We have been told of late that politics is a game – a power game, a numbers game, a game of the elites, etc. Well yes, to some extent it does look like a game with rivalling factions sometimes going all out to outdo their opponents.
They waste time attacking each other, saying and doing things that don’t benefit the people while important issues get sidelined. But it can only continue if we, the people, allow it to be.
So, if politics should not be a game, then what should it be? What should it mean to the man on the street on a day-to-day basis? What is politics beyond exercising our democratic rights at the ballot box every time an election is called?
Let it be clear that politics is not a game. Politics, at its core, is about people’s lives. The process of an election is not limited to casting a vote.
It produces outcomes that affect people’s lives.
How the people control the outcome goes beyond picking a candidate from a popular party. It certainly goes beyond voting someone out with no consideration for who we are really voting in.
It is time the people come to realise that unless we shift the focus from the politicians to the people, elections and election results will always be about them.
Everyone is aware of voting as a right granted to every citizen, but we need conscious efforts to not surrender our rights back to politicians the minute we walk out of polling booths.
Where and how do we even start to do that, particularly given our decades-old culture of looking up to mainstream politicians? I say we start right here right now in Semenyih, where a by-election has been called after the death of the incumbent state assemblyman last month. I say we no longer allow politics to be a game.
On the premise that election results will affect the livelihood of the people concerned, how do we then go about choosing our representatives in the state assembly to bring about the desired results? How do we know their values and what they represent? How do we know they will strive to make our lives better?
A simple way is to look at their background, party history and their manifesto. A manifesto, unless with the intention to mislead and garner votes, should outline the beliefs, principles, ambitions and methods of delivery of the party/person that made the pledge.
A party’s history and background will then be a good method to gauge how trustworthy or believable their manifesto is.
A rapidly developing area like Semenyih, with 54,000 registered voters and a population of 300,000, requires a detailed plan for true and meaningful progress.
Steps need to be put in place to minimise problems associated with any modern development. A national- type grandiose manifesto may not be good enough to zoom in on specific issues the locals seek to address.
PSM’s presence is felt in Semenyih
Yes, a state legislative assembly by-election is about the locals and what they need. Semenyih is home ground to PSM and their community work over the years.
A walkabout in Semenyih town and talking to the locals will reveal that PSM’s presence is greatly felt, with many associating the party with solving big and small issues.
S Arulchelvan, central committee member and ex-secretary general of PSM, is a familiar figure, from the market to the coffeeshops to the housing estates. He is respected for his fearless and tireless representation of all issues involving the people.
Though he is not the candidate this time, anyone who remotely understands PSM knows that they have a rule of fielding only candidates who have done at least some years of voluntary or community work in the area concerned.
PSM is contesting the state seat of Semenyih for the fourth time now.
Let’s examine their concerns and pledges to the people of Semenyih this time around:
1) Housing for all — affordable housing included — is a concern.
PSM is concerned that the property market in Semenyih has shot way above the affordability level of the locals. There are many new unsold houses even after years of completion.
PSM clearly distinguishes low-cost houses and affordable houses, and hence will campaign for the authorities to bring back low-cost houses and for every housing development to have both low-cost and affordable housing.
Further to that, PSM proposes that a quota should be imposed not just on low-cost or affordable housing but also on luxury properties. This is in view of most unsold properties being in the middle-upper affordability category.
2) The 300,000 population in Semenyih is dependent on Hospital Kajang and Hospital Serdang for their medical care, resulting in serious congestion at these hospitals, which already have their own populations to take care of.
In the absence of immediate plans to build a big hospital for Semenyih, as clarified by the health minister this month, PSM proposes an immediate upgrade of the existing Semenyih health clinic to the status of a hospital, with the addition of necessary equipment and facilities, such as ambulances, to facilitate quick transfers to bigger hospitals in times of emergency.
3) To ease the burden of the B40 population, which lives in low-cost terrace houses and low-cost flats, PSM proposes to streamline property taxes and maintenance fees as the current system is more burdensome to low-cost flat dwellers when it is obvious that they are much more challenged economically than low-cost house dwellers.
4) Public transportation needs improvement.
PSM views Semenyih’s transportation issues and traffic congestion from two angles — how economical it is and its convenience.
A huge section of Semenyih population works in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, which means to say almost every person driving out of Semenyih will need to pay highway tolls just to get to work, sometimes more than one.
Semenyih is surrounded by the Silk Highway, Lekas Kajang Batu 3 Highway as well as the Plus Putra Mahkota Highway.
PSM takes the lead to urge the authorities to abolish at least one of these highway tolls to help ease the burden on Semenyih citizens.
At the same time, PSM would work towards the upgrading of bus services to various places after witnessing the decline over the years. This has become such a burden to the Semenyih population which, needless to say, depends on bus services for work and other activities.
Even to go to the nearest MRT station in Kajang, one needs to take two buses.
5) PSM proposes localised elections in all housing estates, flats and villages to elect resident leaders.
PSM believes this is the best move to directly involve local residents in support of the state legislative assembly to address and tackle issues directly affecting residents of the respective areas.
This is also in line with PSM’s bottom-up (as opposed to top-down) democratic approach towards people’s problems.
6) PSM is concerned about the mind-boggling decision to abolish Form 6 in secondary schools in Semenyih some years ago. It seeks to bring it back so that six formers need not have to travel to nearby towns to attend Form 6 classes.
7) PSM would like to engage the government in matters of environmental preservation.
Natural recreational places like the hot springs and Bukit Broga, famous among hikers in view of over-development activities in the surrounding areas of late, need to be preserved.
Promotion of these places as tourist attractions will also bring economic benefits to the locals.
Dear fellow citizens, do we have any quarrel with the above pledges? Do we see other contenders with this level of commitment and attention to details? If you don’t, please treat this as an appeal to spread the message to our fellow citizens who are voting in Semenyih.
It is time sincere, consistent and hardworking people are voted into state assemblies and Parliament. It is time political hegemony is considered repulsive, abusive and offensive. Politics is not a game, it’s about our lives. Let’s start with Semenyih.
Janice Fredah Ti is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.