Friday, December 21, 2012

The 13GE - The best opportunity for change

An opportunity we cannot afford to miss

The coming 13GE is not about whether Pakatan Rakyat(PR) is better than the ruling Barisan Nasional(BN)or whether Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is good or bad but about bringing down an overstaying regime that has become corrupt to the core. Its power abuses must be checked and the public institutions under its claws freed to become truly independent again. There has never been a better time than now. It will be a very long time before we get another Anwar with a more united opposition and a better opportunity. It is all about creating a two-party system of democratic governance with the power in the hands of the people to decide every five years who will rule them. 

Two party system – are we ready?

With the 13GE looming over our heads, there is a lot of excitement never experienced before. This is the first time where the winner is uncertain as in all previous elections the winner was never in doubt. Even a two thirds majority for BN was certain before. All that was uncertain was the distribution of the 30 odd seats among the divided 3 opposition parties. In fact in the eighties and nineties many of us in our thirties then did not take the trouble to travel back home to vote because we knew who will be winner and our votes would make little or no difference to the final outcome.

Today the situation is very different. The political uncertainty makes life more exciting. Many younger voters today are excited and eagerly waiting to vote. Their vote has become too valuable to be wasted. They want to have a say in choosing the government. They talk of change for the better and they are willing to take the risk to bring that change which we thought will never become a reality in our lifetime.

The opposition gains in 2008 have opened the mindset of the people to the possibility of a change in the government. Such a mindset was never there before when the BN was considered invincible and indispensable. There was a strong believe that only the BN was capable to rule the nation effectively to cater for the needs of the various ethnic groups in the country. The role of the insignificant and divided opposition was to make some noise on and off whenever a major blunder was made by the ruling party. The general perception was that the opposition was not capable of ruling the country with such a diverse population.

Things began to change since 1998 after the sacking of the then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim by the then Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohammad. The latter’s action ignited the fire of a yearning for change which could not be dampened. The people for the first time rose above race and creed to question the government for what they saw as the unfair sacking of Anwar. They expressed their displeasure and anger in the many street demonstrations against the government which unfortunately the latter did not heed. It continued to suppress the people’s uprising with force with little or no consideration for democratic principles as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

The institutions of the nation were politically subdued; racial polarization heightened, citizen rights were openly denied, power abuse and corruption became overtly blatant by the day. Affirmative policies to help the bumiputras in the form of NEP were abused by those well connected, Umnoputra, a term that came into existence and became a household name for many. The poor of all races were getting poorer and the rich richer.

Although public vent of anger in the form of street demonstrations slowly died off but the anger in the hearts of the people continued that was effectively tapped by Anwar after his release from prison in 2004.The people saw a new man in him totally different from the one they used to know in Umno. He spoke of multiracialism and religious pluralism and being fair to all races. He advocated Ketuanan Rakyat which should replace the Ketuanan Melayu policy of the ruling party. He proposed the Malaysian Economic Agenda(MEA) which would be fairer to all races to replace the NEP. These were issue that nobody dared to touch which Anwar not only touched but continued to promote aggressively in his rallies all over the country.

The people especially the non-Malays were initially suspicious of him having come from BN but with time and his consistent multiracial stand in front of all races, he began to win the hearts of the people. His ability to unite PAS and DAP was an unprecedented wonder which speaks volumes of his leadership and charisma. It was this unity among the ideologically polarized political parties and the repeated blunders of the ruling party that lead to the political tsunami of 2008.

The unexpected losses of the BN were a psychological booster that broke the traditionally held belief that the ruling party was invincible. The people of all races have finally began to accept that others besides the BN can also form the government which has been clearly proven in the states controlled by PR.
In the last 4 years, the people have seen the benefits of having a stronger opposition in parliament. The people are now are accepting the fact that the opposition can also rule equally well if not better than the incumbent. This they have seen in the states under the control of the opposition, where there has not been any major corruption or scandals involving opposition lawmakers. In fact the people had the opportunity to witness for themselves the many hidden talents of younger leaders in opposition parties that were never realized before 2008.

We are now more than 4 years after the historic elections of 2008.The next 13th general elections (13GE) are due within the next 4 months. This election is being dubbed the Mother of all elections as it is the first time the opposition is united and strong enough to unseat the powerful BN of over half a century. It is a do or die battle for both PR and BN to remain relevant.

What have we achieved and where are we heading next?

Under the rule of the BN there is no doubt that the country had developed tremendously. From a poor agricultural nation at independence in 1957 we had become a rapidly developing industrial and wealthy nation now. However in the process to achieve that we had lost many cherished values and standards in all areas. Like all long-staying parties in many countries, the ruling BN, which is made up of over a dozen race based parties had also become too powerful and lost touch with the plight of the ordinary man on the street.
As a result corruption in various forms, power abuse leading to suppression of the rights of the people and racial polarization leading to suspicion among the various races became rampant that threatened the peace and harmony that the people enjoyed over five decades.

A two party system with BN and PR is the best we have and there has never been a better time than now at the 13GE for us to make this happen. The two-party system is crucial if we are to move forward successfully in a highly competitive world.

While a two-party system will not overnight solve all the problems plaguing the nation, it will pave the way for more accountable governance, which is sorely lacking. There will be no room for complacency, as both sides have to compete on a level playing field, with the people evaluating their performance as either the government or the opposition with the help of a truly independent media.

The many financial scandals involving billions of ringgit that being exposed are due to a strong and united opposition, the credit for which goes to Anwar who single-handedly united ideological polarized parties to form the Pakatan Rakyat. Despite the initial ups and downs the Pakatan has matured to form a formidable opposition, ready to take over the federal government from the BN if given the chance.

The mutual understanding and trust established among the top leadership of PR,Anwar Ibrahim, PAS president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang and DAP’s Lim Kit Siang indicates the great wisdom of the trio who placed national interests before their own and that of their respective parties. This rapport appears to be so strong as to be able to withstand the BN onslaughts to divide them. This unprecedented unity among the top three Pakatan leaders is slowly but surely being filtered down to the lower levels and this augurs well for the opposition and the country in general.

Malaysians could have prevented the many ills we face today only if they had not allowed one party to rule for too long. They should have voted in a stronger opposition or even changed the government much earlier. May be they did not have the chance before due to a weak and divided opposition but today they have a choice in Pakatan Rakyat and they should not this opportunity elude them.

We will be going to the most crucial polls in the history of the nation, one that will decide whether we will join the company of the big democracies of the world or remain diminished to an authoritarian, corrupt and racist developing country.  

The choice is on us to make and we hope we will make with great wisdom. After 55 years of One Party rule, it's time for Real Democracy! Bring Change to Malaysia.

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