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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Voting For The Future

(I had submitted this piece to the Malay Mail for my column on 26th August 2008. The management decided that it was better "held over" in "deference to our journalistic tenet that Opinion pieces are edited solely on form, never on content" (as appeared in the print version, p 15). I wish to express my gratitude to the editors for taking a stand that circumstances necessitated - it appears that the Home Ministry has been overly sensitive over media reporting on matters pertaining to Anwar Ibrahim - in the way they did. It underscores the point I attempt to make in my comment)

On March 8th, Malaysians voted in rejection of political hegemony and the arbitrariness and excess that it had allowed for.

In voting as they did, Malaysians were not only expressing their frustration at the glaring absence of a plan of action that would allow for sustainable development, they had begun to tentatively reach out for a viable alternative, one that would simply promise, not even guarantee, the possibility of hope for all. A denial of a two-thirds majority came to be seen as a good step in the right direction while accommodating the fear - of the unknown, of stepping out of comfort zones, of the possibilities – that many felt at the prospect of a change of government. It may have been that some hoped that through this the Barisan Nasional would once again remember that it existed to serve the people and not for the people to serve it.

For a while, it did seem as if there was a possibility that things might change for the better. A fledgling two-party system seemed to have taken root, a state of affairs that led to an acknowledgment by the Barisan leadership, no matter how tentative or begrudging, of the people having expressed their disappointment with things as they were and their desire for change. In a blur of post-election frenzy, we heard much of what was going to be done and the reforms that were going to be introduced, all aimed at making Malaysia the better place it ought to have been for all.

It seems however that there was insufficient political will to follow through. Instead of seeing concrete measures being taken to transform rhetoric into reality, we were soon hearing familiar political counter-spin against the now significantly more entrenched and influential opposition. As exemplified by the Shabery Chik-Anwar Ibrahim debate, the Barisan took to making personal attacks against the Pakatan Rakyat rather than constructively engaging on a policy level. This, and jaded tactical plays on race, religion and sodomy, have not done much to assist the Barisan in shoring up seriously faltering levels of confidence.

It would seem that the Barisan had learnt nothing. In avoiding constructive engagement on policy issues, it failed to seize the opportunity to show that it had a better grasp of what this country needed, and the way forward, than the Pakatan. This was a fatal error fueling further speculation that the Barisan had very little left to offer. In the time since March 8th, many a Malaysian has been struck by how they had made themselves captives to their electoral choices - it will be some four to five years before the next election, a significant period in which the state of the nation may worsen inexorably – and have come to the conclusion that radical change is the only option left.

That Anwar Ibrahim has become the face of that change is not surprising. In the pluralism he espouses, many see a shift from a divisive race-relations policy that has gravely weakened the nation as well as the supposed target community of affirmative action. A shift to the meritocracy inherent in pluralism would allow for a restoring to power of the primary organs of state and the resurrection of a true democracy, the only surefire way of healing the country. This is a transition that his supporters see as being made possible by the team of Pakatan leaders who in standing by him also block the path to absolute power.

For all of this, Anwar Ibrahim is the man of the hour to many, not just for having aided in forging the Pakatan but for having the moral courage to say what it is this nation needs for it to survive. To them, a vote for him tomorrow is a vote for a better tomorrow. But, what if Anwar Ibrahim loses? As unlikely an event that may be, we must be prepared for all eventualities, whatever their cause. Does the transformation process stop?

I would like to think that it would not.

For if Anwar Ibrahim is the face of change, then we are the force underlying that change. Our families, our children, all those who want a better and more just nation; all of us.

We started reaching out for democracy long before March 8th. We took it from the British by diplomacy. Had we needed to, we would have taken it by force for freedom has always been our birthright and democracy its guardian. By coincidence of otherwise, Anwar Ibrahim has come to serve the will of Malaysians in their quest for truer and more just governance; they do not serve him.

So, what if he fails, today or at some more distant point in time? Then another, and another, and another after that, will take his place to become the face of that change that Malaysians want. The genie is out of the bottle, Malaysians want their democracy back. They recognize in a way they never have before that compromising on ideals is not an option if this nation is to be all that it can be.

A shot at a united and strong Malaysia lies within grasp and the journey to it begins today. On March 8th, we voted in admonishment. Today our brothers and sisters in Permatang Pauh vote for the future.



Anonymous said...

Hi Imtiaz,

The point you made about Barisan stooping to personal attacks rather than discuss constructively about issues is a good one.

However, in keeping with the two to tango expression, had Datuk Seri Anwar behaved in the manner of Koh Tsu Koon recently, I have to wonder if the outcome of the debate would have been different, first time around.

I am someone who wants a change in government because I do believe that the current government themselves do not believe in what they want to bring in- that it's just lip service..............

However, from what I decipher, some of the Pakatan members are also flip-flops............on the one hand, they say they're all for pluralism but on the other hand, we have people like Zulkifli Noordin............

If there is government to be voted in, I'd rather the coalition be strong and unanimous in its policies, rather than two/three different sets of thinking trying to come together as that spells a recipe for disaster..........

Abi Ayyub said...

Well said, and yes if by what ever reason, Arif win the By Election(it is possible) than the process should continue.

If 8th March is so much the 1st needed step, 26th August is the 2nd step of many more steps.

Let us make it work

Nostradamus said...

“Victory Cries” After Permatang Pauh By-Election.
“Laungan-Laungan Kemenangan” Selepas Pilihanraya Kecil di Permatang Pauh.

“Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!”

“Hail! Man of Honour” walks again in the Corridors of Power

Posted at

Anonymous said...

The sentiments expressed through 8/March GE are all the same, ie. it is time for a change in the government, a change for the better.

flyer168 said...

Dear Malik,

Alhamdulillah, God has answered our nation’s & its downtrodden rayaat’s prayers....

My Heartiest Congratulations to DSAI, His Pakatan Rayaat Leaders & the PR Team…....,

Our Blogger’s Brigade....

Your goodself....

YM RPK, Marina, Haris, Bernard Khoo, Din Merican, Anil Netto, Susan Loone, Lilian, Queenie etc, for the “Magnificient” job well done !

Also not forgetting All the PR supporters, & the People of Permatang Pauh....

For this (People’s Power) “Historic” Permatang Pauh Landslide Victory.


Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you sir could provide your view of DNA bill that is being proposed i.e., that the police can take DNA on a felony charge.

Is there any country where such a law is actually allowed? Even in Singapore, I don't think they allow it because it could be open to abuse even with their system.

Its highly uncomfortable to me given the invasion of private rights. Is no private rights sacred in this country?

Old Fart said...

"Freedom our birthright, democracy its guardian!!"

I've often wondered, even a dictator, if he wants, can offer freedom. So why the Americans in particular and the world at large use democracy to be the yardstick for whether a people live in harmony and are truly free?

But the way you have applied it, that democracy as freedom's guardian, now it all makes sense. After all even a good dictator has to die sometime and there is no guarantee for a similar successor. Through democracy of course, that freedom is really in the hands of the people themselves.

And yet for 50 years we all surrendered or suspended that freedom and gave custody of it to the UMNO led BN. Trusting them. And yet, to ensure they remained custodians of the democracy that is supposed to give us that freedom, they introduced fear into it.

Indeed it has been fear that has been the motivator that gave the BN the "democratic support" they needed. But if 5 years can pass and Selangor, Perak, Penang and Kedah can survive till the next GE, I would imagine BN may not be able to rely on fear to continue to gain the support they need to rule.

I honestly believe, despite all the fear that was cast, the people of Permatang Pauh ignored it and went ahead to vote Anwar in.

Now, a people devoid of fear!! Wouldn't that be BN's greatest fear ?

Anonymous said...

BN is akin to an old bus..

-it is powerfully built in the fifties, so it qualifies as a classic.
-old technology(ideas) - 3 valves only, UMNO, MCA and MIC type
-big horse power
-'petrol' (money) guzzler
-high maintenance costs and high cost of spares, can't find replacement.
-spews black smoke and mars the environment(they use puspakom, no need
-can't go fast, albeit big engine
-frequent breakdown
-noise pollution
-rusty and cracking at seams, fit for junk yard.
-old driver(Badawi) and conductor (Najib)
-noisy and badly behaved passengers, some roudy..especially UMNO, other races
keep to themselves, otherwise they will be thrown out of the bus before they
reach the rainbow's end.
- some passengers already thinking of getting down at next stop (after P44)
- no much value in second hand market, not even recognised by classic car
-price still negotiable, as is where basis.
-no insurance that it will run another year
-old owner(DM) wants change of driver and co-driver, and do remedial work.

Does not make any difference if any remedial work is done. Some of these passengers may want to take another bus who can serve them better.
I heard now they want to scrap the old bus when the new ministry (Pakatan) takes over puspakom.

ANYONE LOOKING TO BUY SCRAP METAL? Cheap and good buy, many extras,Special Edition(Post March 8) , comes with 2 weeks warranty(Till Sept 16) that it will still be road-worthy.

Now the rakyat wants a better and more modern mode that will take all races on and send them to where they want, a better plcae to be, a better Malaysia. They don't mind paying the price for a better future. Just like our public transport, the rakyat is sick and tired of it all.

;D ;D ;D :D ;D :D ;D[b][/b][b][/b][b][/b][b][/b] ;D ;D

Anonymous said...

Well most have us do have some reservation on how DSAI will conduct his government, if and when he form his;that is a chance most Malaysian has indicated they are willing to take, basis the last GE and BE.After the last 30 years of BN rule, we know where it will eventually lead us to....disaster... if they continue to rule, for even another 5 years.

Malysian is more than ready to take their chance with a new direction, a step unknown, but at the same time an opportunity to explore the new rather than a sure path to disaster.May the power be with this nation and its people.