The French talk about “déformation professionnelle”, which means the way your profession or your post can subtly warp your judgement so that you only see things from one perspective.
And that is the problem with opposition politicians and their ardent supporters in Malaysia. They only see the things they want to see, they do not see they things they do not want to see.
For Pakatan Harapan (PH) and its coterie, it is perfectly fine to support a man they built their careers opposing because it is a means to an end: with the end being power.
Throughout human history, the pursuit of power has sometimes lead to disastrous outcomes.
Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defence of the United States of America once said, “Our misjudgements of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture and politics of the people in the area and the personalities and habits of their leaders.” He was speaking about America’s blunder in the Vietnam War. Despite being the pre-eminent power in the 1960’s they lost the war to the Vietcong.
So it is important to understand and appreciate history as we seek to build the future.
The selection of Tun Dr Mahathir as the Prime Ministerial candidate is a blast from the past but not one that is easily fathomable.
Tun Dr Mahathir drove the modernisation and industrialisation of Malaysia, and put Malaysia on the world map. Friend and foe alike must applaud his sacrifices.
However, like all great leaders, he too has his weakness. Many who worked for him talked about his intolerance for dissenting views and he also fostered a climate of crony capitalism that the present government has had to struggle to set right. Lopsided toll agreements, costly and floundering privatisations and the subsidy culture were also hallmarks of his tenure.
The opposition claim of the politics of hope has come to nothing because they are relying on a leader who is not only advanced in age but also someone who they despised and derided.
As the saying goes, politics make for strange bedfellows. It was indeed a sight to behold when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who was humiliated, beaten and jailed after he was sacked by Dr Mahathir, endorsed the latter’s appointment as PH’s prime ministerial candidate.
Furthermore, Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng who were detained without trial by Dr Mahathir have now placed their fates and that of the country in the man they once derided as a “corrupt dictator.”
Sangeetha Deo, daughter of the late Karpal Singh challenged this political summersault eloquently. She said, “The focus should always be on policies and principles, not personalities, and leaders must be groomed to ensure continuity.”
She added, “the argument that working with Tun (Dr Mahathir) is only to ensure change no longer holds water. He will be prime minister all over again, introducing the rebirth of ‘Mahathirism’.”
Barisan Nasional (BN) on the other hand offers the politics of hope. The Prime Minister has talked about a new future for the country predicated on progressive politics and inclusivity.
The National Transformation 2050 (TN50) has sparked a national debate on the future we want and the future we deserve. The government and BN by extension have challenged Malaysia to work collectively as we write a new Malaysian story.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, has been consistent and focused in developing on the promises that were made in the last election.
Rationalising subsidies and implementing the good and services tax (GST) have widened the government’s revenue base allowing more money to spend on development. Furthermore, financial assistance by the government is now targeted ensuring those who deserve help receive it. These decisions were made, despite the political challenges because BN makes decisions based on what is right and not what is politically popular.
The Opposition in its many derivatives have been consistently inconsistent. They have been unable, either willingly or unwillingly, to coalesce around a single position on many important issues such as taxation, subsidies, development and infrastructure.
What we have seen is intense infighting, leaders being arrested for corruption and ensemble of leaders from days past attempting to dictate the future direction of Malaysia.
Ironies aside, it is time for some hard thinking on the part of Malaysians. It is time to subject the opposition to the same level of scrutiny that BN had been subjected to in the past and asking the toughest question: are they serious about governing the country.
The opposition’s “agree to disagree” model has lead to disastrous quarrels and a complete inability to devise coherent policies.
For example, we simply do not know where the opposition stands on hillside development because in Penang, slicing the hills seems to be the favourite pastime for the state government but in Selangor they have taken a more nuanced and controlled approach.
The opposition critics BR1M but continue to dole out cash handouts in Penang and Selangor.
So these are two simple examples that exposes a massive disconnect between what they say and what they do and their continued compartmentalisation of their approach exposes a scary discrepancy.
BN, on the hand has always been consistent even at times we are not the best liked because doing the right thing is simply that, doing what is right regardless the political costs because posterity demands it.
So as the opposition celebrates a blast from the past, BN will continue planning for the future.