Home TA Online 2011 TA Online How on earth did he even get elected?

How on earth did he even get elected?

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When an Air Asia plane crash landed in Kuching recently, one young BN politician’s first thought was how he could save his … iPad. ‘Inspired’ by our ‘hero’s’ selfless act, our correspondent iCrash Landed draws a link with the importance of electoral reforms.

Photo credit: catcity.com

A young BN politician, a Sarawak State Assembly member, was on flight AK5218 from Kuala Lumpur when it crash landed in Kuching airport on the night of 10 January 2011. After he escaped from the wreckage and recovered from the initial shock of the disastrous landing, he called up a local English-language newspaper to relate his horrible experience.

No doubt, he probably thought it his national duty to inform the media and bask in the ensuing publicity. Quoted by the newspaper’s online report early the next morning, parts of his tele-conversation were deeply revealing. Here are some choice snippets:

Prior to the incident, […] said he had a premonition something bad was going to happen. The first sign, he said, was when a disco ball dropped on the stage of the Anugerah Juara Lagu concert in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday night. The second was when a child started crying in the plane a few minutes before landing.

He said the first thing he grabbed was his iPad as it contained important documents. “As we were seated in front, my wife and I were among the first to get off the plane. In fact my wife went out after me. I had to save the iPad,” he said.

He even lost his shoes in the mud. He and several others had to walk barefooted to the fire and rescue centre where they received attention from airport staff.

Strangely, by early afternoon, the news report with these choice snippets was re-written, no doubt to make the foot-in-mouth BN politician look good despite his inane and utterly preposterous comments. A copy of the original post is however available here.

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Which begs the questions: If this reflects the quality of our elected BN representatives who form the government, how can we even expect him to make good laws and draw up effective policies on our behalf? How on earth did he even get elected?

Well, apart from the fact that the BN regularly bluffs, bullies and bribes its way outright to secure votes, this particular politician got elected because he is from a politically well-established Iban family from a rural part of Sarawak.

Part of the area his family comes from is a resettlement area from the time of the communist insurgency over 30 years ago with loads of leftover problems. In the general context, representatives have come and gone, conditions remain largely the same, other than what people can do for themselves from their own activity.

Elections are thus occasions when people can get the little lollipops and maggi mee that come their way every five years. This little has now escalated due to the presence of the opposition PKR and DAP which threaten the BN’s hitherto electoral hegemony. Witness what happened in the Batang Ai by-election in April 2009. Problems festering from a quarter century ago suddenly started to get resolved when BN poured huge amounts of money into the constituency. Similarly, in the case of the massive ‘you help me, I help you’ expenditure during the Sibu by-election in 2010.

In the circumstances, it will take quite a lot for voters, especially rural ones, not to pursue the temporary advantage made available to them during election campaigns by voting for the BN (unless of course, they can be persuaded that going with the opposition will deliver more tangibles in their interest. But that will depend on whether people can be persuaded that the government of the day, in this case, Abdul Taib Mahmud’s BN regime, will fall.)

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Of course, in pursuing that advantage, voters may actually contribute to extending the regime’s shelf-life temporarily. But in this, they are no different from others in seeking concrete short-term gains rather than gambling on potential long-term returns. Indeed, given their relative poverty, it is only too understandable why voters seek short-term gains.

Seen in this way, the Sungei Siput MP Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj’s court case against the federal government on public allocations to YB’s is the single most radical ‘electoral’ reform presently being pursued. Against that, the opposition’s demands for procedural reforms of the electoral system are secondary. They only speak to the mental and emotional fixations of ‘disconnected intellectuals’, rather than to the realities of most people’s everyday lives. Worse, the EC’s recent proposals for ‘electoral reform’, namely ‘dubious’ new laws to introduce ‘proxy voting’ – despite their continued inability to implement the simple action of inking voters’ fingers – smacks of cynicism, bad faith and a perversion of authority.

After all, if Dr Jeyakumar wins the case (one can always hope!), then all YBs will receive equal constituency allocations and will be able to deliver minor projects to their constituents via annual allocations paid for by the public purse. This would then remove one important factor from voter consideration, namely the desire for short-term development project gains from BN Santa Clauses. In comparison, procedural reforms could still end up benefiting the ruling party.

Perhaps only when electoral choices are based on a level playing field, where ideas, ethics and policies trump grubby handouts, will we finally see the emergence of decent and intelligent politicians that Malaysia truly deserves, and on both sides of the political divide. Then, instead of the many below-par, disgraceful politicians we currently have, we will have politicians who are ethical, mature and full of ideas; who eschew self-interests in favour of public service; who regard as sacred their roles as elected legislators; and who value people (and ‘wives’) before their ‘iPads’!

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iCrash Landed is the pseudonym of a avid daily plane spotter at Kuching airport.

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