Politicians and political parties should attempt to raise the bar in electoral discourses by discussing proposed policies and concrete programmes to help the country move forward, says Mustafa K Anuar.
At a time when the political temperature in the country is set to rise, the public assurance from Pakatan Harapan (PH) recently that it would not resort to fearmongering simply to gain more votes in the coming general election is something that many concerned Malaysians look forward to.
This is because in the maddening rush to capture votes in recent months, certain quarters in the political sphere appear, as in the past, to have the penchant for offering some promises that are not only populist and ridiculous, but more worryingly, could tear the social fabric of our multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious society.
In particular, a group of unscrupulous politicians promises sections of the voting population to protect and promote their collective ethnic interests to the extent of ‘manufacturing’ an enemy out of the ‘other’. A siege mentality is erected and entrenched.
The story doesn’t end there. If one may use a recent hullabaloo as an example, a certain billionaire of a particular ethnicity was alleged to have channelled funds to a certain opposition party of similar ethnic complexion to achieve the ‘higher goal’ of toppling a government that is dominated by another ethnic community. Nay, they even accused the billionaire of donating money to a particular news portal so as to pursue the same agenda.
Certain unscrupulous individuals and groups also resort to mudslinging in their endeavour to garner more votes for a particular political party and a purported promise of a better future for ordinary Malaysians. For instance, two Malay-Muslim PH leaders were shown in a photograph sitting at a table with a suckling pig roast, thereby casting aspersions on their ethno-religious credentials.
The narrative that is possibly being promoted here – in what appears to be fake news – to voters is that one, leaders of these Malay-Muslim political parties are so unprincipled that they would sacrifice anything and everything, including their religious beliefs, and be in complicit with a non-Muslim party for political profits and hence, two, it suggests that there are other Malay-Muslim parties that are more reliable and worthy of their votes.
This undoubtedly is a hit-below-the-belt strategy that right-thinking Malaysians should not tolerate and encourage. Pitting one ethnic community against another is an old game and that is why it has to be quashed for the sake of our children and their children.
What we should also frown upon is the abuse of religion by certain political parties in the quest for electoral gains. A case in point is the recent promise by special officer to the prime minister Isham Jalil that BN, if voted into power in Selangor in the next general election, would not have Hindu temples demolished in the state anymore.
Surely, the task of a truly responsible government is to ensure that all houses of worship will be protected, irrespective of their religious affiliations.
In similar vein, it should be the SOP of any responsible and accountable government to pour in money to all states in the federation that is due to them for development purposes, irrespective of who leads the state governments.
But what took the cake in the feverish moment at the hustings recently was when Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi coaxed the Kelantan electorate to vote for BN as a show of gratitude to the Almighty! If that is not a heavenly promise, we don’t know what is.
Then, there is also the populist promise of increasing the quantum of cash handouts to the needy to the point of insulting the dignity of these very people they supposedly care for. This is apart from the hurriedly crafted campaigns to give out free weekly petrol for motorbikes and discounted foodstuff, to name but a few, by certain individuals from particular parties.
What is needed here instead is a comprehensive policy and programmes to help certain sections of the needy and the marginalised to secure employment to eke out a decent living. To give the proverbial fish is not sustainable in the long run.
As a way to combat fake news and disgraceful and tired mudslinging, politicians and political parties should attempt to raise the bar in electoral discourses by discussing proposed policies and concrete programmes to help the country get out of this intellectual and economic rut and, more importantly, to really help us move forward.
Anything from the usual (crass) political playbook is a promised land of trickery.
Source: The Malaysian Insight