Opposing elitism through multi-ethnic grassroots communities would promote unity as local government issues go beyond race and religion, writes Ronald Benjamin.
Malaysians who voted for a change of government and its institutional settings in the 2018 general election are generally angry with what has transpired over the past few weeks, when a “backdoor” coalition seized power from the legitimately elected Pakatan Harapan government.
This could be seen from angry comments in social media and from my conversations with key people in civil society.
What has transpired in this course of events, if one reflects further, is the game of elite political power legitimised by being representatives in Parliament who think they know better since they are duly elected by the people. They have disappointed Malaysians with their own self-seeking agenda.
The Rakyat (people) feel betrayed because they are powerless to determine the events unfolding as the real power is in the hands of the political elites. For the Rakyat to exercise power effectively, they have to wait till the next general election.
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Malaysians who truly desire real change beyond the narrow politics of race and religion must work on a platform to create a conducive environment for their voices to be heard. They must also work on a terrain that would help create local community leaders who will understand the local aspirations of the community and articulate local issues that serve the common good.
So it is time for Malaysians to revive our local government, together with politicians and NGOs who are community-minded.
Local government issues such as the hygiene and cleanliness of our restaurants, the protection of the environment from chemical and plastics pollution, proper roads and lanes, drainage, and assess to local government officials should be part of the authentic grassroots reform agenda.
A typical grassroots reform movement is the best way of opposing elite power whether such individuals are from political parties, state governments or Putrajaya.
Opposing elitism through multi-ethnic grass roots communities would help create a truly unified Malaysian society as the local government issues go beyond race and religion – even if one cannot completely do away with race and religion since it is ingrained in the Constitution and structured within the various levels of government.
Our real lives are basically affected by the effectiveness of local government machinery and our own attitude of being aware and conscientious of things around us.
In fact, domestic socioeconomic issues should be debated in local government councils and not by so-called parliamentarians or bureaucrats in Putrajaya.
We should champion local government elections and oppose the neoliberal economic policies of the state and federal governments. Such policies provide land to developers and cronies to build golf courses and elite hill-top residences at a time when many Malaysians find it difficult to buy homes due to their high costs.
We should work towards prime ministerial candidates who have been mayors, local councillors and young educated community politicians who are very much rooted in the pulse and struggles of the common people especially workers, farmers and fisherfolk.
It is time for Malaysians to fight political elitism. We should fight the elitism not only of those who recently formed a “backdoor government” but also of those Pakatan Harapan elites who have disappointed the Rakyat by only being around during election time or by being irresponsible and incompetent on social justice issues and environmental protection.
Let us rebuild a new Malaysia by rebuilding our local government institutions.