222 elected representatives in Parliament and more than double that in the state legislative assemblies. Parliamentary democracy gives the impression that an elected representative is the mouthpiece of the people, someone intimately in touch with and familiar with the reality of the lives of the rakyat.

The actual workings of this sort of democracy, however, seem to run against the professed aim of having the rakyat properly represented. In reality the system seems designed to propel the wakil rakyat into some rarefied atmosphere and split him from the rakyat. It seems designed to make an elite out of the Wakil Rakyat for whom abound privileges the ordinary rakyat can only dream about.

The process of creating elite status for the Wakil Rakyat begins immediately after he is declared winner, with the use of the “Yang Berhormat” honorific. Ordinary voters are awed by it. It successfully confounds many into believing that they are the YB’s servants. In fact, the YB themselves are often caught behaving as if they are some little members of the nobility before whom the constituents have to bow and scrape.

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The YBs are wooed by capitalists and given all kinds of invitations and monetary incentives which can run into millions of ringgit, on condition they do the latter a favour such as endorse a contract in the constituency. Even if the YBs are able to say no to such instant wealth, they are not left high and dry as the parliamentary system makes sure they are well-looked after.

Parliament offers the YBs all sorts of allowances and payments, both with and without claims. Wakil rakyat are offered a salary of RM6,500, and allowances adding up to RM7,000 without claims being put in. They can further make claims for travelling, attendance, a computer and handphone. Not only that, to match lifestyle with new-found status, large low-interest loans are made available to buy a house (RM300,000 loan), a car (RM100,000 loan), and an AP for a four-wheel drive. No retirement anxieties for the wakil as the system, upon retirement after a minimum of three years, provides them with a gratuity and a monthly pension.

Meanwhile, the ordinary rakyat continue to lead deprived lives working 12 hours a day and struggling to put food on the table in the face of astronomical price hikes of essentials such as rice. There is no minimum wage legislation and employers continue to exploit workers by paying starvation wages. Unemployment and job insecurity are everyday scourges. Housing remains unaffordable while forced eviction threatens whole villages of peneroka bandar with homelessness. Such is the way the rakyat are trodden upon and denied the basics.

It is ironic how the wakil can be so honoured while the rakyat are treated with such ignominy. Yet many wakil are not aggrieved when the rakyat are oppressed and humiliated. Many wakil don’t see it as an assault on their honourable selves. It is no wonder that in many cases, the rakyat are so seldom and so poorly represented by their wakil.

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