Malaysiakini Letter

Choosing between continuity and change

Ramon Navaratnam  |  Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | On the eve of the auspicious and fateful election day on May 9, we the voters are faced with a major dilemma.

After 60 years of a difficult democracy, and having the same government in power for all those years, we have a challenging dilemma.

Having had a reasonably and relatively peaceful, stable and successful country since Merdeka, we are confronted with a vital choice – voting for continuity or for change in government.

There are many benefits to the continuity of government, but there are also drawbacks.

What are the benefits of continuity?

Continuity of the present government means there will be a smooth transfer of power from the old to the new government, but from the same coalition, BN.

There would no significant administrative disruption due to any change in government, especially at the federal level.

Old policies would most probably continue with some tweaking, to reflect the changed mood of voters as expressed in GE14. The economy will continue to grow at its own pace with the stability continuity brings. We will get more of the same.

And, what are the drawbacks?

Corruption will be likely continue to rise as in the past. They say it’s not easy for a leopard to change its spots.

The New Economic Policy, which is related to race-based economics, preferences and protectionism, would continue to the detriment of the poorer sections of the economy from all races.

Competition and meritocracy, and brain drain, will continue at the expense of higher standards of living, a better quality of life. We will also continue to have high costs of living because of protectionist policies.

Voting for change

The benefits of a new Pakatan Harapan government could include:

A fresh new approach to policy formulation and implementation that would emphasise more fairness to all races and religions and more equitable socio-economic policies.

Ketuanan’ (supremacy) and racial and religious hegemony could be reduced and wasatiyah (moderation) adopted more seriously, especially against extremist tendencies.

The new government could focus more on building real national unity and address the weaknesses of the old government, which could have caused it losing the election.

A new government can bring about:

  • Relative inability, at least in the short term, to effectively take over and run the government at federal and state levels with efficiency;
  • A comparative lack of experience in governing, particularly at the federal level, even if the government is led by top leaders from the old regime. The cabinet will be made up of new and untried leaders, who of course could learn on the job. But it will take time; and
  • Voters may face the dilemma of uncertainty, insecurity, a lack of confidence and doubts as to the capacity and capability of any new government. Again it’s a risk that has to be taken, and again, only time will tell.

Taking into account some of the pros and cons of continuity or change of government, the voters’ dilemma remains. On the eve of our 14th general election, we are feeling the burden of this electoral dilemma.

How then do we try to resolve this?

Firstly, since there are little real ideological differences in the electoral manifestos of all major political parties, we can fully utilise the power of the people’s vote on the careful choice of election candidates on offer in each of our constituencies.

We should choose only honest, able, service-oriented and dedicated candidates, preferably with a proven track record.

Secondly, we should outright reject candidates who are known to be extremists, deviationists, racists and religious bigots who have run down other religions in our precious multicultural society.

Thirdly, all candidates who have said or done anything to erode national unity should be rejected at the polls, without hesitation.

We should vote only for the candidates who aspire to make Malaysia great, united and moderate, progressive and prosperous and most importantly, united – not polarised and divided.

Finally, if we follow some of these principles and arguments above – and of course principles of our own – we the voters will overcome the doubts, fears and the dilemmas we face as we prepare to face the election.

But to choose the right leaders we have to turn up in full force and vote wisely.

We all hope that we will have a clean, free and fair election that we can be proud of and will restore our maruah (dignity).

Jom undi! And God guide and bless Malaysia, please.

RAMON NAVARATNAM is chairperson of the Asli Centre for Public Policy Studies.

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