Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Democracy Sneaks Into Malaysia

Stop by a coffee shop for teh tarik (tea with a frothy top) in any neighbourhood in the Malaysian capital these days, one can hear a lively exchange of street wisdom on the future of Malay politics. Will Pak Lah (Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi) resign? Is Anwar coming back? Is UMNO collapsing? The list goes on.

Nataraja Naidu, 58, a former government official, says proudly that he voted for the opposition for the first time. "I realised that a change in Malaysian politics must come from me first. I support the opposition," he said. "I want to see every Malaysian being treated equally."

Yang Lee-jing, 72, a taxi driver, who has seen it all, is more cautious in his appraisal. "I have seen riots on the streets before. Although now things are different, but it is still bumiputera," he says, referring to the Malay race. Yang was more resigned about the current political scene, saying Malaysian politics will continue to be based on race.

Naidu and Yang are not alone in having such juxtaposed sentiments. They know, as minorities, it is a tall order to have everybody enjoy the same rights. But for them to be able to speak aloud on this issue without fear is already a huge accomplishment.

Malaysia is more open than ever before. While the mainstream media are still timid, online media and bloggers have filled in the gap and are thriving. The Internet has now become one of the most important communication tools in Malaysian politics. Even Prime Minister Badawi confessed that his party's defeat was due to its failure to acknowledge the power of the Internet.

Prem Chandran, chief of the Internet portal Malaysiakini, was succinct, saying that the voices of opposition candidates could be read and heard online. "Quite often, mainstream media have to catch up with the online information, which is freer and faster," he said. Ironically, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad also lamented the lack of media freedom and sought media space online.

Increasingly, ordinary Malaysians have come to grips with the political reality that they have been brought up in since the country gained independence in 1957. Since then, the politics here have been dominated by the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), along with other smaller community-based parties known as the Barisan Nasional. The Malay voters used to think that without UMNO, their interests would not be protected.

But in the past few two years, the Malaysians, especially the Chinese and Indians, have begun to think differently in responding to religious and social discrimination. Instead of asking the ruling political party for changes, they have chosen instead to look for an alternative group, which can give them a better deal. Then came the formation of an opposition coalition with a more holistic approach to economic and social development. Now they think change is possible.

As in the US primaries, the call for change is getting louder by the day in the world's most modern Islamic nation.

The political tsunami started with the outcome of the March 8 general elections. The opposition seized 82 out of 222-seats in parliament, just 30 seats short of forming a government. The opposition group comprises the Islamist party known as PAS, the Chinese-based and secular Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the multiracial People's Justice Party (PKR). Both PAS and DAP are more pragmatic and more reconciliatory towards each other.

For the first time, Malaysians feel that a new dawn is approaching for their country. Of course, mindful of racial history, there is also some anxiety. But intellectuals and the middle class are discussing the possibility of a multi-party system or even an end to race-based politics, which has dominated the country in the past five decades.

"Malaysians believe that there could be changes without bloodshed as in 1969. We have learned lessons from the past," said Tian Chua, a former activist, who got elected in Batu constituency. Chua was optimistic that sooner than later there would be an alternative government rather than the current National Front led by UMNO.

"First of all, we have to show that the opposition has the capacity to provide better policies and reduce corruption," he said. Only a few days in his job, he told me in a kopitiam in Ampang Utama that several wasteful projects were reviewed and slashed and money was saved. At the moment, he said the opposition could make a difference in Selangor, Penang, Perak, Kedah, the country's four richest states, who contribute 60 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Chua is confident that if the opposition parties are resilient and end discrimination and can still maintain stability and prosperity, then they would get a chance to form the government. "We must make things better and understand the feelings of the people. It is the reformasi spirit."
After all, one can also sense that the reformasi movement started by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim is still very much alive. Ordinary people want social justice and better governance. Politics is too elitist, focusing on a few groups of people, they said.

If Malaysia can achieve all these, it would impact on political developments in the region and beyond. Singapore has already dispatched teams of political scientists to Malaysia to gain understanding and insights into the latest phenomenon.

Currently, the region's existing democracies such as Thailand and the Philippines are in disarray, plagued with political instability, corruption and lack of governance. Further consolidation in Malaysia's democracy will resonate well in Indonesia's current political dynamics. (The Statesman, India)

***** So basically what we can understand from the above article is that the country will be much better off without Umno which has thus far held all Malaysians to ransom and duped them with its divisive policies while assiduously enriching the leadership and their cronies. Genuine democracy sans Umno and its coalition slaves is the way to go.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Basically the May 13 1969 incident was a coup. To cover up and justify their action the opposition parties and the communists were blamed. Anyone who had read the various versions of the reports on the incident, including the so called Government White papers, will not find it difficult to conclude that it was a coup d'etat with the aim of overthrowing the then Prime Minister Tengku Abdul Rahman.When the Emergengy Rule was imposed the new prime minister Tun Razak and umno found a new tool to rule. Rule by Terror and Divide and Rule principles were readily and casually applied. Tun Mahathir refined the techniques. Thanks to the electronic media information flow could no longer be supressed. Although there had been many occasions when Umno youth and the Police used various ganster-style strong-arm tactics to intimidate Bloggers and Print media juarnalists alike, truth would always try to show themselves. The Umno led government had been cheating the people too much and for too long. Time for change.
Why need to spend so much time to analyse the BN's loss in the last election? Its the economy, Stupid.
Ask anyone on the street, the answers will include these words : MASSIVE CORRUPTION, CRONYSM, UNFAIRNESS, MISMANAGEMENT of Rakyats Money, Wastages in Various Forms, Abuse of Power, Life is "Susah" and everything else you can describe Poor Governance.
Stop the Power Abuses, Stop the Massive Corruption and all acts of Mismanagement and admit that it is not other people,s fault, there may be a chance to regain the Rakyat,s confidence. Don't blame the voters for being stupid enough to vote for other than BN.

12:00 PM GMT+8  

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