Politics overload

IT has been an interesting couple of months for all political watchers. So much has happened and that too so fast that it is quite hard to keep up with the pace of change.

Last week, my friend and former Ideas chief executive officer Wan Saiful Wan Jan took the much expected plunge and joined Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Pribumi). 

Wan Saiful is an articulate force for free market ideas in a political system that is often driven more by race and religion as opposed to economic and social ideology.

I believe Wan Saiful will contribute constructively to the political discourse but I am uncertain if Pribumi is the best platform for a progressive thinker like him but time will tell. 

I do wish Wan Saiful the very best and I welcome him to clearly one of the most muddy arenas in the world.

I believe politics should be about furthering ideas and debating ideology. All too often, it is reduced to a show of one-upmanship and constant bickering that we tend to lose focus of the issue at hand.

The recent debate between MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has kept all political watchers on tenterhooks, eagerly awaiting the next big expose from Dr Wee.

In fact, Dr Wee has tactfully handled the issues by refusing to indulge in name-calling as opposed to Lim who has removed every rabbit from his hat to divert the issue.

In essence, Dr Wee posed a number of questions regarding the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) regarding the cost, the feasibility study, the payment of the project and its tendering process. 

The feasibility study was reported to have cost an astounding RM315mil. One of the companies selected as part of the consortium on the project was previously a fashion company with not much of a track record in sophisticated infrastructure. 

The purported main contractor of the project, China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) Malaysia has denied being a developer or shareholder in the PTP contrary to Lim's claims.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is currently investigating the entire project after Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM) deputy president Datuk Huan Cheng Guan made a report.

All of this has led to much doubt and confusion and laid bare the priorities of the state government of Penang given that cost of living and housing (as documented in a video recently) are at the forefront of the minds of the average Penangite.

Further, a young "Datuk Seri" has been arrested by the MACC for allegedly soliciting bribes amounting RM19mil to procure a settlement in the investigation into the project.

As the plot thickens, this has cast serious doubt on the integrity on the project and the much-vaunted competency, accountability and transparency (CAT) approach to governance in Penang.

This will be an issue that will be at the forefront of the impending general election campaign in Penang.

Also, Bersih which is a non-governmental organisation set up to push for free and fair elections, has seen its political inclinations come full circle.  

Despite repeated denials by the Bersih leadership that it is anti-Barisan Nasional, the announcement by former Bersih chairperson Maria Chin offering herself as a candidate for Pakatan Harapan has not really caught anyone by surprise.

In fact, the question on the minds of political watchers is "what took her so long?"

I have had some experience in dealing with Bersih and I have written about it in my column previously.

Pardon my repetition, but to put matters into perspective, I was part of a small team assembled circa 2012 to discuss certain electoral reform initiatives and it was led by my former boss, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who was then minister in the prime minister's department.

It was obvious that Bersih would never be pleased until Barisan is completely defeated and the negotiations, as I recall, were fraught and testy due to the hostility shown to the government by Bersih and its officials.

I have said it a number of times that Bersih has never been about electoral reform but rather it is an anti-Barisan coalition.

Further, Bersih discarded any moral high ground it may have had when it embraced Pribumi chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the pretext of defeating Barisan despite being completely critical of him in the past.

I also believe that politics will be a good training ground for puritans and activists like Maria Chin to understand the nature of politics.

Prussian statesman Bismarck said it best when he said that politics is the art of the possible, the attainable - the art of the next best. 

In other words, politics is about compromise and giving in to get something in return. 

It could very well be the most important lesson yet for the newbies who will be contesting in the coming polls.

It is the political season and many are guessing when the general election will be called but I believe the answer to that question rests solely with the Prime Minister.

Until then, there is indeed quite a lot of fodder for political watchers and it is indeed politics overload.

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



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