2020, the leap year of frogs

This year was supposed to be Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Vision 2020 realised. Instead, the leap year started with politicians trying to leapfrog each other: who could jump higher and further to satisfy their political ambitions. It was a very worrisome situation and a tumultuous time for all Malaysians who feared for their safety and the security of the country. People were disgusted by drama worthy of a Hollywood Academy Award, played by pretenders and lead actors from each party.

While we were glued to social media, scanning our mobile phones every second for blow-by-blow accounts of who jumped with who and who stayed put, politicians were busy visiting different camps in five-star hotels and paying homage at party leaders’ homes as if it was Hari Raya come early.

Our politicians were probably gunning for the next Hollywood Academy Award following the first Asian win, the Korean black humour film “Parasite”. Perhaps we should form a joint venture with director Bong Joon-ho to do “Parasite II” based on the antics of our politicians.

The script could not be better: heavily tinted cars entering the palace, MPs riding hop on-hop off tour buses summoned to the palace. Some wished these MPs would hop off the bus for good and not come back, and many wished those who had been charged with corruption would hop off the bus at the prison gates.

Sometimes, I wonder what will move us to the brink, to tell our politicians enough is enough. Do we need people like Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela to save Malaysia? What will move us out of our comfort zone to tell our politicians that no amount of free KFC or nasi bungkus will pacify us? When will we demand in no uncertain terms that all corrupt politicians must go, and stand our ground? Even our attorney-general Tommy Thomas deserted us at a crucial moment when he should have stood his ground. He must have had his reasons but it was ill timed.

We got the change we wanted, and we squandered it big time. Instead of focusing on the people, Pakatan Harapan (PH) was preoccupied with fighting fires which started in the Barisan Nasional era, Azmin sex video tapes, PKR leadership struggles, and when Anwar Ibrahim would take over from Mahathir as prime minister. In the process, the people were forgotten, their hopes and aspirations under the PH leadership slowly but surely sliding into a bog.

The past two years was a waste of time. The only thing it did was give us greater confidence in our democratic process and knowledge of the power of our votes. We can now use these wisely without succumbing to vote-buying. The Tanjung Piai and Kimanis by-elections reinforced the idea that voters have the power to choose their own MPs whom they think will fight for their rights, or the political party that they think can make the desired change.

Sabah is no stranger to politicians going in and out of the palace, waiting to stake their claim as the rightful chief minister. In 1986, the artist Lat drew a cartoon showing two official cars carrying the two “chief ministers”, travelling in opposite directions with police escorts. The two “chief ministers” were Joseph Pairin Kitingan and Mustapha Harun. That cartoon depicts the essence of the situation we saw repeated in the federal capital over the last few weeks: political leaders trying to convince the Agong that they have the confidence of the majority to govern the country. It was the same situation in Perak in March 2008, and Sabah in May 2018.

Sabah and Sarawak which were expected to be kingmakers were blindsided. Many in the peninsula were upset that Sarawak became a friendly party to Perikatan Nasional, led by Muhyiddin Yassin.

Sarawak has been vocal about wanting its oil rights and trying to enforce a 5% tax on all petroleum products. However, Petronas has been playing hardball with the state, whose sabre rattling has achieved nothing so far.

Sabah and Sarawak’s combined 57 parliamentary seats could have been a bloc to be reckoned with, and the parties from the peninsula would have had to give in to their demands to form a new government. But what Sarawak did, along with the other politicians, was to let in a backdoor government, complete with Umno, PAS and their past baggage.

Key Umno leaders like Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who is facing corruption charges and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang will continue to push for an Islamic state and Malay, not Malaysian, rights. We all know their history; it remains to be seen whether Muhyiddin, as the new prime minister, will listen to the voice of the people by not appointing doubtful party leaders from Umno and PAS to his Cabinet. We want clean ministers, and most of all, a clean government where the people come first and the politicians come last.

If Muhyiddin can do that, the people will support his government. Otherwise they will bide their time. The next election is not too far away. Remember Tanjung Piai and Kimanis – the people now know how to use the power of their votes, and they know what they can do with them.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.