Ahead of one-year mark, DAP’s Steven Sim shares three things learned from Pakatan’s spell so far

Sim said Pakatan cannot afford to ignore the identity politics played up by rivals PAS and Umno. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Sim said Pakatan cannot afford to ignore the identity politics played up by rivals PAS and Umno. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 — Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Steven Sim said Malaysians did not vote for “material interests” alone in the 14th general election, insisting that sections of the country also cast their ballots for “political fidelity”.

In an essay published on the South China Morning Post, the DAP leader differed with recent surveys and sentiments that current public unhappiness with the Pakatan Harapan administration, now nearing its first year in power, was primarily based on so-called bread-and-butter issues.

“Many politicians tend to think that economic interest drives voters, and they thus promise infrastructure development as enticement for support from the electorate. Yet the experience of the past year shows that ‘man does not live by bread alone’,” Sim argued in his piece.

Citing the pact’s defeat in the Cameron Highlands federal by-election, Sim noted that PH lost despite its ability to promise and deliver development for the constituency. Barisan Nasional retained the seat with a bigger majority after fielding Ramli Mohd Nor, an Orang Asli, as a direct candidate.

This showed that PH could not hope to win over the sections that did not support it during the general election simply by enhancing the economy alone, Sim said before adding that the challenge now was to “win the hearts and minds of the people, not just their stomachs.”

He also cautioned the pact that it cannot afford to ignore the identity politics played up by its “fundamentalist and extremist” political rivals in PAS and Umno, even if it did not subscribe to the same.

Sim asserted that allowing political rivals to control the narrative in the area would leave the pact regularly on the defensive whenever it must address such issues.

“Clearly, we have to reclaim this realm from the extremists, drawing from our rich traditions such as the Rukun Negara (national principles), the Federal Constitution, and our deep history of living together for centuries,” he said.

Finally, he added that PH alone would never be able to realise the pact’s election manifesto in its entirety as it must rely on the civil service to help deliver these.

The deputy minister said it was consequently vital to galvanise the “previously lackadaisical civil service into an enthusiastic force capable of punching above its weight” and to undo the previous administration’s emasculation of the sector.

Sim asserted that the politicisation of the civil service had turned many of its workers into “paper shufflers” as the actual work was outsourced to “crony private companies”.

PH won the 14th general election in an upset result that consigned BN to its only ever federal defeat on May 9, 2018.