By Azhar Harun
It has been slightly more than one month – 35 days to be exact – since the epochal GE14.
The people are now getting used to a new Malaysia, where almost everything is changing at a pace that is hard to keep up with.
I said last year that GE14 was not going to see a clash of ideologies or even interests between the Malays and the non-Malays.
Rather, GE14 would see the Malays being confronted from within themselves with, on one hand, parochial right-wing narratives as well as fundamentalist inclinations, and on the other hand, real-life and day-to-day issues coupled with issues of good governance.
I said so because it appeared to me that the non-Malays, especially the Chinese, had made up their minds even a year before GE14 was called. And I observed that nothing could be done, whether by Najib Razak, Umno or Barisan Nasional, to make the Chinese change their minds.
That left a void for support in the political battleground. That void was filled with the neo-Malay dilemma – the new millennium schism between the perpetual Malay rights and ultra-conservatism resting deeply within the older and more rural Malays and the outwardly (at least) more progressive approaches towards issues of freedom and liberty as well as good governance embraced by the urban and semi-urban middle-class Malays.
Stuck between these two main classes of Malays was a new breed of Malays who are mobile, almost well-informed and restless, who were initially unrecognised, unacknowledged and almost ignored by both sides of the political divide – the young and new generation of Malays, who did not really know about the brouhaha over Malay rights, ketuanan Melayu, recession, the rape of the judiciary, the forex debacle and the likes.
This class was born when the highways were already built; KLCC was already there; tertiary education was easily accessible; all the infrastructure that took years and years to develop was already in place. These are the people whose lives are defined by the speed and availability of the internet and broadband – the smartphone brigade.
This new generation of Malays is generally affected by the lopsided employment market which generally favours the employers, resulting in low pay, lack of job security and career advancement. At the same time, they see the excesses of the executive and top politicians and businessmen from the political elite. They also generally understand the issues relating to corruption, 1MDB, Felda, Mara and the systematic dismantling of governmental institutions to protect certain quarters of the political elite.
In the end, the old, tired, and tried and tested far-right narratives coupled with religio-centric sermons employed by Umno, with the connivance of PAS, were completely drowned out by more urgent issues that, in the minds of the Malays, have a real impact on their day-to-day life and general interests as citizens.
Why do I have to pay GST? Why are they so rich? Why am I struggling? Why can’t petrol prices be stable? Why are the politicians saying kangkong is cheap? Why is Ahmad Maslan asking me to fry nasi goreng?
Those basic questions were sometimes overtaken by more “esoteric, conceptual” questions.
Why was that woman charged for releasing balloons in the air? What was the private jet for? What is 1MDB? Who took the money? Who is Jho Low? Why is he so rich? Where did he get the money to party with Paris Hilton?
And back to the basics.
Why are they swimming in luxury while I have to make do with living from hand to mouth?
Najib and Umno failed to realise this until it was too late. Khairy Jamaluddin tried his best. Najib even threw in a meaningless tax relief for those under 26 on the eve of polling day.
The rest, as they say, is history.
A good friend of mine, a Chinese, won in every Malay kampung in his large parliamentary constituency. Another Chinese friend of mine, despite 10,000 Chinese voters being transferred out from his constituency via the scam that the SPR called a redelineation process prior to GE14, won in all but one Malay kampung and increased his majority to 40,000 votes despite the number of Malay voters being increased by 14%.
Even the Malay-dominated civil service and police and security forces – long recognised as the vote bank for BN – turned their backs on Najib, Umno and BN, giving the proverbial middle finger to their excesses and arrogance and the sheer hypocrisy of their narratives.
Post-GE14, Najib is still going around town repeating the same narratives, narratives that have been utterly rejected and laughed at by the Malays and the general populace of Malaysia.
A narrative of self-pity – Oh, I am a victim of lies and unfounded allegations.
A narrative of fear – Oh, I pity the Muslims after PH’s win in GE14, there is no more assistance to go to perform the haj for the Muslims.
A narrative of injustice – Oh look, PH is dismissing civil servants and I am powerless to stop this injustice.
A narrative of rights – Oh look, they appointed a non-Malay as the attorney-general, the AG should be a Malay.
A narrative of the sanctity of the throne – Oh see, they are attacking the royals.
To go around town post-GE14 repeating those narratives is a sure sign of a man who is bereft of any semblance of ability to articulate usable ideas. It is in fact politically suicidal.
Umno, on the other hand, is suffering the worst crisis in its existence. It is also incorrigibly infected with a denial syndrome that looks terminal.
When RM114 million in cash was found on premises belonging to or in the control of Najib, its leaders, after recovering from their initial shock – but not disgust, apparently – about three days after the seizure, came out with a counter-plan, namely reviving and recycling the donation narrative that proved, during GE14, to be unbelievable and in fact ludicrous and laughable.
The proposed candidates for the various top posts in Umno’s forthcoming election is a reflection of the dearth of intellect and talent from within Umno. Papagomo, Zahid Hamidi – who actually presented a book to Tun M during his recent visit to the old man – the towel-clad fugitive Jamal Yunos, to name but a few. And now there is talk that Najib’s cabal is the hidden hand behind several candidacies to ensure his grip on at least Umno’s mentality and outlook.
That is tragic. Tragic for Umno, that is.
As Einstein famously did not say, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
The recent announcement by the Sarawak BN component parties that they have left BN to form a new alliance and that the new alliance is PH-friendly has given the PH government a super majority in Parliament, at least on paper. PH, with the additional support, will now have a two-thirds majority in Parliament, giving it the ability to amend the Federal Constitution as and when deemed necessary.
Many, including me, had said over the past few years that the days of super majority are over. And we were wrong. I am cautious about this.
A Parliament consisting of a two-thirds majority and, at the same time, a very weak and shambolic opposition bereft of any new ideas and the ability to oppose effectively at an intelligent level, is worrying. It is worrying because of the lack of checks and balances.
I can only hope that PH will not bathe in glory, beating its chest and proudly proclaiming, “We can now do anything we like.”
That would be a disaster for the nation.
And for PH.
Azhar Harun, better known as Art Harun, is a lawyer and human rights activist. This article was first published in his Facebook account.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.