Pakatan Harapan (PH) should need no reminding that in the 14th general election, Umno/Barisan Nasional (BN) found to its cost that it is not invincible.
But if some thought that we would live happily ever after like in a fairy tale, they would be disappointed. Today, they are angry about PH’s performance – the slow pace of reforms, the postponements in Najib Razak’s 1MDB trial, the presence of Lynas, the pollution of our land, sea and air, and the high cost of living.
Will PH politicians learn their lesson the hard way? Or will they buck up and start listening to the people and work on reforms? Will they enforce laws and punish those who use racial and religious rhetoric to disrupt public harmony? Or will they find that race and religion are useful tools to cling on to power?
Corruption and a lack of transparency persist despite their promises.
Many PH politicians appear to be cast in the Umno mould; a number of them merely swapped parties. But the mentality of ex-Umno members cannot be changed so easily. You can’t just slap a nappy on a baby’s bottom without cleaning it first.
Law and order have broken down in Malaysia. As conditions worsen and the people find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, only “people power” will instigate change.
The minister for religious affairs, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, was recently tripped up in an interview with BBC Hardtalk. He blamed the rise in racial and religious tension on the people having too much freedom of expression.
He was wrong. The rise in racial and religious tension has its roots in our leadership. Some politicians use the two “Rs” to win votes. There is also selective enforcement at play. Fugitive Indian preacher Dr Zakir Naik is not censured. The inability of the authorities to punish him only encourages bigots to attack people of other faiths.
Mujahid forgets that when he was a junior politician in PAS and, later, Amanah, political and human rights activists and alternative papers gave him a voice so that he could reach further and neutralise the hatred propagated by Umno and PAS. Today, he has abused our trust and goodwill by claiming that freedom of expression is the cause of racial and religious tension in society.
Politicians like Mujahid should realise that many powerful, ruthless leaders were toppled by non-violent civil mass resistance. Countries which successfully replaced authoritarian regimes like Chile, the Philippines and South Africa combined mass rallies with other forms of resistance like strikes and boycotts.
In apartheid South Africa, black South Africans refused to patronise white South African shops. Faced with financial ruin, the white traders eventually became the blacks’ most powerful ally and lobbied strongly for change. Boycotts do work.
People power successfully brought down repressive regimes in countries where resistance was once thought impossible. Street marches and demonstrations show that a government has lost control and is incompetent.
The young people of Malaysia are spearheading change and are not seduced by politicians like Mujahid who have simplistic and childish views.
Our leaders should know that the action of a united people will conquer PH. Do they want a series of marches, strikes, boycotts, and pressure by NGOs and religious groups? Do they want us to engage with the international community and foreign media to help the people gain freedom? Violence by the people is not an option, unlike persistence and commitment.
The irony is that PH is acting in a similar fashion to Umno. Sadly, the lessons from Umno’s mistakes have not been learnt. The disgruntled population of Tanjung Piai may show their displeasure with PH in the by-election there.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.