Watching The World

Published: Sunday June 21, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday June 21, 2015 MYT 7:16:38 AM

Stepping up political education

It’s not just about looking out only for one’s slice of the pie but the whole healthy meal.

ONE of the biggest problems that can occur in the political arena is not having a proper alternative. The people get tired of the incumbent regime but don’t see a viable replacement.

The end result is a society bereft of direction, one in which an out-of-touch ruling elite presides over disintegration. Loud voices on the fringe shouting untrue and hateful words can reach many ears and bring about outbreaks of chaos, while a majority of people carry on their daily tasks in silent desperation.

Recent elections in far-flung Mexico and Turkey brought home this point, but if we are honest it resonates very much with the situation here at home.

In Turkey, president Erdogan’s moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) finished first as it has done without fail since 2002.

But this time around, the combined strength of its opponents outweighs its repre­sentation in parliament.

So if the conservative but secular Motherland Party, the Attaturkist social-democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the newly formed socialist People’s Democratic Party (HDP) all team up, they could thwart the AKP’s conti­nued government. But the problem would be that the main thing these parties have in common is their opposition to the AKP!

If it sounds familiar, it’s because it has happened right here. This week, Malaysia’s opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat moved firmly towards the break that experts have been predicting since its hasty formation seven years ago. At the same time, our country’s longest serving leader has been stepping up attacks on the current administration.

Who then can we blame for this sorry state of affairs? The temptation, as always, is to blame everyone but ourselves.

We point the fingers at other races, those in other states, political leaders and even the media. But the reality is that we must take responsibility for it ourselves.

If we were to think that the intelligent choice is to avoid a career in politics, why then are we surprised when we find ourselves governed by those we consider our intellectual inferiors?

I think the key lies in political education or the lack thereof. Not being aware of basic structures allows us to be blinkered and easily led.

For example, in the 1980s when our then Prime Minister was muzzling the press and taming the jury, anyone with a simple grasp of the separation of powers in a democratic state could see that the country was being compromised and a form of parliamentary dictatorship was being established.

Likewise, the formula of race-based, regional and religion-based parties teaming up in coalitions to represent the country as a whole. What worked in the independence­­-era and post-1969 chaos is no longer the best model in the 21st century.

In fact, it clearly has led us to be a nation on the border of dysfunction. Far too many leaders are looking out only for their slice of the pie, and not the whole healthy meal that all of us can partake of.

It is getting to a point where if a Malaysian leader talks about looking after the interests of all Malaysians and asks his community to make sacrifices, he runs the risk of being attacked as a traitor.

To me, we need to find and reward those Malaysians who are capable of fighting for all of us. And if there aren’t enough leaders like that, we need to step up, instead of looking askance elsewhere.

When people are tired of the way things are, the temptation is to give up, run away or simply stop caring. But this is precisely the time when courage is needed most.

Star Online news editor Martin Vengadesan thinks that some good must come from our current impasse.

>The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

Tags / Keywords: Politics, politics

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