Following the untimely death of Deputy Minister (and Member of Parliament for Tanjung Piai) Md Farid Md Rafik, the nation will soon see yet another by-election. The by-election promises to be an interesting one – a test of the popularity and effectiveness of the recently concluded Umno-PAS pact as well as a gauge of PH’s standing after a year in office.
Tanjung Piai, once an MCA stronghold, is a mixed-seat constituency with 57% Malay, 42% Chinese and 1% Indian voters. In the last election, the PH candidate won with a slim 524 majority in a three-cornered fight against BN and PAS. Had BN and PAS worked together they would have most likely overwhelmed PH.
Anthony Loke, the DAP organising secretary has now called upon PH parties to go all out to defend the seat, calling the soon to be scheduled by-election a “great test” for PH. Political pundits, in the meantime, are warning that PH cannot afford to lose another by-election after having lost three straight contests – Semenyih, Cameron Highlands and Rantau – to BN.
For many, the choice will be clear. Despite all its failings, PH is still a far better alternative to Umno-PAS-BN. All Umno-PAS-BN has to offer is the same old toxic mix of racial and religious extremism. The assurances of both Umno and PAS leaders that they will protect the rights of non-Malays are not worth a bucket of spit given their long history of race-baiting and extremist policies.
And neither have they been willing to confront the culture of impunity which led to massive corruption and abuse of power when they were in office. Indeed, what can realistically be expected from a party that is being helmed by leaders who themselves are facing multiple charges for corruption and abuse of power?
However, Tanjung Piai voters can’t be blamed if they are less than enthusiastic about PH. Despite some initial steps at reform, PH seems to have lost its way. Their performance has been lacklustre to say the least. They plead for more time but appear to be wasting the time that has been given to them.
Where, for example, is the promised reform of our education system? What happened to all that talk about reining in Jakim? Why are so many corrupt politicians (and their cronies) still running free? What has become of all those manifesto promises they made? How is it that the cabinet prioritises the interests of a foreign company like Lynas over the health of Malaysians and our environment? Why are they still protecting a fugitive from India despite the fact the Prime Minister himself says he is divisive and has overstepped his obligations as a permanent resident?
As well, when are they going to introduce policies and programmes that make a real difference to the B40 group? Why do they seem more interested in finding foreign buyers for unsold luxury condos than in building more affordable homes for less fortunate Malaysians? Why are they still dragging their feet on a credible investigation into enforced disappearances, or continuing to deport asylum seekers, or denying justice to the family of Teoh Beng Hock?
And when are they going to realise that voters are sick and tired of the infighting that has racked PH and its component parties. Don’t they realise that the succession issue has become a huge distraction? Whether they like it or not, ministers like Azmin Ali and Zuraida Kamaruddin should respect the succession agreement and start working together with Anwar Ibrahim for the good of the country. If they can no longer work with him, they should just leave so the rest of the coalition can get on with the task of fulfilling the expectations of the people.
At the end of the day, unless the PH leadership is able to convince voters that they can, indeed, put aside their egos and ambitions and provide real leadership on key national issues, perhaps the voters of Tanjung Piai should vote BN (or even abstain) just to send an unequivocal message to Putrajaya of our collective unhappiness with their performance thus far.
Voting BN to save PH might sound contradictory, oxymoronic even, but it might well be the kind of “tough love” that is needed to bring PH leaders to their senses before it’s too late. Perhaps if the people lead, the leaders will follow.
The idea of voting BN to save PH will, no doubt, invite a barrage of criticism and hostile responses, but if that’s what it takes to get their attention and make them change, if that’s what it takes to shock them out of their complacency, it would be well worth it.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.