By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
The formal results of the 13th General Election have been announced by the Election Commission and in spite of the many irregularities, perceived or otherwise, most Malaysians have come to accept their fate. Have they gone their old complacent ways? I doubt it. Election petitions on 29 seemingly controversial seats are being filed and the courts have six months to arbitrate on the cases and make their judgments known.
This and the upcoming electoral boundary delineation exercise will be the two most watched, most reported and most talked about post GE 13 events. They will be discussed, dissected and deliberated at coffee shops, at social clubs, at bus stops, on buses, on trains and in toilets. Malaysians’ favourite pastime of late has been about the general election and its impact on the populace.
The blame game never seems to cease. Depending on which side of the political divide one is inclined to, the propensity to apportion blame on a particular community has become increasingly apparent. Having analysed the results, in my own imperfect way, I won’t be wrong in assuming that there is a rural-urban split in voting pattern. The more IT-savvy and exposed urbanites prefer a change while the vastly impoverished and poorly-informed rural population wants no part of it, preferring status quo instead. The disparity is most evident in Sarawak and Sabah where accessibility to the interiors is restricted by distance and remoteness.
The healing process may take months or not at all. Prime Minister Najib wants reconciliation as a way out but events unfolding in the weeks following Election Day on May 5 have proven otherwise. Statements by the newly-minted Home Minister and the newly-promoted Inspector General of Police are less than inspiring. They ought to know that intimidation will not cow the diehards who have a cause to fight for.
At a dinner for media representatives hosted by Dato’ Seri DiRaja Zambry Abd Kadir recently, the Menteri Besar declared that he wanted to minimise the blows by avoiding confrontation. “My party supporters have urged that we organise rallies like what the opposition is doing. But that’s not the right thing to do,” he reasoned. Believing that a confrontational approach would only aggravate things, the MB has vouched for a cooling period. “Hopefully, level heads will eventually prevail.” Perakeans are peace-loving people and I am certain they will not resort to violence to demonstrate their displeasure.
The sentiment on the ground is one of optimism. Most have come to terms with the outcome of the election and are prepared to move on. The opposition coalition may have their reasons but they cannot deny the people’s right to continue with their lives. The reality on the ground is something else. The same old problems that have been haunting the people are back. Dirty back lanes, uncollected rubbish, traffic jams and double parking are some that Ipohites face on a daily basis.
Complaints of poor service at the Urban Transformation Centre (UTC), Najib’s centerpiece, have now surfaced. My prediction was right. It will be a matter of time before the ugly side of the Malaysian Civil Service rears its ugly head. It is widely reported that the Immigration Department counter at UTC does not operate fully on weekends. “There are times when it is closed for no apparent reason,” complained one irate lady. Could this be the beginning of the end? I don’t wish to speculate but suffice to say that tackling these never-ending problems should be a priority.
Nine new executive councillors have been appointed. They received their letters of appointment from the Regent, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah at Istana Iskandariah, Kuala Kangsar on Saturday, May 18. Of the nine, three are former appointees while the remaining six are new. Those holding the portfolios of local council, economic developments, women affairs, education and tourism will be hard pressed to show results, as their continued term in office is contingent upon their performance.
The Menteri Besar has warned that their appointment was not a form of reward for their selfless service to the party but a responsibility they have to shoulder. “A committee will be formed to oversee their performance in accordance with the Aku Janji (pledge) made by the party before the elections,” said Zambry to the media.
Zambry’s assurance is timely given the current state of affairs. Perak’s highly urban setting requires a very committed executive councillor who can motivate the state’s 15 local council presidents to perform beyond the norms. We need only to look at the deficiencies within Ipoh City Council which are simply too glaring. “Things are not getting any better,” said one senior citizen.
With a fresh mandate to administer the state for another five years it is the fervent hope of every Perakean that the ruling coalition, under the able stewardship of Dato’ Seri DiRaja Zambry Abd Kadir, will rise to the occasion.
Has he forged a formidable team to bring Perak to another level? Only time will tell.