Sometimes I wonder whether democracy is the best political system for Malaysia. Indeed sometimes I wonder whether we Malaysians deserve the privilege to use (or more likely, misuse) the label of democracy to describe our political system.
No doubt democracy has never been perfect where even in its birthplace, the Athenians denied their womenfolk the facilities of democracy and even kept slaves. But notwithstanding its imperfections, modern democracy has provided everyone with a voice in the society he or she lives in. But in Malaysia, seemingly, poor democracy has gotten the raw end of the deal as we Malaysians continue to blaspheme its hallowed premise.
We have our newly-minted home affairs minister telling the federal opposition to migrate elsewhere if they are not happy with the outcome of the 13th general election, forgetting that it is their democratic rights to voice their dissatisfaction. But obviously, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi didn’t think so.
But worse than the minister, we have a former judge, Mohd Noor Abdullah, a so-called learned man of law, hurling very seditious rants at the Chinese, warning them to prepare for a backlash from the Malays for their alleged “betrayal” against the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in GE13.
It was not so much his racist hate speech against the Chinese that flabbergasted me; it was not so much his seditious threats against the Chinese that filled me with great dismay; it was his use of the term “betrayal against Barisan Nasional (BN)” which he accused the Chinese of, that shocked me.
This person did not and probably still does not understand what is democracy, and that the Malaysian political system is based, or so it claims, on the principles of democracy? And frighteningly, we discovered he was a former judge in the Court of Appeals and now sits on the complaints committee of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
As we are aware, the word ‘betrayal’ means to deliver to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty, or to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling.
So we need to ask Mohd Noor Abdullah who was the “enemy”, and what was the allegiance of the Chinese voters to BN, such that by voting Pakatan Rakyat they became “unfaithful” or “disloyal”?
How could Chinese ‘betray’ the BN?
Thus, unless the learned former judge advised us of the inconvenient details, just how in world could he justify the Chinese “betraying” the BN?
There were other words used by Umno people that were akin to the above outlandish accusation, namely, “ungrateful”. None other than our dear Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the so-called Bapa Bangsa Malaysia, blamed the BN’s poor showing in the general elections on the “ungrateful” Chinese, whereas he reserved a special word, “greedy”, for Malays who voted Pakatan Rakyat.
Are there degrees of difference in his two condemnations? Perhaps to Dr Mahathir, “greedy” is involuntary, a state brought about through evil seductions and decadent temptations (presumably by Pakatan), and hopefully of a momentary nature, whereas “ungrateful” implies a knowing treacherous state of mind, one which lends itself to acts of, yes, “betrayal”.
And he made the ridiculous accusation “Most of the Chinese had rejected the Malays’ hands of friendship” which he may have difficulty proving why those “ungrateful” Chinese voted for Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin, Rafizi Ramli, Zairil Khir Johari, Khalid Samad, Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz and more.
Perhaps Mahathir ought to read what Goh Cheng Teik (not sure whether he’s the former MCA Member of Parliament from Nibong Tebal, 1978) wrote in a letter to Malaysiakini, where he stated:
“It is clear that the Chinese voters in GE13 strongly voted on one hand for DAP and to a lesser extent, Keadilan in the urban areas and on the other hand, voted for Umno in the rural areas.
“Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Mohamad Hassan made a good statement in The Malay Mail on May 15 to assuage the Chinese voters. He disagreed with former Malacca chief minister Mohd Ali Rustam that the Chinese voters were ‘ungrateful’ and ‘racist’.
“He told Ali that he lost Bukit Katil (99,581 voters, Malays: 52.8 percent Chinese: 40.8 percent, Indians: 5.7 percent) but Umno did not lose all its parliamentary seats.
“So, he should not generalise and label the Chinese ungrateful and racist.
“Mohamad further said that the support of Chinese voters had helped him defend his Rantau seat (18,232 voters, Malays: 51.8 percent, Chinese: 20.3 percent, Indians 27.5 percent) and assisted the BN to retain control of the state.”
It appears again to be a case of “ingratitude” which persuaded Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Said to allegedly withdraw facilities provided to four parliamentary constituencies which have been won by Pakatan in the recent general elections.
But what is this “gratitude” and its lack of, that the Chinese voters have been accused of?
The word ‘gratitude’ means the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful, or experiencing appreciation. The adjectival form is ‘grateful’ which the dictionary defines as warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received, as in “I am grateful to you for your help.”
But in Malaysia, while the Malay dictionary provides basically the same meaning as for the English word, apparently ‘gratitude’ has a totally different meaning to Umno people like Mahathir, Ali Rustam and those of their ilk.
I mulled over this lexical strangeness for a while before I decided to look up ‘feudalism’, where I obtained:
A system of obligations that bound lords and their subjects in Europe during much of the Middle Ages. In theory, the king owned all or most of the land and gave it to his leading nobles in return for their loyalty and military service. The nobles in turn held land that peasants, including serfs, were allowed to farm in return for the peasants’ labour and a portion of their produce. Under feudalism, people were born with a permanent position in society.
I believe Umno leaders like Mahathir could have this concept of feudalism in mind when he spoke of the lack of ‘gratitude’ by the Chinese, that is, the Umno PM owns all or most of the land and gives it to his supporters in return for their loyalty, and that under Malaysian feudalism, which he and some Umno people believe we live in, people were born with a permanent position in society, where voters should be “grateful” to the Umno-led government for their very existence.
In fact, on March 31, 2012 while in Kota Kinabalu, then-information minister Rais Yatim instructed taxi and bus drivers to highlight the positives of the PM’s 1Malaysia concept, telling them they should not keep silent when carrying fares but must help explain the concept to passengers who “are critical and accuse the government of all sorts”. He informed that they must act as “government ambassadors” in this respect.
There and then he has the brazen cheek to state “It must be done as a sign of gratitude and thanks for the government’s efforts to continuously safeguard their welfare, like Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia and the specific government aid to taxi drivers.”
Obviously, despite his ministerial portfolio and like the so-called learned former judge, he did not have a clue as to what would be democracy and the concept of people’s representatives in a Westminster parliamentary system and their expected service to the rakyat. He must have somehow convinced himself that he like his cabinet colleagues became ministers by the Mandate of Heaven, and demanded that the public be grateful to the government.
But sadly as we have witnessed, he was not alone in this belief. Many public servants believe they are the PM’s hulubalang (or the civilian version), forgetting the ‘servant’ of the ‘public’ that they in fact are, being employed and paid by taxpayers.
Indeed, there is still a prevalent belief in our political system and public service of the medieval concept, that the Ruler or its modern day equivalent, the PM, owns all or most of the national assets (like the public coffers) and gives from it to his supporters in return for their loyalty.
‘Sehelai kain pelekat dan RM100'
Unscrupulously exploiting the belief of a feudal society where people are either rulers or subjects, the ensuing outcome of such a vertical relationship is sometimes laughingly referred to as ‘sehelai kain pelekat dan RM100’, or its Sinicized version, ‘Gua tolong lu, lu tolong gua’, where the recipients of political campaign pork barrelling should be grateful to their liege lord and expected to vote for him and his party candidates.
There is no doubt that quite a number of Malaysians, especially those of the earlier generations, are not concerned about corruption or corrupt politicians, or such stuff as accountability and transparency so long as they get some benefits, namely the ‘sehelai kain pelekat dan RM100', allowing of course for inflation.
Can we now see how 600 Janome sewing machines and even the arrogant public boast by a former minister of how he squeezed 10 years of public works into one month won the day for BN in the Ijok by-election in 2007?
The Ijok voters who elected the BN candidate didn’t question the former minister’s boast as admitting he had neglected public works in their district for years until the by-election. Presumably we may conclude they were appropriately ‘grateful’ enough to vote for the BN candidate.
This has been why BN and in particular Umno have been getting away with blatant corrupt practices for the past 50 years or so, and undoubtedly will for more years to come.
It may also explain the total lack of discretion or shameless arrogance in politicians and their family members building for themselves overtly obscene ostentatious Bali-type palatial mansions or driving around in vehicles of values beyond the reach of their ministerial wages.
But eventually it dawned on some of us to punish Jurassic specimens like Ali Rustam in the recent election to let them know we the voters represent the Mandate of Heaven and they, the people’s representatives, have to be our servants, and would be dismissed or voted out if they did not perform to our expectation.
The gratitude should come from them if we voted for them.
Naturally the ‘unbelievable’ act by voters who chose Pakatan and disdainfully rejected the so-called feudal ‘liege lords’ despite unbridled degrees of pork barrelling, has shocked people like Mahathir, Ali Rustam and Ibrahim Ali.
The answer to their angry puzzlement has been out there all along, that those in the urban areas with independent and alternative information to the propaganda peddled by BN’s media mouthpieces, would no longer accept the outdated feudal system, one which demonstrated no respect to the democratic rights of citizens, each of whom has an equal voice to be heard and which must be heard.
By blaming the Chinese, Umno’s favourite punching bag, and emphasising on their so-called 'ingratitude', the Umno leaders hope to mask from the voters of their traditional base, the conservative Malay heartland, that urban Malays now possess an independent mindset and understand their democratic rights, and that the BN politicians are no more than mere representatives of the rakyat and who should not only show ‘gratitude’ to the voters but must perform in their political functions to the voters’ satisfaction.
K TEMOC is a Penangite who enjoys being an independent blogger and loves to share his opinion on Malaysian and world affairs without fear or favour, though currently is politically inclined towards DAP, only because the political party has thus far shown faithfulness to its promise of competency, accountability and transparency.