Trust the people more than the leaders

JULY 25 — In my schoolyears, the story of the acronym RAHMAN made the rounds.

How it started, no one knows, but the first name of the first prime minister was claimed to prophesise his future successors. This was the Eighties, and it did.

The namesake, Abdul Rahman Abdul Hamid, was followed by (A)bdul Razak Hussein, then (H)ussein Onn. It was no surprise, for the superstitious, (M)ahathir Mohamad succeeded as fourth prime minister.

The safe money was on (A)nwar Ibrahim, till a wee bit of scandal and high-stake subterfuge packed him off to prison rather than Seri Perdana in 1998. No worries, the universe corrected itself as Mahathir picked (A)bdullah Ahmad Badawi and then (N)ajib Razak completed it.

While the idea of predestination is largely cute and worthy of pub chatter, subscribing to it does appear callous. For it possesses the temerity to limit national leadership ambitions to the vagaries of an acronym.

What grabs my attention is the longevity of the phenomenon, the number of times it’s been passed around through the decades — like a chain-letter that won’t die — long before WhatsApp. It merits discussion because with the conclusion of RAHMAN and indeed a sequence of Umno leaders, there are murmurs MAHATHIR is on the cards.

Suggestions are rife The Scarlet Letter may intimate the next prime minister’s identity.

Refers to (A)nwar, (A)zmin Ali and Deputy Prime Minister Wan (A)zizah Wan Ismail. All of them from my party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

It seems at the heart of this obsession is an Asian need for assurance. To have prior knowledge of what the future holds, which reverts back to who is prime minister.

While Malaysia is massively multicultural, it is massively Asian too — no pun intended about the latest Visit Malaysia 2020 logo.

The need for certainty seems an upfront demand from the people. A sort of reluctant admittance all leaders are bound to have weaknesses and their selection is beyond the ability of the people, and as such, the best possible outcome is to let the people have more time to ready themselves for the inevitable leader. Whoever he or she may be.

Not self-determination, but rather a proper heads-up.

Should that be the case?

A citizen’s government

Firstly, predestination is poppycock.

It is important to deliberate this because the contenders and certainly their supporters increasingly enter bouts of self-entitlement.

A longstanding PKR leader defended missteps by the party president’s men by insisting the reason they came together to form Keadilan was to make Anwar PM.

Therefore, by extension it must remain the focus. Shenanigans are separate from the ultimate objective of the party, according to him.

I’m unsure about the type of hubris necessary for such a statement, but I prefer the thoughts of a key party machinery man who played a major role in PKR’s mega-result in 2018.

He’s livid about the developments and summed it  up as the egos of these leaders are undoing the structure which serves millions of party members.

Political parties are not formed to serve any single man’s objectives. Those who prefer hero worship, there are celebrity fan pages for such endeavours. The party serves the agenda of its outlined values which form the basis for recruitment.

Elections — inside parties and for regular Malaysians — are held intermittently to weigh the people’s opinion. If people are tied perpetually to their previous selections and denied the right to a present opinion, it is tyranny rather than democracy on display. Which is why elections are scheduled no matter how much they inconvenience them.

I say this because it reeks when leaders say the future of this country is left to them to determine by way of casual meet-ups, and they post pictures on social media thereafter. Some days it is two years or on other days three years, the estimation when old codger passes to impatient codger.

The country is not a company where owners trade leadership.

Companies have succession plans because the objective is profits for owners, and employees merely factors of production. Succession plans are always good, they aid with continuity and consistency.

The system has to revolve around voters, not the other way around. Most certainly not orbit leaders.

Let it be said here first. If Mahathir passes power to Anwar or any other leader before the end of the present mandate, Pakatan Harapan should prepare itself for a general election shortly after. A six months grace period should suffice for the new leadership to enter battle.

The right of the rakyat to determine its government must be paramount.

The kids are alright

Some may be alarmed, with the request for a general election should there be a switch in leadership, but perhaps we all should have some faith in ourselves.

Almost 15 months have elapsed since the earth-shattering 14th General Election, and all the mad predictions have not come through. Malaysians have proven to be far sturdier than by our own estimation.

The key criticism of the Arab Spring had been the mayhem which ensued their initiation. Syria is a large crater. Egypt has come under the cosh of the military again. Libya is a nightmare with guns ruling first.

“Be careful what you wish for,” was the loud caution from the region, where euphoria quickly descended into gunfights. The end of totalitarian rule was and is not a simple task to navigate.

But Malaysians have not faltered. Our security forces have taken to civilian rule without missing a marching step. There are various groups wanting more religiosity, but they continue to advocate their version of what’s best for Malaysia using the channels available.

The jobs have dried up in many sectors, and while much is still expected from the government to lead on the issue, the people have not over-reacted.

Even the unfortunate death of fireman Adib Mohd Kassim in the temple riot last year followed by the inquest presently, and also the trial of a litany of Barisan Nasional leaders led by Najib have not become unwieldly. And there will be further discords dividing our society on ideology, religion and race interests.

However, there seems a natural or conditioned sense in the people not to be overwhelmed by events.

Will that persist is left to be seen. But there is a certain resilience in the people to not let setbacks ruin our resolve or belief in an economic turnaround.

Which sums up the situation to two ideas. There should be no reason to trust our politicians too much or let them feel entitled enough to take us for granted, elections only execute politicians from their perches.

Second, our people are up to be productive members in a democracy even if the loudest voices try to convince us that they speak for all of us, it appears most of us are moderates.

Two very good reasons to feel good as July wraps up.

Hopefully this helps with the frustration when reading up on the next misadventure of any of our colourful politician. Malaysia has much legs left in it.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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