Malaysiakini Letter

Tough crowd or desperadoes?

Manjit Bhatia  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | A good comedian, after being booed off stage for a skit few liked - because it touched a very raw nerve - would say: “Tough crowd!”

My article Pakatan Harapan won't win, full stop yesterday got some very typically Malaysian response.

Instead of constructive criticisms, of which I’m convinced they’re incapable of proffering, readers hurled their usual bile - abhorrent abuse and despicable racist and personal insults. Ugly Malaysians for the world to see.

Since they also profess to being spiritual and/or religious, I hope they also subscribe to karma. What goes around comes around - eventually. Not that I do nor care.

Naturally, I’m loathed to supplicate myself to anyone for mercy. Not my problem if they hated my criticisms of Pakatan Harapan, especially Parti Keadilan.

In comprehensively failing to read and understand the message, these Malaysians typically chose to shoot the messenger. It’s not the first time, it won’t be the last time, this will happen. Whatever happened to Malaysian education and civility? Lies and hypocrisy, Umno-style?

I’ve sledged the opposition, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Najib Abdul Razak, and the ruling Umno regime many times since the mid-1990s. I’m always prepared to stick my neck out with what I think and say in any forum - academia, journalism or anywhere else.

No educated person is ignorant of problems with Pakatan Harapan winning this election. I named a handful of these problems - the most recent, glaring ones I’ve observed.

An outfit like Harapan, declaring itself to be a professional political opposition that seeks to snatch national power from Umno, would’ve fingered and fixed its organisational and strategic tribulations long before launching itself fully onto the hustings.

In this game, it can be the best or the worst of times to win the hearts and minds of the most sceptical voters with the persuasion of reason. I’ve not seen Harapan fix its issues that are clearly stymieing it from making a big dent in winning over voters who traditionally and historically vote along ethno-primordial lines.

I’m afraid it’s too late for Harapan to change tack and go for the jugular.

Umno has always played dirty and dishonest politics with all the trickery and sleaze that incumbency and history give it. Umno wouldn’t be Umno without immorality, indecency and illegitimacy tagged to its core. Umno’s failures and fundamental fraudulence continue to stare Harapan in the face. But nobody seems home in Camp Harapan.

And I’ve never ignored nor failed to condemn the complicity of the gutless Election Commission and the Registrar of Societies with Umno to rig the poll. This is the only way Umno can win - defrauding voters.

The only exception is Mahathir. The other, albeit spasmodically, is the DAP’s Lim Kit Siang, whom I’ve met a couple of times many years ago, as I did the late Karpal Singh.

Lim sat next to me on an AirAsia flight from KL to Penang one time. In 30 to 40 minutes we talked politics and the economy. I was suitably impressed by his answers. And the fact that he isn’t arrogant - unlike his son, Lim Guan Eng. Plus this Malaysian opposition leader flew cattle class with plebs like me.

As a general rule I bear no respect, reverence and trust for politicians anywhere. But Lim has been largely missing in this election. His absence is missed. His son is in the news, but mostly for putting his big foot in his big mouth.

Kit Siang is getting on in years, as are Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir. Win or lose, this election will be the last for the trio. But imagine the trio campaigning together, and the impact they could’ve had on voters across the racial and class divide.

This, alone, is crucially absent in Harapan’s election strategy.

At 93, Mahathir, whom I’ve never met, liked and trusted, has amazed even a cynic like me with his stamina and political acumen. But his morsel has understandably dissipated somewhat.

I don’t blame him for this, but I still hold him responsible for delivering Malaysia a hideously corrupt and nastily racist political economy. And yet I would’ve liked to have seen Mahathir take charge of Harapan across all facets and lead it in an all-out charge against Najib and Umno at a time when Harapan is rudderless.

Harapan is far less united and cohesive. It lacks the charisma and political oomph to make crucially decisive inroads in this election. What’s fundamentally missing also, including real and fully costed policies, is the greatest political orator and operative in Malaysia’s history - Anwar.

When he allowed Mahathir to co-opt him in 1980 to Umno from Abim, I knew democracy had just died its third death. The second was when Mahathir became PM, with the first death in 1969.

When Anwar broke ranks with Mahathir in 1997 and was then hounded by the old man until he had him jailed on concocted charges and lies, Malaysia lost its best chance at regime change and possible political liberalisation and not democracy necessarily.

Malaysia lost that chance a second time when Najib lied through his eye teeth - so much for being a godly Muslim - and jailed Anwar again.

Harapan without Anwar alongside Mahathir and Kit Siang is rather like Barack Obama without Joe Biden.

Harapan seriously lacks venom. Only with this trio - specifically with Anwar boiling over with political nous and guts - can and will Harapan succeed.

But it’s all too late.

Jailing Anwar a second time is what the Najib had to do to save his hide and his Umno that is as disgustingly dishonest as the regimes of Marcos, Suharto, Duterte, Suu Kyi and Hun Sen.

This is/was anti-Umno regime changers’ last chance - unless Najib is caught with his paws in the cookie jar or the economy collapses. What’s the likelihood?


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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