Politics is seen not only as crude and unsavoury, but also a very dirty business. Many despise politicians because they see them as corrupt, unprincipled and unscrupulous. They also appear to have no qualms whatsoever about exploiting and riding on the public to advance their personal interests.
The so-called chest-thumping rhetoric of politics as an avenue to serve the people and nation is seen as a mere sham and facade for nefarious and sinister personal agendas.
They would not hesitate to pose and act like our servants whereas their ultimate aim is to be our masters.
Many politicians start their careers and forays into politics inspired by noble objectives. But many, if not most, end up going astray after tasting power and holding positions of authority.
As they say, power corrupts and the more power one gets, the more corrupt one becomes. The high moral ground to which many subscribe in their political quest soon descends into a slippery path of moral decadence.
Lies, deception and double-talk soon become their trademark and characteristics. Remember the phrase often quoted by native American tribal chiefs about how we must beware of people who speak with forked tongues, those who say one thing and yet do another.
Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.
Politics in Malaysia is likewise engulfed and characterised by plenty of dirt and filth. The national political landscape is filled to the brim with nasty slugfests, insults, slander, inflammatory statements, lies, deception, gossip and spin perpetuated by politicians from both sides of the divide.
They are well aided by their supporters and apparatchiks in this dirty game.
What is worse is that they are also being aided by a section of the Fourth Estate. Yes, the so-called estate of the press and media.
Instead of them playing their role as the guardians of public interest through objective and impartial reporting, some members of the media and press are in cahoots with their political masters. They end up compromising their professional integrity and selling their soul to become mercenary papers, writers or bloggers.
With the new government’s policy of openness and liberalisation towards the press and media, a lot of news reports and coverage have exceeded the proper bounds.
Our press and media has also shown disturbing signs of degenerating into a moral abyss. It would seem that we have become a safe haven for gutter politics. Everything goes under the sun with no legal restraint or self-regulation whatsoever in actions or words.
The line between right and wrong is blurred, with politics detached from the question of principles and with no bearing to moral compass.
Martin Luther King once said, “Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”
Provided, of course, that we have a judiciary whose integrity is beyond doubt or reproach.
The situation in our country may get worse if our politics continue in the present state and direction.
Take, for example, the reports about a purported plan or design by some quarters, namely PKR, DAP and possibly Amanah, to topple Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the prime minister by way of a vote of no confidence in Parliament.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and a few PAS senior leaders took the lead in breaking the news of the said grand design.
Hadi, PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan and Terengganu Menteri Besar Samsuri Mokhtar recently went to see Mahathir to warn him of the impending Ides of March against him.
In a show of solidarity, PAS gave its undertaking that it would stand by Mahathir in opposing the motion, at least according to Mahathir who claimed to have a written undertaking from the party.
Suddenly, PAS is in love with Mahathir and ready to leave and ditch its other lover, Umno.
The leaders of PKR, DAP and Amanah quickly responded by issuing a denial and reiterating that there was no basis or reason at all for such a motion. They said the whole issue was nothing more than a ploy by PAS to distract the people from its problem and investigations into the alleged RM90 million payoff by Umno to senior PAS leaders to entice the party to support and collaborate with Umno-Barisan Nasional against Pakatan Harapan (PH).
Political commentators have dismissed the PAS storyline as far-fetched and out of sync with political realities.
The political reality of the day is that it would be tough, if not impossible, under the present circumstances for anyone to get the minimum 112 majority votes from the total 222 votes to oust Mahathir as prime minister.
Could Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Guan Eng or Mohamad Sabu be that naive and foolish as to embark on an initiative that is fraught with risks and may not have a chance of success?
These leaders are not political rookies or novices in the art of the politics of the possible. PAS and its unquestioning supporters must indeed be living in a bubble to believe such tales.
Yet some media keep pursuing and reporting on the matter as if it is a real possibility. Even after Mahathir dismissed the idea as a hoax and claimed that he has the support of PH and the numbers within the coalition to stave off any such challenge, one English daily continues to sensationalise the news.
RM90 million payoff
The polemics and controversy surrounding the allegations that PAS leaders received RM90 million from Umno continue unabated.
PAS leaders have come up with all sorts of defences, explanations and justifications including invoking the Quran and the Prophet’s traditions to justify their acts and conduct, including the need to lie.
But the more they got into the matter, the more they delved into the story to answer, the more shifting and changing the storyline, the less convincing they become.
More and more questions are being asked about the credibility of PAS and its senior leaders. Their conduct in this particular episode has severely eroded the people’s faith in them as men of religion who uphold righteousness and fight evil.
Malaysians need to wise up to these political developments and be on guard against unscrupulous politicians and their apparatchiks.
They need to cultivate a critical mindset when reading, listening or hearing any news or information about politics.
At the end of the day, the people have to decide how best to protect their interest and welfare as well as the well-being of the nation.
When it comes time for us to make a choice, we must choose well. We must choose the better or less imperfect of the available choices and options.
We must reject parties which play the toxic cards of race and religion.
Do not expect perfection or a party which fits our every wish. We are living in an imperfect world, not a Utopia.
Wan Haron Wan Hassan is a senior practising lawyer, active in civil society movements.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.