NOVEMBER 16 — You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. — Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States of America
I don’t know, Abe, the Malaysian people are determined to defy you. Maybe the fooling business is far more conducive closer to the Equator.
“Changes of solitary hearts”
The government is in a concerted effort to present to the rakyat that the four MPs who sit in the opposition bench but committed to support the government they oppose is a natural and common occurrence.
Why does it bother so much?
Because it has gone on for almost 30 years, since the Sabah state election of 1994. Where election results are reversed and sometimes embellished by changes of hearts.
Results are changed long after election day. Luckily, or unluckily, the events of February 2020, the infamous Sheraton Move has made average Malaysians know what is “a change of heart”.
The fact that those who switch camps tend to like luxury goods and business class flights should not sully the appreciation of their sincere “change of heart”.
Let’s review the cycle.
One dude lobbies for a seat to contest, wins party approval, raises funds, campaigns with a fist of conviction about himself and his party, wins the seat and then, lo and behold, feels he serves democracy best by giving his seat and support to the very guys he fought tooth and nail against.
Because as it has already been explained without any detail but with great consistency, a “change of heart” is a deeply personal process.
Who are we to question the authenticity, the passion? We are only the voters who live through the political processes resulting from these “changes of hearts”.
It takes a greater man to change his heart than to harden it, chew on that, disbelievers!
Why add to a strong majority?
Is the present government desperate for numbers, after all it has 147 on record, one shy of a super-majority? Desperate no, but Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is more attuned to power consolidation stratagems than any prime minister prior except Mahathir Mohamad in his 1990s prime.
A super-majority can ensure all the unity government’s pre-formation negotiated promises are met, and a bit extra thrown in.
A simple mantra propels the consolidation; merge all potent players, and exclude all naysayers so they suffocate long before the next general election.
Read the Mahathir playbook. In 1990, Semangat 46 and PAS were mounting an insurrection post-election, despite far fewer seats in relation to their broad support, victims of gerrymander unfortunately — BN won 71 per cent of the seats although with only 53 per cent of the votes.
They felt emboldened and threatened to turn into government-in-waiting by 1995 — not dissimilar to Bersatu and PAS post-GE2022 aiming for GE16 in 2027.
Mahathir had other ideas. Within five years, Semangat 46 was a shadow of its old self. Nothing like pressure from outside and quiet enticements from the inside to end the resistance. By 1995, BN raised its vote share to 65 per cent, and duly collected 84 per cent of the seats.
Don’t need to win at the elections, just ensure there are not enough opponents to lose to in the elections is the old Barisan Nasional creed.
“No invisible hand or other limbs”
Now the attritional value of chipping away is established, attention returns to the fooling game.
The unity government, set to be a new page in Malaysian politics, claims the same thing every government has since the 1990s that when people switch camps, they had nothing to do with it.
So much for new pages.
It is like talking to lawyers, hiding behind the fine print.
Various administration reps take turns to state verbatim, neither the prime minister or senior leadership members have been in contact with these individuals. No paper trail exists. That may be accurate but is it honest? There are intermediaries and unrelated individuals who can do the do whenever and however.
Is it possible that an Opposition MP individually, without any coercion and guarantee from the other side — if you are going to abandon ship, a lifeboat is imperative for survival — wilfully risks being isolated?
Yes, possible. It is also possible Manchester City’s goalkeeper scores a hattrick in the next English Premier League match despite not being given penalty taking duties. Obviously possible, but not very probable. Very improbable, the neutral would feel.
But that’s what growing up in Malaysia is all about.
Experience a series of governments who claim acts, decisions, rationales and analyses are possible, therefore have a chance of being true.
If there is a chance of being true, and since it is the government saying it, then it just must be true. Possible is good enough to convince the average Malaysian, why bother with probable?
Keeping the cruel game going
Here’s Part Two; if the defections are voluntary should Pakatan Harapan accept the support from these MPs?
The only reason they have not left their party is to avoid a forced by-election thanks to the anti-hopping law. So, they do the dishonourable. Openly state support for the enemy and remain standing in the room with now friends turned foes.
If the situation was reversed. On November 19, 2022, if Muhyiddin Yassin not Anwar Ibrahim got the nod, and today Prime Minister Muhyiddin accepts the support of Pakatan MPs despite staying in the Pakatan ranks, would Anwar and the Pakatan senior leadership approve?
Should it be wrong if Pakatan MPs did it in a different scenario, then on the same token, it should be wrong for Bersatu MPs do it in this scenario?
I have to admit, it is hilarious to see Bersatu Youth chief and Machang MP Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal fret about the moral vacuum of the MPs abandoning his party in spirit but not in body, when his party’s previous stratagem to national power was through defections from another party.
Finally, if MPs become turncoats because the disparity of funds and means between government and opposition backbenchers is extreme, why did the unity government not correct this?
Do the right thing and allow MPs to compete fairly rather than ruled out by money and not by service capacity is cruel.
Pakatan passed the opportunity to rectify this in 2018 in their first tenure, and now in a power share as senior partner they still linger on an unfairness that afflicted them and compromised democracy’s growth in Malaysia for decades.
Even if the MPs bolted due to suppression, Pakatan handily played a role to sustain the suppression.
How should history judge these miscreants?
To Mohd Azizi Abu Naim (Gua Musang), Suhaili Abdul Rahman (Labuan), Iskandar Dzulkarnain Abdul Khalid (Kuala Kangsar) and Zahari Kechik (Jeli), if any of you four can squirm out of this predicament and instead make yourselves the hero of this little moral play, then kudos to you, even if you need the federal government to use its resources to whitewash your sins.
History may keep its aim on you four, but the Malaysian public not so much. Soon all will be forgotten, if precedents dictate. And the same for the next four to jump ship.
Then, as suggested at the start, fool us as many times as possible, we are Malaysians.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.