September 20, 2008

The time is now

The time is now
Steve Oh
Sep 18, 2008 - Malaysiakini Letters

I do not think it helps Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim or incumbent Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and more importantly the country for there to be a political stalemate, for whatever reason. If there is one outstanding feature of events leading up to September 16, it has been the responsible and peaceful way that Anwar and associates have carried out their plans and for this they earn our respect.

Perhaps we expected Anwar to walk up to Abdullah and tap him on the shoulder on September 16 and see the latter shake his hands and concede the handover of power and pass the keys to Putrajaya to him. But it does not happen like that in real life. Nor do those who espouse justice rely on scary vociferous mobs wielding those dangerous weapons.

I imagine the process of change we all wait for with bated breath will not happen along the written lines of a script. There are many landmines to step over and it will not be a gunfight at OK Coral where everything ends in a few minutes. But I am sure everything will be done legally and time will tell who really upholds the rule of law.

The exemplary manner in which Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Zaid Ibrahim has taken his stand must be emulated by all politicians. As far as I know, this man has talked a lot of sense and tried his best to bring about reforms within Umno and failed.

It takes a giant of a man to admit he has failed and bold leaders to admit their failures. Even Dr Mahathir Mohamad admitted his failure to change the mindset of the Malays when he was in government and for anointing the architect of his sleepless nights and restless days while planning his ousting.

Rather than play cat and mouse, the defecting politicians themselves must show their true colours and boldness in coming out into the open to support Anwar and confirm that he has the numbers to form the government. It is not the time to be coy about something as important as this and people will respect those who are honest and upfront.

Make a firm stand on who you support and sink or swim with your decision.

Those who have chosen must help those who have not to do the right thing. After all, I have made up my mind who I will vote for in the next election and I am not afraid to tell you it won't be for those who lock up the innocent in jail.

You are not a traitor or immoral in deciding to cross over to justice. Pakatan politicians didn’t think it immoral to cross over to Barisan Nasional as we have seen Ezam Noor and other Pakatan members do. You can't do worse but that's my opinion and it is a free country.

In a free country, members of parliament are not beholden to anyone except those who put them in power and the interests of their country. It is not immoral to rebel against the party line when you no longer have confidence in your party. It is called conscience. It would be immoral, hypocritical and unconscionable to remain in a party you no longer believe in or support those you no longer have confidence in. Zaid has set a good and right example.

People who talk about the morality of the present crisis of crossovers miss the bigger picture that this is an unusual and unprecedented situation. And there are always exceptions to the rule. Whatever misgivings we may have, Anwar has promised that there will be a fresh election to get an unequivocal mandate and wisely so when we know the phantom voters are really dead and can't vote.

For the first time in the country's history, there is the possibility of toppling of the Umno-led government which many Malaysians now reject and that Mahathir himself derides as "a rotten government”. It goes to show how a party staying in power for too long can become.

That Anwar has given ample notice of the plan for politicians to cross over meant Pakatan Rakyat had been as open and transparent to the public as practically possible. That 40-odd Barisan MPs were hurriedly sent overseas on a junket tells us Anwar wasn't just blowing hot air. Soon we will know the truth and who tells the "political lie", though one has a better record than the other.

The unusual situation is also highlighted by the unprecedented attrition of support for incumbent PM Abdullah. He has had his former boss take snipes at him and working toward his downfall and the latest resignation of Zaid, the one that both sides of the political divide and many Malaysians respect, must seem like Abdullah may need to take a premature involuntary redundancy sooner than he planned. Anwar has persistently said he has the numbers and is now going through the process of getting the incumbent to concede defeat.

We have seen Robert Mugabe losing his grip on power in Zimbabwe now that agreement has been reached for him to be president and his rival Morgan Tsvangira become prime minister. Despite the violence, police brutality and killings, tyranny had to make way for the people's will.

The arrogant and stubborn one-time nationalist knows compromise is the wise option when the writing is on the wall and time is not on your side. In Malaysia, the mood of the people is for change and it is a bitter lesson that Umno is still unwilling to learn.

It is the sickness that afflicts all who have held tyrannical power, from kings to politicians who often come from poverty to taste power and can't seem to relinquish it when the time comes. From the Indian maharajahs to the last emperor of China who was prepared to betray his own country and people to become sovereign of a puppet country run by the Japanese, weak men have stubbornly refused to give up the throne of power and may even betray their country and cause trouble.

Nothing that Pakatan has done so far is immoral or unconstitutional.

Those who defend text book notions of political morality where the crossovers are concerned may be unfairly pedantic. If the Sabbath was made for man and not the other way round, surely it would be immoral to allow a discordant and incompetent administration in disarray and evidently incapable of reform and giving the people what they want, the moral right to govern when they no longer have the numbers.

And it makes no sense to talk of morality when you are facing an opponent which seems to show none. The incumbent government abuses its power and the police are so evidently partial toward them to justify their immoral acts such as the recent ISA arrests and tampering with police witnesses.

When Barisan component parties are already talking about pulling out of their political alliance and fight among themselves like dogs and cats you'd be silly not to be trying to forge new alliances and re-configure the political network to get into power.

It might sound facetious but what is to prevent PM Abdullah himself joining Pakatan Rakyat with his merry men of constrained reformers so they have a free hand to bring about the desired reforms in the country?

You would have a win-win situation with PM Abdullah still holding on to his coveted post but spending much of his time overseas to build bridges with other countries, something that few can do as well as he.

Anwar and his men and women can then carry on with the onerous task of cleaning up 22 years of mistakes and misdemeanours. By then, Mahathir would have rejoined Umno and being the capable politician he is and having much practice, he would be the ideal opposition leader and no one can boast of having held both posts in the country except his black-eyed ghost from the past. Then perhaps some of us who want to keep the government decent and honest might even support him.

Sadly the time for day-dreaming is not now and the day of reckoning must surely be nigh.

When Gerakan won a whopping majority in 1969 and became a formidable political force, they were seduced into the Barisan. The rest is history. Many of the political alliances were the result of change and crossovers so we should stop debating a non-issue.

Politicians are elected to serve their constituency not their political party. The real immorality is enslaving our elected representatives and coercing them to obey the party so thay can't properly serve their constituencies or properly debate bills like in the recent DNA bill scam.

Every political party knows that their elected members owe them no allegiance beyond what they can do for them. Sometimes we see certain politicians passed over and in the next elections, they stand against their party as independents. We don't see much of that in Malaysia because of the undemocratic manner that political parties conduct their business. There are more party serfs useful for their obligatory numbers to form government than people's representatives.

But in a truly transparent and democratic government that Pakatan promises, they will get a new lease of real political life. Imagine, freedom for our politicians. Who would have thought? So, crossovers are not only good for the people but for the politicians themselves because they are crossing over to the political promised land so to speak, to escape from the repressive pharaoh.

Anwar has already parted the river. What more do we need?

Zaid has set the benchmark for politicians of conscience. It is up to others to follow and prove they are undeniably unafraid to stand up for the rakyat whom they serve and for their principles, as he has. September 2008 or whenever the time for change has come. So what are we waiting for?


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8 March 2008

A New And Better Malaysia

Has Emerged