We want to tell Najib and Anwar that politics is no longer about who gets what.
Who will get your vote? Najib Tun Razak or Anwar Ibrahim? Will your political affiliation decide your choice or would quality of leadership matters? Honesty, compassion, integrity, confidence and flexibility are all qualities impossible to find in abundance in either of them when political leaders should have all of these qualities – and more.
Najib is at best mediocre. He plods around bemused and befuddled by the unfamiliar situation he now finds around him – Rosmah Mansor, the cut and thrust of Umno and Barisan Nasional politics and his own inadequacies swirl around him in ever concentric eddies that threaten to whirl him away to places unknown.
Anwar does trip the light fantastic at times. A charming chameleon who can make himself to be the person we want him to be with just that hint of sincerity that allows us to think that maybe, just maybe that is the real Anwar. And yet the next day he goes off at a tangent because the political expediency needed in juggling Pakatan Rakyat gives him no other option but to do so.
Will our choices be based on what is good and right and in the best interest of the nation as a whole? Perish that thought. We are humans and as humans, we reserve the right and the privilege of choosing a leader we think will do good to us.
And there my friends lies the confidence and bravado that Najib and Anwar have in their belief that the Malaysian people might choose either of them as prime minister. Surely those right-thinking people among us (of which… ahem… this writer thinks himself as one) would have consigned either of them to that heap where the “not to be resuscitated” sign should tell us that they are both past their use-by-date. But we humans are not creatures of rationality.
But this is Malaysia. We have no others. So Najib or Anwar it is.
Defining our political future
If it was a matter of choosing between Najib and Anwar, then I say that Najib is the lesser of the two men. But the lesser of the two men is now the prime minister of our nation.
Those of you who do not want Barisan Nasional say you are tired of the corruption, the abuse of executive power for political and personal financial gain and the total lack of good governance displayed by BN leaders.
Those who do not wish to see Pakatan in government talks about the impossibility and improbability of having three diametrically opposed political entities (now together within the Pakatan coalition for political gain) working in tandem for the common good of the nation and its people.
How could these three once opposing political organisation be held together just because of their hatred for Umno?
We are moving towards the 13th general election and toward our future with all these dilemmas unresolved – not the best of situations but that is all that we have. The pity of it all is that it will still be with us whether we vote for Najib or Anwar. So what are we to do? What should we do? What must we do? What can we “janji” to do?
We need to move towards good governance. And the bottom line to good governance is a vibrant democracy. Only then will we have sustainable and equitable economic growth and political stability. This we will not have with the present crop of political leaders now in power and even among those waiting to gain or seize political power.
We need to define the culture of our political future. We do not want leaders who seek to gain or remain in power by the manipulations of ethnic or religious sentiments.
There are not just Malays and the “others” in Malaysia. We are all one people. Let us no longer talk about Ketuanan Melayu, the institution of royalty, about educating our children in schools that accentuate their ethnicity while ignoring the realities of a society that now demand equality in opportunities and the personal freedom to decide and express their voice in politics, education and in everything that affects their life and the life of their family and the nation they live in.
We already have independence. We already have national integration a long time ago. Now we want the freedom to go on with our life the best way we can – and the function of government is to facilitate that demand. We want and we will choose a government that can do that.
We will not allow Najib or Anwar to lead us elsewhere. If the two of them want their political kingdom, then their political kingdom must conform to our aspiration of what we want. Who your father is, who you are, what race you belong to, what language you speak, what your religion is and where you are coming from politically no longer matters to us – what matters is that we will have our Malaysia. You ignore these demands at your own peril.
And if either of them are fearful of what these changes will mean to the Malays or to the “others” in terms of the potential for racial and religious conflicts, then I want to tell them both that these changes have already happened and are happening today.
And we the people are comfortable with it and we are living with the realities of a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-religious society without conflict and in harmony.
We want to tell Najib and Anwar that politics is no longer about “who gets what”. The economic, social and political integration of the people of this country started many years ago no thanks to BN or Pakatan. The political culture of our future is 1Malaysia. Any attempts by anyone to change this will be met with their dismissal from office through the electoral process.
Paying lip-service to what we want and then proceeding to do as you want will not be tolerated.
The rakyat is ready
Putrajaya will no longer control the economy just so it could bring about national integration and “equitable” distribution of our nation’s wealth. We are wise to these lies.
Malaysia is a case of the people overtaking their own government in intellect, in thoughts and in deeds. We are already building a Malaysia we all aspire to. Where the state should lead by example they lag behind and now the people are demanding they catch up.
Umno busies itself with retaining political power to the detriment of everything else. It neither has time nor the interest to serve the people or the country. We see Malay politicians within Umno moving from their former state and rural base and into Putrajaya and KL to reap the rewards of office.
The state of politics in our country has so deteriorated that Umno now needs political oppression, ethnic and religious strife, and economic problems (manufactured or otherwise) as an excuse and the reason that it be given the mandate to stay in power – because it claims that it needs another term in office to finish its work in government and because only Umno can do that job.
There is in our society a need for continuity in that the Malays want political power to stay with them and yet at the same time we all, the Malays included, want change – especially in the equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities.
We want democracy, free election and the end of autocratic government. The incoming government must try to deal with these nuances that colour the politics of our nation.
Democracy in the Malaysian context means multi-party elections, representative legislatures, a free press, and an independent judiciary. It means the right of people to elect their own government.
Only a democratic system can guarantee the full exercise of fundamental human rights now judged to be universal and applicable to all individuals without distinction as to age, gender, descent, religion, ethnicity, or race.
Today our political leaders, Najib more so than Anwar, lag behind in their inability to understand the changes that their own people are demanding. Najib and the BN government are playing catch-up with an impatient society.
Nothing more personified this demand than Bersih. Where the people are already translating their thoughts and aspirations for change by channelling them through Bersih, this BN government does all it can to curtail, prevent and physically intimidate and prevent their own people from doing just that.
The tide has turned
Najib and Anwar are poles apart in their understanding as to why Malaysians are resorting to activism to express their need for change. They each use the situation to their own political advantage.
Whatever Najib or Anwar’s vested interests are and however they choose to harness the positive or negative aspect of these new-found public need to express their support or otherwise, what is obvious is this: The tide has turned.
We have passed the tipping point and it is now time to take stock of what the masses are demanding – if nothing more than for the fact that Najib and Anwar will need their votes to take or retain power come the 13th general election.
There will not be enough money to buy their votes. Not enough promises, transformation programmes and economic initiatives can be made to sway the masses into voting for either of them because the people are now wise to the ways of these politicians.
Promises to do away with prisons, taxes on imported cars and lowering of the price of petrol will be taken for what they are – just promises that may not see the light of day.
Of the two, we know Anwar is at a disadvantage because Najib as the incumbent will do and has done, all that an incumbent can do through the use of executive powers vested in him as the prime minister of our nation.
What he has not done, he has no compunction to promise that he will do. Promise and be damned seems to be Najib’s mantra.
Anwar has to win the hearts and minds of the people – hard to do when all he has going for him now is his ability to convince us to give him the opportunity to do good for us. That is all he wants… just the opportunity.
Of course, if what Pakatan has done in the states it manages is any indication of what is to come under a Pakatan government, then we have reason to believe that Anwar may make good his promise of good governance and an open, responsible and accountable government under his leadership. But that is still a maybe.
Peas from the same pod
Najib and Anwar are all we have got for now. Two Hobson’s choice in as far as most of us are concerned but that will have to be enough for now.
Like Anwar all that we want is the opportunity for change and once given that opportunity, we will run with it – run away from the years of an irresponsible BN government that has left us bereft of any hope for a decent and promising future.
You must remember that it is Najib or Anwar – two individuals impossibly flawed by their years in Umno. Two individuals that are cut from the same cloth by the same self-titled bespoke tailor that was Umno.
Both political animals that understand the “winner takes all” philosophy of politics in Malaysia. Two peas from the same pod.
And yet Anwar has treaded the road less travelled. Anwar knows what it is to have power and what it is to have it taken away from him at a time when the crown jewels were within reach.
Anwar knows how to use power and he has also been at the receiving end of its abuse. Anwar, and not Najib, knows personal humiliation at its very worse.
Now you must ask yourself this: Is Anwar the better for it? As the Malays say: sudah insaf?
The word “insaf” does not indicate just repentance – it asks if one has become a better person for what one has endured. Only Anwar can answer that.
For me given Najib or Anwar …the choice is done. Anwar it is for our future.
CT Ali is a reformist who believes in Pakatan Rakyat’s ideologies. He is a FMT columnist.