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Is Pakatan a viable alternative to BN?

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Which side will make all the rakyat’s aspirations a priority, and govern to serve all equally, wonders Angeline Loh.

Photo credit: hazuism.blogspot.com

Rumours of an imminent general election in Malaysia have been flying around since 2011. The current BN government seems to be going all out in its election campaign, pulling out all stops for itself while attempting to hinder Pakatan campaigning efforts in meeting the March 2013 deadline.

As far as most veteran voters can recall, we used to have elections every five years, then it seemed to imperceptibly change to once in four years and it may even have been shortened to every three years – except for the obvious fact that the BN was not ready to face the rakyat because of their unpopularity. However, another election will not change the capabilities of current or potential governments.

The experienced electorate have become increasingly familiar with the bluffs political parties pull and the reality that they live in. Even youth have become more openly critical of political parties in bluntly requesting them not to come round visiting at the eleventh hour before a general election, loaded with potentially empty promises.

Politicians have not yet learned that the electorate mean what they say. It seems typical that in every run up to a general election we will see, hear and read of sudden budget allocations for social needs such as education e.g. the handing out of scholarships, study loans and school building funds; promises for improvements to public transport; subsidies for basic necessities; discounts for saving utilities like electricity…blah,blah, blah. Not to forget, the glamourised promotion of nuclear energy and economic enhancements that foreign rare earth processing companies will bring to Malaysia.

Since the end of last year right into 2012, we have been wooed and lured by the RM500 ‘BR1M’ (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia) payments, ‘Kedai 1Malaysia’, loans to purchase ‘affordable’ homes for bread-winners earning less than RM3000, from KWSP (EPF), etc.

On the other hand, we are also advised by the current administration to tighten already tight belts, eat less but work more, and prepare to face price rises in fuel, food, and other necessities, as well as the probable imposition of GST and progressive subsidy withdrawals.
Corporate tax exemptions and perks to ‘new’ investors are anticipated whiles the ‘rakyat’ may have to take on GST in future to make up for that gap in government revenue. However, we hear that Petronas is doing well and last year, announced opening an increased number of kiosks all over the country. So who’s sucking our money?

The attitude of the current regime seems akin to the infamous cliché “Let them eat cake”, commonly attributed to that famous queen, Marie Antoinette of France (though there is no record of her ever uttering these words).

Unlike 16th century France, the situation in Malaysia isn’t so obviously desperate, or appears to have a smaller number of ‘starving peasants’, as people find ways and means to survive. The current federal administration has also acquired their governing skills from previous colonial authorities whose divide-and-rule methods served them quite satisfactorily right up to ‘Merdeka’ and beyond. Then, corruption set in due to our own blind generosity added to an amount of ‘tidak apa-ness‘ which the powers-that-be took for granted.

Since the unexpected change in the distribution of power in March 2008, the electorate’s hopes soared, but in hindsight, our expectations appear to have been unrealistically high. We had forgotten that most of the political parties in the opposition had virtually no experience in government.

Will the ordinary rakyat be top priority?

Not surprisingly, some of the newly elected Pakatan leaders were at first in a quandary when the mantle of government, albeit local and state government, was suddenly placed on their shoulders. They had come to power unprepared, and as if only by chance. They appeared to have no vision or plan, and no blue-print of an alternative to the current colonial administrative model. To begin with, the Opposition was very loosely united then.

Almost four years down the line, we see them struggling to familiarise themselves with the operations of government and making attempts at innovations they deem will benefit the people in the long run. Nonetheless, how far into the future the Pakatan is planning for is still unclear. How stable they will be, if a national mandate is presented to them, remains to be proven. They still seem somewhat shaky, besides being hindered by skirmishes with the BN pulling strings whiles occupying the federal seat. These questions haunt an electorate who want to see change, although plagued with uncertainty about their future. Will the choice of Pakatan rule be worth it?

In contrast, the question arises as to how tenable the present position of the ruling party is and if the electorate are willing to tolerate the current state of affairs for an undefined period. Moreover, will the electorate be allowed to make a free choice without the threat of civil unrest and activation of our security forces, including those of dubious legal status, to artificially maintain the current status quo? Or face an imitation of the Asian dictatorships and Middle East autocracies still in power?

Faced with this dilemma, without guarantees that the people’s choice will be honoured and respected in the spirit of true democracy and fairness, if they decide to award the mandate of government to other than the current regime or again deny the BN the golden two thirds majority, they may have little or no choice in the matter. Whether the next federal government will be better organised, more disciplined, more transparent, accountable and corruption-unfriendly remains to be seen.

The basic desires of the electorate for more equal distribution of wealth, job security, better and more efficient public amenities, elimination of corruption, efficient and affordable health care and medical treatment, affordable housing, affordable cost of living, general peace and harmony in the country still stand. The question the ordinary citizen will be asking is – who will make all these aspirations a priority, and govern to serve all equally, instead of being served by an enslaved electorate?

Angeline Loh is an Alirane executive committee member

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