MAY 11 — For all of my 42 years, the Malaysian government and Barisan Nasional (BN) were synonymous.
I grew up in a family full of government supporters who would never budge from their position, all because the government had been “good to them.” Corruption was something they acknowledged but saw as a way of life. It was impossible to eliminate.
As I grew up and my own political views were forming, I thought that joining Umno was the key to political prosperity. This was despite my hatred for racism.
I figured that at least with BN, I could channel my energies against PAS whom I thought was the true threat. Then, when I joined the party in 2002, I encountered the cesspit of corruption in Umno.
That experience soured me off the party. I was utterly disgusted by their culture which I thought thrived on feeding the Malays a pack of lies about how the other races were laying siege upon their hegemony and using that fear to usurp the nation’s wealth.
When I left Umno and Malaysia for the UK over 15 years ago, I gave up on Malaysian politics altogether.
For over five years, I kept silent while our country’s progress ground to a halt in the post Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad era. It was only in 2007 that I started writing again for the now pro-Umno Malaysia Today and participated in the London political scene.
Fast forward 10 years, our country’s situation became worse and worse. We became the centre of the biggest kleptocratic scandal of all time. The lives of the rakyat became tougher and tougher with rising costs of living. It was blatantly obvious for all to see — Malaysia was sinking.
And then finally the most decisive thing happened — Tun Dr Mahathir agreed to lead the opposition. The now 7th prime minister simply took charge and turned the tide.
I am not the groupie I was in my teens and early twenties but I could see how the nation was fired up by his rhetoric. Even my staunchly BN family were converted to this neo-Mahathirism.
This is not to say that BN went down without a peep. They fought back with all the tricks in the book. They redelineated the constituencies, they deregistered Bersatu, they refused the use of the new Pakatan Harapan logo.
Puerile statements about the economy and empty promises of future development. Of course, the usual scare tactics of race riots and Christianisation were used. Anything they could say or do to scare the rakyat into re-electing them.
But even those scams did not work. Even having the Election Commission so clearly in their favour to the very last hour failed. The rakyat was in full swing and the gauntlet was thrown.
We should rejoice today. Even tomorrow and until next Monday. But then, we must reflect. Our fundamental problems have not gone away. On the contrary, Pakatan Harapan (PH) promised that our race-based policies and religious institutions will be untouched by their victory.
This is what we need to deeply reflect on. We will still be practising the very same policies which gave us the rot of Umno and PAS!
Our new prime minister has warned us, even before he stepped down the first time, of the crutches which Malays had come to rely on. It is these very crutches which Umno threatened us with to keep them in power.
Unless the Malays are psychologically secure enough to stand on their own, we may see a return of Umno in the coming yaears.
It is the same with religious fundamentalism. Today, PAS has won two states, possibly due to the rakyat’s frustration with Umno.
Rest assured, they will be back to halt the progress of the nation once again. This is why the new government must work towards secularisation. Religion is a great moral force but when it is officialised, it will be politicised.
It happened with PAS, Jakim and all other religious institutions. Jakim with its near billion ringgit budget still cannot account for its spendings. Institutions like these are unnecessary and simply a burden on the rakyat.
So once again, I congratulate the successful Pakatan Harapan. Well done on securing the mandate of the people. Now, let us reflect deeply on why we fell in the first place. Let us pray the era of neo-Mahathirism will provide lasting change.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.