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Enough! Let’s put a stop to gutter politics

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We must not give the time of day to gutter politics by totally ignoring such news all together. It is high time that we reclaim decency as the key value in our politics, says Christopher Chong.

Former Malacca chief minister Rahim Tamby Chik (above), businessman Shazryl Eskay Abdullah and Perkasa treasurer Shuib Lazim were the trio behind the screening of the video, it was revealed today - Photo credit: mingguanmindaniaga.blogspot.com

It seems that Malaysian politics is taking after the gossip, scandals and sexual exploits that are highlighted in our tabloid. Gossip, sex and scandals may help to sell the tabloids but when mudslinging becomes the order of the day in our national politics, then it is time to seriously consider the implications of such actions. By now, you would have heard about the news about the video recordings of the bedroom antics of someone who is allegedly a prominent politician.

More disturbingly, recent years have witnessed a spate of such incidents which point towards the emergence of gutter politics. What is worrying about this trend is that it distracts us from the real business of politics. Politics, as my professor in political science 101 said, is about who gets what, when and how. To gain power, my professor continued, politicians must compete amongst themselves by presenting their principles and policies to the public in order to gain support.

Therefore, the rule of the game requires that political engagement takes the form of presenting one’s position on key issues and pointing out the weaknesses of the opposition’s position. Public support is based on the reasonableness of the principles and policies presented. Politics is supposed to be the noble art of governing by principles.

Yet, we are now witnessing certain quarters engaging in underhanded tactics designed to undermine public confidence on a select group of politicians. In so doing, they are dragging politics into the gutter for whatever gains they hope to achieve. In the long run, such tactics can only serve to alienate people from the real business of politics by turning it into a site for mudslinging rather than a space for coming up with policies and solutions to the real problems faced by ordinary Malaysians.

We must act now to prevent gutter politics from becoming the norm in our political practice. Indeed, we must reject political engagement that seeks to focus our attention on the perceived moral failings of certain politicians. Instead we should be focusing on vital public issues such as poverty and gender discrimination.

More importantly, we must not give the time of day to gutter politics by totally ignoring such news all together. It is high time that we reclaim decency as the key value in our politics.

Dr Christopher Chong is an Aliran member.

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