AUG 28 — We know the verdict of the people in Permatang Pasir now, and no matter how you spin it, this was a tremendous victory for Pakatan Rakyat. Yet I know quite a few people wondering why, with all of Pakatan’s woes, the people of Permatang Pasir would return the Pakatan candidate with almost as big a majority as before. While I cannot pretend to speak for anyone but myself, here is why I would vote Pakatan.
People say Pakatan has no common platform. Pakatan has not yet issued a common policy document, true. But read each of the different parties’ manifestos, and try telling me they have nothing in common. All three Pakatan parties have a common economic platform, based on equality of opportunity. All three parties have committed themselves to abolishing racial politics and racist policies. Barisan Nasional has had over five decades to sort out its own race issues, and yet like clockwork, it threatens violence and bloodshed against the other races every year, at each component party’s general assembly.
Barisan still cannot tell us how it will make us truly 1 Malaysia; it cannot say how it plans to fix the horribly unjust basis on which we run our economy. Pakatan still has to deal with religion; Barisan has not yet even begun to tackle race, religion, or the economy. As far as I’m concerned, Pakatan is way ahead of Barisan in two of these key areas, and tied in the other.
In terms of people, I honestly do think — as bad a rep as Pakatan often gets here — Pakatan clearly has better folks in its ranks. Even the crazy extremists who most of us cannot stomach, such as Zulkifli Nordin, can actually converse intelligently (in more than one language!) about the policy issues close to their heart, without any prepared remarks or hesitation. There are PAS leaders who have gone to churches to meet their constituents, and DAP leaders who have gone to mosques to do the same; how many Barisan politicians have done this?
Have you ever listened to or spoken with a Barisan leader? Except for a handful, such as — surprisingly — Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Khairy Jamaluddin, most of them don’t know what the hell they are talking about. They read from prepared speeches which they obviously barely comprehend, and they cannot answer questions about basic facts which they ought to know. I honestly think Zulkifli Nordin would make a better minister than many in our present Cabinet, and that’s much less a compliment for him than it is a sad fact about the quality of our government.
Now, maybe you really believe Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will be as bad a prime minister as Datuk Seri Najib Razak or Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Maybe you really think the inflammatory rhetoric at a DAP, PAS, or PKR gathering is as bad as the discriminatory flak you find at Umno or MCA rallies and meetings. I’m not sure why you might think these things — Anwar’s track record is no worse than these other men, and if anything, it’s probably better. Likewise, if you honestly think Pakatan is radical, extreme and divided, you probably haven’t been looking too closely at Barisan. All the evidence suggests that Pakatan will govern better than Barisan.
It is absolutely true that Pakatan will not govern perfectly. But in part, these problems really can be blamed on Barisan. Establishment men and women dominate the civil service, and strict tenure rules prevent the state governments from firing them. Court cases and corruption investigations keep our representatives busy filing paperwork instead of attending to their real jobs. Virtually everything in the establishment is conspiring against Pakatan, even as we speak.
Yes, some of these problems can be blamed on Pakatan too; it could be doing a lot more to fix its divisions. A lot of time is being wasted on small-picture issues, and quite a few of Pakatan’s reps are no angels. Pakatan would likely be better off reshuffling some of their leadership, and refocusing themselves on building a common platform; its critics are right on quite a few counts.
But look at everything wrong with our country — whose fault is it? Pakatan has had a bit over a year in four or five states to start tinkering at the edges of policy — it doesn’t even have full control of the civil service because of tenure protections. Barisan has had over 50 years to govern. Like it or not, almost every major problem today is the fault of Barisan’s poor policy and poor leadership.
Pakatan is, if you ask me, indubitably more qualified to govern than Barisan. And even if it wasn’t — if it was only as qualified as Barisan (something I highly doubt) — the fact is we are in deep shit as a country. Barisan has had too many freebies over the years. It’s gotten lazy and complacent, and in spite of the wake-up call we sent on March 8, it is still wasting time instead of properly reforming itself and our institutions. If we want to put Barisan on its toes, we have no choice but to put it in the opposition benches, and to vote for Pakatan.[more]