Choosing sides: Days ahead in Malaysia

— Rebecca Khoo
Malay Mail Online
August 26, 2015

AUG 26 —To some, patriotism simply means ‘love for country’ which is a very valid way of looking at it. Patriotism means different thing to different people. It is rather subjective as patriotism exists on many— and different— levels. Hence, what is patriotism to you? Maybe you believe that it partly is about voting for the candidates of political parties that you pledge support for. However, have you ever contemplated that giving mandate to candidates of political parties alone is not equivalent to love for the country. That is just exercising your right to vote, which includes the right to abstain from voting.

You may still think that you love the country in your heart, but is that so? Of course, placing your hand on your heart will not instill or fire up love for the country. Neither will singing patriotic songs, nor following the national theme for the National Day. Many Malaysians who have high political awareness support either the Barisan Nasional (BN) or the Opposition. The one-eyed partisanship is very clear. More often than not, people lose their rationality when it comes to politics. Staunch supporters from both sides of the political divide will come to their leaders’ defence-at all cost, never mind if the leaders are just as wrong as their opponents on the other side of the House.

In the last GE, people were so polarised and rumours were spread like wildfire during the campaigning period and particularly, the voting day itself. Remember rumours about chaos in Penang during the voting day as well as the blackout in Bentong? Even close friends and relatives continue to argue just to defend the party or candidates they favour. Blind partisanship does not always work. For example, Anything But UMNO (ABU sentiment) did not manage to topple the ruling coalition although hatred towards the ruling coalition has been increasing day-by-day. Instead, UMNO won more seats in 2013 as compared to 2008. However, rational people like Saifuddin Abdullah of UMNO paid the price for being in the wrong party and he was booted out.

Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, the former Deputy Minister of Higher Education lost to PAS’s Nasaruddin Hassan Tantawi. Saifuddin Abdullah is well-known for his courage to speak up for moderation and is an absolute progressive leader. He ensured that the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) was amended in order for students to have more freedom to be involved in politics. Saifuddin is a bold and brave man who dares to go against policies which he thinks is unfair. As a result, staunch supporters of BN may despise him for speaking up. Nasaruddin, from the other side, was voted in due to his political affiliation with the Opposition, thanks to the ABU culture. Although, Saiffudin became the victim of “political friendly fire”, his defeat at Temerloh is not a loss merely for Saifuddin alone, but for all Malaysians. Such a progressive leader that calls for moderation was unable to garner adequate support to retain his seat. Many voters have definitely lost their rationality.

Besides Datuk Saifuddin, Gan Ping Sieu, the former Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports is also an exemplary leader. He also gave support to the four UKM students then, better known as UKM4, who were summoned by the university authority for breaching the UUCA. The four wanted to only observe the Hulu Selangor by-election in 2010, and nothing more than that. Recently, on his Facebook, Gan shared a picture that depicts the legendary Hang Tuah killing his friend, Hang Jebat for going against the Sultan. A brief description on “the case against loyalty” posted brought peoples’ attention to the fact that the principle of unquestionable loyalty can no longer apply to our society. His post reflects the current situation in Malaysia. The only thing that differs is Malaysians have unquestionable loyalty to the people from certain political parties. This may, or may not, indicate the tentacles of patronage are longer than thought. Certainly, there is increasing suspicion that pot may be as black as the kettle. At this time of the nation’s dark days, how many leaders will really stand up and speak for the future of the country, without having to side a party and/or its top leaders? Unfortunately, today, I feel that the love for party leaders or candidates has already overridden the true love for the country.

I am not saying that respecting and following leaders is wrong. Of course, loyalty is an important virtue but we should do our best to avoid blindly supporting leaders. I too have a handful of leaders whom I respect more than others.

Leaders like Ariffin Omar, DAP’s Senator for Penang and Liew Chin Tong, Kluang MP also earn my respect, but not my blind support. For example, Liew’s call to work with UMNO Johor and UMNO Perlis is definitely obnoxious to me despite being his supporter. DAP’s Zairil Khir Johari is also one of those intellectual leaders that I respect. Despite being accused of being a “traitor” to the Malay race, Zairil persist and persevered. Today, he is the MP for Bukit Bendera. Zairil, a rising star within the party actively speaks up on important issues pertaining to education within the country— and never plays the loathsome game of pointing fingers at his counterparts.

There is no point blaming others if you do not perform your part well. Of course, we, the people have the right to voice our concerns and what we want. So, please vote for candidates with integrity for the betterment of our country! Malaysians, we have got no time to waste. Wake up, before it is too late!

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