By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
I could recall vividly the time I stood in line at the designated polling station in Bercham waiting anxiously for my turn to cast my vote. It was the morning of Sunday, May 8, 2018. And the occasion was General Election 14, better known by its acronym GE 14.
My wife and I arrived early to be among the first to do our part for the country. We had been diligently voting in successive elections and our polling station was either at the Bercham Chinese school or the national school in Tasek. This was contingent to our listed address in our identity cards. And as responsible citizens, we had never failed in our duty. However, can we say the same of our politicians?
As long as I can remember our politicians have been involved in one political manoeuvering after another. Some were embroiled in political scandals and shameful misdeeds. And they have no qualms in doing so openly and under the glare of publicity. Examples are plenty so there is no necessity to name one or an occasion.
Events following the ouster of Tun Mahathir, the sitting Prime Minister and the appointment of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as the 8th Prime Minister on Monday, March 1, has taken a toll on the people to the point that trust in politicians is fast disappearing. This trust deficit is not evident in me alone but in many whom I had spoken to. And that includes Raj, my barber in Bercham. In fact, he has been the most vocal among my many acquaintances.
Malaysians are growing tired of politics and politicians because of the protracted crisis which has dogged us. The manner in which the new PM got appointed had left many questions unanswered.
“Did he really have the numbers?” asked Raj. “Or was it trickery by another name?”
Malaysians are beginning to doubt the functions of representative democracy. Others vowed not to vote in the coming elections.
“I think trust in politicians is at an all-time low. Politics is probably the most hated profession at the moment,” said another friend.
The Pakatan Harapan government collapsed early this month, following Tun Mahathir’s resignation as prime minister, after a group of MPs broke ranks to form Perikatan Nasional comprising PPBM, Barisan Nasional, PAS and PKR MPs aligned to their former deputy president, Mohamed Azmin Ali.
Critics have described the new ruling coalition as a back door government as it comprises BN, which was ousted in the last general election, and others such as the dodgy Islamist party, PAS. It is considered morally inappropriate as it is not mandated by the rakyat.
Let us look into the past to make sense of things. Even during the 1997-9 political upheaval, a government was there for better or for worse. The people’s mandate was sought soon after Anwar Ibrahim, the deputy prime minister was sacked. The rakyat decided to keep the status quo despite lots of misgivings about how Anwar was ousted.
This time around, political shenanigans have been elevated to a new level. This is unprecedented in our political history.
Many Malaysians, especially those who voted for Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the last elections, are dismayed. The political drama had confused the rakyat. Some netizens became keyboard warriors to voice out their dissatisfactions.
There are plenty of reasons why people are upset. Among them is PH’s failure to maintain solidarity within the coalition. Their opponents, BN and PAS, saw this as an opportunity when PH collapsed.
What frustrated people, especially those who had a hand in PH’s GE14 victory, was that the crisis occurred at the highest level among the political elites. They could not do anything about it but to watch helplessly on the sidelines.
And this resulted in Muhyiddin Yassin getting appointed as prime minister. It was something unexpected. How he got into the King’s good books is a million-dollar question many have been asking. But since the monarch has decided it is a done deal.
In politics, there are no permanent friends and enemies. We are aware of that. But there must be some dignity and decorum left in the hearts of the most ambitious and malicious of politicians. At least respect the mandate of the rakyat in the May 2018 general election.
They booted out a six-decade-old government short on ideas but high on corruption and welcomed a new untested coalition. It was people’s power at its best. Malaysians gambled their future in Pakatan Harapan. Thousands living abroad returned home to vote. The ink on their fingers had barely dried when the true colours of the new government manifested itself. Promises were largely ignored. Race relations got worse. Cost of living soared and is still soaring. The failures are not that of the voters but the very people they voted in.
What is amazing is that the very people who liked to demonise ‘the other side’ suddenly find it acceptable to work with ‘the devils’.
We should learn from the Belgians. Their country was without a government for 541 days from 2010 to 2011 when the ruling coalition collapsed. It happened again last year when they only had a caretaker prime minister. In an era when trust and faith in politicians are growing thin, the Belgium experience is a good example.
Perhaps the time has come for us to experiment with one. Our civil service is reasonably competent to begin with. They have not really shown what they are truly capable of because of interference from politicians.
Tommy Thomas and Latheefa Koya are two fine examples of exemplary civil servants. Too bad their careers were short-lived due to the current political imbroglio.
What we need is an interim prime minister and a lame-duck parliament which is incapable of passing any laws. In such an instance civil servants have no other choice but to come to the fore. Let the Chief Secretary or the KSN (Ketua Setiausaha Negara) call the shots.