Pota vote: A mirror to Malaysia’s political dysfunction

APRIL 9 — “No wonder people would rather stick with the current corrupt batch of idiots instead of voting in new idiots.”

A fellow columnist summed it up. I disagree, not necessarily with her, but with the observation that Malaysians find no value in dumping the “idiots” they have now.

I’m conceding that she is entitled to assign all politicians of all hue in this country as idiots, many of my countrymen will agree with her — a country mile more that those who agree with me. 

However, I am convinced the Pota (Prevention of Terrorism Bill, soon to be signed officially as an Act) voting drama on April 6 (till the early hours of April 7), 2015 reveals even more tellingly about the dysfunction in this country’s prevailing political discourse.

As witnessed in another columnist’s quip “Simply put, Pakatan Rakyat let 57 per cent of Malaysians down that night.”

He’s probably referring to the all too overly abused statistic that 52, not 57, per cent of the electorate did not vote for Barisan Nasional (BN) in the general election in 2013. 

But I must ask, if those who failed to show up to oppose a nasty law have let down more than half the country down, how much letting down have those who actively voted for the Bill managed? 

And if the blame has to be apportioned along numbers then since 60 MPs did show up of the 80 plus Opposition lawmakers possible, did they only let down roughly 16 per cent of the country?

And the 100 per cent BN support for the Bill is that just completely negligible?

As you can see, it’s turning out to be retarded.

Pakatan has failed, has it?

While I have previously worked for one of Pakatan Rakyat’s parties before, and therefore interacted closely with cadres across the coalition’s universe, I am not their favourite guy presently.

From excoriating Pakatan’s lack of messaging and prioritisation; berating the Penang chief minister’s alleged disrespect to Malaysian universities and DAP’s visceral absence of spine to dissect honestly vernacular education; rebuking Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) for not embracing new politics in candidate selection for Permatang Pauh while Anwar languishes in prison; pummelling hudud’s incompatibility with the Constitution along with PAS’ complicity; to chastising Pakatan’s vote stumping strategy, I have been on their case — not fighting their case.

And that’s just this year. Safe to say, I won’t be on their Raya holiday cards mailing list.

But the animosity against Pakatan because BN has managed to pass a Bill it authored is just wrong, whichever way it is looked at. Many risk becoming just another farm member blaming Snowball.

Amazingly there are people arguing that BN should stay in power over the Pota vote because Pakatan is not efficient, effective, ruthless, calculated, organised or something else enough to stop BN from passing bad laws which BN will enforce, and presumably benefit from.

I worry about reasoning like that, as much as I am suspicious of those saying they are all the same idiots and nothing ever changes, which means passively accepting those who are in power right now, ought to always be in power.

Which in turn forces a permanent frustration cycle if put in how the author phrases where one set of “idiots” get the cookies, and your cookies, and another set of “idiots” remain infuriating you and can’t get your cookies back for you.

Similar to say, there is a bunch of thugs threatening to beat you and your family up in your own house, and only guys outside across the street — well, most of them — want to come and help you. 

Mind you, the guys across the street are always outnumbered by the thugs even if half your household prefers the guys across the street rather than the thugs.  

So the possible help, which was always numerically inferior because the thugs can always call more macais (hired hands) to join them, is deplorable to you because not all of them want to help you, or they are always going to lose in trying to defend you?

Black or white, no pigmentation allowed

The choice is binary, don’t forget. Pakatan or BN.

It will be for the longest time, because — surprise, surprise — those in power are bent on the first past the post system. If they changed it to proportional or preferential voting, we can have a different debate.

That’s not the situation.

What you have to do is ask, in this situation, is whether your country is heading in the right direction? If it is not in your honest appraisal — considering the realities on the ground, constitutional-demographical-personnel limitations — you have to form an approach to get yourself out of this imbroglio.

“How do I solve this problem”, rather than “why is Pakatan Rakyat not solving my problem.”

Because this is an issue about your — and family’s — life and liberty, and whether there is a Pakatan tomorrow or not, this problem as you have realised on your own, remains.

It’s just that by Machiavellian design that political power is a binary choice.

Since it is binary, Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, in this situation through twisted logic many are saying that the side who is not wholeheartedly opposed to a putrid law are worse than the side wholeheartedly in support of the putrid law.

That people should then turn to the supporters of the putrid law, because their opponents are not up to snuff.

Hate the binary option, blame those who advocate it.

Want to alter the binary options, a post-Pakatan replacement? Good time to pull out of the drawer memories of all types of third wave — from Zaid Ibrahim and what’s next party to the civil liberties movement already with a list of candidates —  options which went out with the news cycle.

It is hard putting together a group big and tough enough to have a fighting chance against BN, and it seems easier to work the option today rather than create one now.

Remember the betrayal

Reverting back to Pota itself, a never forget policy is fine by me, but let’s start from the beginning.

That every Umno administration decade after decade supported arrests on the minister’s whim long after insurgency ended in 1960.

Or that the government of the day is turning on its own promise to end draconian laws on "live" TV less than a decade ago, on the premise that even Malaysia must move with the times. They repealed the Internal Security Act and very quickly backtracked with other backup laws.

And today, Pota. Please name and shame the 86 who did not show up. How about the naming and shaming the 79 who voted for the damn law?

They don't get their name on bumper stickers?

And how about the 59 BN MPs who did not show up at all for the vote, they would have been given heads up before the Bill was being passed.

Don’t forget who we are dealing with. This is an administration which railroaded a law that can detain Malaysians without basis, and they did it in a day, rushing through three readings.

So I ask, are you trying to solve the problem, or are you trying to make yourself look good by pointing out a glaring error by the main Opposition parties?

Because I’d ask you to spare a thought for the 60 MPs who walked into a Roman coliseum to face lions all day and night with no respite in order to beat off a horrible law. To stay despite feeling outgunned, outnumbered, and knowing that even if all their allies did show up, the government would either rouse up their troops or delay the vote to when they do have the numbers. To stay on in that humiliation, lose and have voters saying half the country has been severely disappointed by the Parliament half that objected to the law and not the other half that heralded the law, well that, that is something.

With Easter just passed, I have to say, it’s quite the cross to bear.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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