Friday, 21 March 2008

Time to Act as Statesmen

Brave New World (The Star)
20 March 2008

"It's a whole new type of politics out there and the new state governments and the country too need time to adjust to this change.


After the excitement of the election results (yes, I’m still writing about the election, apologies to those of you with insatiable appetites for the new and the “now”), certain unease seems to be creeping into the collective consciousness.

Headlines scream about cracks in the loose coalition of the Opposition, constitutional crises hang over the horizon of at least two states. Are things going to go tumbling down?

Well, a week is a long time in politics as they say, and by the time this article comes out five days would have passed since I wrote it, so I could end up with egg on my face.

However, I just want to say; cool it, chill out, relax, it's early days and the poor little politicians have no idea what hit them.

Some of them have never been out of power and some of them have never tasted it.

They are still stuck in their old mindsets. We, the people seem to have leaped forward but they are still trying to wrap their heads around this new world; poor dears.

For example, the Opposition leader in Selangor; after days of petulant silence he comes out with this grand plan to watch the new state government with beady eagle eyes.

They are going to register the old folks and the young ones and make sure they all get what the ex-Opposition promised them (healthcare and child care respectively). Well, good on you Khir!

I always said a strong opposition is what we need.

But, a word of advice to the handsome ex-Mentri Besar.

Accusing the new state government of being likely to be racially insensitive is rather rich coming from you.

If I am not mistaken, and I am not, some of the most publicised temple destruction that caused such anger and uproar in the Hindu community, and which was one of the impetuses to the heavy setback suffered by the Barisan, happened in Selangor; when you were in charge.

Besides, Khalid and co have not even managed to settle in their new offices. It’s going to take some time to clean up all those shredded documents.

Give them a while to settle in before you threaten to “take action.”

Meanwhile in Penang, Lim Guan Eng had barely sat down when he had to jump up again and put out a fire that is the NEP.

I watched the interview he gave on the NEP and he said that he wanted to weed out the corrupt, inefficient and wasteful aspects of the policy.

Nothing was said about marginalising the poor, of whatever race. Surely this is a good thing. Surely the NEP was meant to help the poor and not meant to be corrupt, inefficient and wasteful.

The NEP’s time is over. For the Malay professional classes, they should be able to stand on their own feet, and if they can’t, then they should not be in that position in the first place.

For the Malay poor, and there are many of them, making up as they do the vast majority of low income families, it would appear that a new approach is needed.

If a policy has been implemented for nearly 40 years and the main group it is aiming to help is still in the same position, it is high time to look at new policies.

The trouble with the NEP and the way it has been enforced is that it promotes Malay interest over national interest. Let’s take a look at public institutions for example; Malay people staff them overwhelmingly.

This is because non-Malays feel they don’t have a fair shot at promotions in the civil service. A worry that is quite valid.

We are too small a nation to shut out talent based on race. The country has to be run by the best people or we will all suffer and the Malay supremacists will then be the supreme masters of rubble.

Obviously not all Malays feel like me. Some were so angry at Guan Eng’s misquoted statement that they have taken to the streets of Penang and Shah Alam. I think this is super.

A democracy needs dissent as long as it is peaceful. The sight of Umno members thronging around Komtar warmed the cockles of my heart.

Umno members have shown the Barisan government that protesting really is part of our culture.

They made a mistake condemning the Bersih and Hindraf rallies. Malaysians do take to the streets when they want to express their feelings.

The country is on the cusp of a new type of politics. It is perhaps no accident that amongst the Opposition in Parliament, the one with the largest number of seats is a multi-racial party that calls for a non-racial method of affirmative action.

And the other two Opposition parties, although more mono racial in their make up are also making similar overtures.

It is odd therefore that the response to the election results by the Barisan component parties has been to reinforce the racial based policies and politics that a very large proportion of the citizens appear to have rejected.

It is also odd to see the old warhorses of the Opposition act like they are still in the Opposition. People, you are in charge of five states now. This is the time to act like statesmen and not like rabble-rousers.

Yes, there is a degree of uncertainty in our country after the elections, but at the end of the day we are going to need to give it some time before we press the panic button; time to see how the new state governments work; time to see how the Barisan reacts; and time most of all to let the old dinosaurs rant and rave using the language of race until they come to the realisation that for the future to be bright, outdated and outmoded politics must be discarded.

The country needs time to settle, let’s just hope the politicians do not take too long in doing so.

No comments: