When accountability takes a backseat to race

25 January 2015

Local government elections have suddenly become an explosive issue in Malaysia, no thanks to PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang who suggested it can lead to race clashes last seen on May 13, 1969.

Umno-owned mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia has supported him, as has one federal minister who said the third vote can lead to greater racial polarisation as Malaysians voted along racial lines.

These two politicians and Utusan are probably still digesting the results of the last two general elections through their rose-tinted glasses of race and religion rather than figuring out that more Malaysians are colour-blind to race these days.

While those from Umno do see the world according to racial lines, it is sad to see that Hadi trumpet the same tune although his party puts Islam at the front and centre of its political struggle and eschews race as a platform.

Didn’t PAS talk about an Islamic welfare state in the last general elections and keeps talking about Islam – whose adherents come from all races across the world, and not just Malays?

Or was it just a ploy to get votes from all demographics and races to win federal and state seats? If race was an issue, PAS should have kept Kedah in 2013 and Terengganu in 2004. But it did not.

And that is a lesson that Hadi and politicians who think like him must learn about democracy, elections and voters.

Malaysians have become mature about their votes. The results of the past two general elections have shown that voters want good governance and their politicians accountable to them.

Former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi won the largest parliamentary majority in the 2004 elections with over 91% of the federal Parliament. He also lost the biggest federal majority when his Barisan Nasional (BN) was defeated at the 2008 polls, losing their customary two-thirds parliamentary super-majority.

His successor and current prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who came on his 1Malaysia drive and poured billions of ringgit for the people, fared even worse in the 2013 general elections.

Accountability has driven more Malaysians to choose who or what party they vote for, not race or religion. But that is not a word in Hadi’s vocabulary. He rose up in PAS on the basis of attrition, not accountability.

He has lost a state, federal and state seats, and yet remains PAS president. Any party that practises democratic principles and accountability would have kicked out a loser like that.

It is also not a word in most race-based parties. Their leaders move up on the same basis and use race to justify their politics.

A third vote would allow for city mayors, council presidents and councillors to be accountable for their policies and decisions to the taxpayers, who pay the same rates despite their ethnic origins.

But in Malaysia, a third vote is just another racial issue. Because race issues are a good distraction from the real issues of governance and accountability in Malaysia. – January 25, 2015.

  1. #1 by Justice Ipsofacto on Monday, 26 January 2015 - 8:59 am

    Local elections will lead to racial riots??!!

    Come on. Unlikely. Highly unlikely. I mean look. I say 13 may repeat will take place in all likelihood when 10 of the nearest galaxies in our neighbourhood were to lined up with 12 of the furthest galaxies; leading thereby to the epic tug of war between two clusters of galaxies.

    And just when precisely that will happen is a question I cannot answer. But I can tell you this. My guess is that the consequence of another racial riot arising from a local election would in my view be slightly remoter than the epic tug of war i predicted above.

    And no, I hv not been talking to prof stephen hawkins.

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