Posturing for the next polls

  • Letters
  • Friday, 08 Jul 2011

The quality of service from our present elected representatives has been very poor, in part because many were debutants and also because of heightened politicking since 2008.

IT doesn’t take a genius to say that the 13th general election will be held in the next 12 months although there are some experts who say it would be held during the March school holidays.

This is why all the political parties have upped the ante and are beating their chests to the sound of political war drums.

To these political animals, the silly season has arrived.

To both sides of the divide, the next general election will be a zero sum game.

The winner, even if by one seat or vote, will claim absolute victory, and most of them will not be bothered how it will affect the electorate.

After the political tsunami of 2008, the alliance of PKR, DAP and PAS is smelling victory while the Barisan Nasional, once smarting from the bruising, feels that the tide has changed in its favour.

This also explains the planned Bersih 2.0 rally and counter-demonstrations by Umno Youth and Malay NGO, Perkasa.

All these posturings are political and will come to a head on polling day some time next year. The result remains to be seen but what about us, the constituents? How will the 13th general election affect us?

In the past three years, we have had all sorts of elected representatives in either Parliament or our state assemblies.

Some of them have never been seen since they were elected and they will surely turn up in the run-up to polling day, begging for our votes, again.

It would be safe to say that the quality of service from our elected representatives in the past 1,000 days has been very poor.

It could be because many of those elected were new to the job and also because our country became very political after March 2008.

The elected representatives found themselves in a situation where anything they did – service or not – was seen as politically motivated.

Thus, this left many of the electorate dissatisfied, because most of their representatives did not know what was right or wrong.

Thus we, the constituents – the real stakeholders in any democratic election – need to decide what sort of elected representatives we want.

In pre-tsunami days, the formula for any elected person was to service his or her voters in every possible manner.

One former state assemblyman said he used to refer to his daily life as “four weddings and a funeral”, after the movie of the same name, because he would frequently attend several weddings or funerals a day.

Seldom had a day gone by that he did not have a voter-related function in the eight years he had served his urban seat.

Even now, this ex-assemblyman still receives invitations to such functions, even though he was soundly defeated in 2008.

However, in the post-tsunami era, some elected representatives no longer see attending such functions as important, and instead concentrate on events that have more political meaning.

While in the “bad-old days” MPs would host the political functions and the assemblyman handle the grassroots needs, these days MPs have to compete with the assemblyman for the political functions, even if they are from the same side.

Thus the voters are left to fend for themselves. However, in better organised constituencies, local government councillors – appointed by either the MP, state representatives or their parties – have taken over the job of servicing the voters’ needs and complaints.

Previously, elected representatives would attend to problems like clogged drains, potholes and uncollected rubbish.

These days, they leave such “minor jobs” to their councillors or area leaders.

One first-term state assemblyman was once heard to have said that she was not elected to look at drains and potholes. She proclaimed that she was elected to represent the people’s political interests and rights.

Therefore, we, the voters, have to decide if these are the kind of MPs or state assemblymen that we want to represent us – excellent politicians who are on top of national or state issues but are absolutely hopeless when it comes to handling minor problems.

The alternative is someone who will run around in circles just to help us solve our day-to-day problems, but then he or she would have little time left for politics.

The best is of course a mixture of both – good in politics and good in servicing the ordinary folks – but in this post-tsunami era such a person would be rare.

Personally, I would prefer a service-orientated representative instead a political animal always out to score points against his or her opponent.

This is where I feel the MP and Assemblyman system works: I will send the MP to Parliament to deal with the high and mighty matters of the laws and rights, and choose a state representative who can ensure that the roads and drains are maintained, and especially the cleanliness of the neighbourhood.

If the candidate feels that it’s beneath him or her to serve us, the voters, then he or she should not contest a state seat.

If all of us choose based on the principle of service, regardless of political affiliation, then we will not go wrong.

Chances are the state assembly will then be filled with like-minded individuals who have the voters at heart. Why not? After all, a state government run by elected representatives who care, will turn away from corruption, immoral activities and abuse.

The same could be applied to our Parliament. But then again there must be space for politics.

> Executive Editor Wong Sai Wan is longing for the simpler times when the roads were smoother, grass was cut and rubbish collected, and it all had nothing to do with politics.

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