Thursday, March 04, 2010

When party affiliations don’t matter, personal manifestos should

Thanks to s**t stirring MPs like Zul Noordin and “newly independent minds” like Tan Tee Beng, Datuk Seri Zahrain Hashim and Fairus Khairuddin, one can hope that the majority of Malaysian voters have been taught a lesson they won’t soon forget.

For the next time we visit the ballot box, let’s demand some well-in-advance straight answers from our running candidates because it’s evident that we can’t rely on some of them to keep their story straight (hey, some might mistake it for integrity).

It may be naive of me for even suggesting it, but it seems that far too many of our MPs don’t share the basic principles of the political parties they represent.

How else can we explain the fact that BN only needs seven more MPs to cross over to regain its two-thirds majority?

But perhaps I ask too much. What has also been made abundantly clear again earlier this week is that the entire Pakatan Rakyat coalition filled up their candidacy roster in the last general election with whatever they could muster — quality ... and in certain cases, ability and decency, be darned.

It’s obvious that for MPs like Zul Noordin, the official position and manifesto of the coalition he happens to represent do not even come into play. I can only imagine how he gleefully decided he was going to run for his own private reasons, rode the popular sentiments at the time, and duly got lucky.

I say lucky because unkind commentators have already said it: letak tunggul kayu pun boleh menang — such was the tsunami of opinion at the time of the 12th general election.

The injustice is compounded when the voting public — his voters — are screwed because we only gain insight into his position on pressing issues of the day much, much later; “after” he gets elected and decides to go all maverick on us (no, not like Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”; besides his B2 licence ride doesn’t qualify).

As disgruntled voters, we can hold out in hope that once all the s**t stirring, frog jumping and trimming of fat is done; the real lean muscle (can I call it the phat?) are the ones left over to continue for the next GE.

Moving forward from this daily unfolding debacle (soon, I hope), I believe it’s only fair that all right-minded MPs, ADUNs and would be candidates-for-office declare, in advance, their principles and personal manifestos to the voting public.

In the age of free blogging resources, Facebook and Twitter — and with 68 per cent of Malaysians using the Internet and over 90 per cent on cellular phones — this shouldn’t prove very hard. Because as voters we deserve to know, damnit.

We want to discern the wheat from the chaff, so that if and when our MPs decide to screw us later, we can turn around and call them out for the liars and chumps that they are.

So here’s a sample voter’s request for MPs and candidates: at the very least, put down clearly where you stand on the following core issues:

1. Secular separation between religion and state; or theocracy with syaria law?

2. Equality of all Malaysians regardless of ethnicity, sex and sexual orientation; or special positions for some?

3. Affirmative action for all underprivileged citizens; or selective affirmative action for a majority?

4. Opinion and stand on Bangsa Malaysia; opinion or stand on “Ketuanan Melayu”.

5. Freedom of religion, including freedom “from” religion, and what you understand by it.

6. View on detention without trial.

7. View on freedom of speech, including a free, independent media.

8. View on the Parliament, executive, judiciary and royalty.

I would argue that knowing a candidate’s stand on all of the above is infinitely more important than whether he or she is BN or PR because what is also equally evident by now is that we do not have clearly delineated teams in our political sphere.

A political coalition is only as good as its common ground and, guess what, denying BN its two-thirds majority is not a long-term common ground. Surprise, surprise — by now none of the component parties in both PR and BN has any more common ground left.

For how else can you explain Umno and PAS disagreeing on Ketuanan Melayu, yet pally pally for enacting firmer syaria laws? Or DAP, PAS and MCA sharing the same opinion on the Allah issue, or Umno in Perak forgetting its past history with the institution of royalty.

So yes, we are going to demand to know our candidate’s principles and their stance on all of those important issues — including their reasons — because, hey, voters also want to know if their candidates have actually put some modicum of thought into what they stand for (or perhaps I am asking for too novel a concept)?

Lest we forget: the people are the boss. We deserve to know whether our candidates are actually representing their party, or just there to party.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist, Zeffri Yusof.

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