MP SPEAKS | Let’s be frank, Pakatan Harapan is not an easy project.
Our leaders, members and the rakyat fought very hard against a kleptocratic and autocratic regime to finally topple a government of enormous power and resources.
Immediately post GE 14, I said Harapan is a joint project.
Malaysians of all races and religions worked hard, went to rally after rally, persevered for two decades since the Reformasi, raced home election after election, donated to the then opposition, volunteered for campaign works, weathered through one electoral defeat after another.
Our own party members endured long decades of alienation, rejection and oppression.
My local Bukit Mertajam veteran, 66-year-old plumber Ang Tun Kiat, a “ketua kampung” in the ten years of DAP state government in Penang and now, two years of Harapan federal government, is still a humble plumber. He was offered money and other enticements to leave DAP but refused.
Many of them were ridiculed for supporting a losing cause.
Our leaders did not have it easy. They were pressed from all sides and had to make numerous sacrifices.
Some sacrificed freedom. Some their life.
They were arrested, assaulted, intimidated, imprisoned.
Lim Kit Siang (below) used to sleep in the car he travelled in during his nationwide campaign; and up to last week, 79-year-old Lim, who was operated on for cancer just two years ago, wanted to travel economy class to the UK for a speaking engagement.
In other words, and to put it simply, we achieved the May 9 victory after many laborious and painful efforts from everyone.
A new experience for everyone
The next question is, “where are we now?”
Let’s be frank again, we are in a very precarious situation.
As a newly-formed government, it is still very much a work in progress.
That is given, after all as Harapan has never been given an opportunity to govern at the federal level.
But what we have here is also a very inexperienced opposition. Allow me to explain:
When I was elected a Member of Parliament in 2013, the first book I read was Lim Kit Siang’s Time Bombs.
The book, first published in 1978, was a compilation of his parliamentary speeches during his first two terms in Parliament.
For those who are familiar, the book, like all Lim’s subsequent parliamentary speeches, is peppered with a lot of data and statistics. (Someone joked that maybe that was one reason why we cannot win, because we give stats instead of telling stories).
But that is Lim, and all of us junior MPs learn a lot from him.
We learn how to make speeches, to research for speaking points, and most importantly, to back them up with credible data and statistics – the opposition at that time really had no choice but to ensure we safeguarded ourselves by speaking boldly but factually in an environment where the government had at its disposal all sorts of laws ready to pounce at dissidents making anything less than the most accurate claims.
For over half a century, we do this. We become experts in playing opposition.
But not so with the current opposition. You see them more adapt to using racial and religious rhetoric instead of data and statistics.
That was what kept them in power for so long, and they become experts in playing the role.
In the last two years, the opposition for the most part, except a few at the fringe, failed to play a constructive role to check and balance the government.
There is no viable alternative policy for Malaysia, as it is unfortunate that the opposition seems only obsessed with championing only certain races and religion.
There is no alternative budget unlike in the past.
When for the first time in our history, the Opposition Leader was offered the powerful chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee, he declined even though it was an excellent opportunity to check on the government. This was disappointing.
Good governance is not on their agenda. Week in and week out, they are obsessed with acts of political sabotage.
The so-called opposition pact even failed to share power in states such as Perlis, Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang.
Let me be very frank to say that while the current government and opposition are “inexperienced” in their respective new roles, likewise the Malaysian public too is somewhat new to the idea when it comes to dealing with regime change.
First of all, most of us in this generation are used to a situation of prolonged status quo since 1969 especially when it comes to politics.
The most dramatic political event for our generation is probably the Reformasi movement (photo) in the late 90s.
Hence, we are used to the government operating in a certain way, ministers behaving in a certain way, we are used to Lim Guan Eng or Mohamad Sabu giving fiery speeches, we are used to being suspicious or even hating some figures whom we are now depended on.
But this is not to say we have no success despite the widespread inexperience.
By the report of international bodies, not some “syiok sendiri” self-praise, we are freer, more democratic, there’s more good governance, lesser corruption, more respect for human rights, more business-friendly and in fact, by the testimony of the Institute for Economics and Peace – considered one of the top 20 global think-tanks – we are more peaceful than ever and have moved from the 30th most peaceful country in the world to 25th in 2018 and to 16th in 2019.
The idea of a new Malaysia is a learning experience for all of us.
Politicians on both sides have to humble ourselves to deal with our new roles.
Malaysians, in general, have to learn how to respond and take part in the new situation which we are all in today.
STEVEN SIM is the Deputy Youth and Sports Minister and MP for Bukit Mertajam.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.