Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Responding to comments (II)

Written by johnleemk on 7:34:56 am Jan 15, 2007.

A new batch of commentary has come in - not as abundant as last time, but still, very interesting and worth putting up for the perusal of the public. Lee Wee Tak's assessment of Mahathir is quite similar with mine:

my verdict on TDM:-

he did develope malaysia economically but it was mainly because we had oil & timber money that exceeded the amount wasted for failed mega projects, bail-outs, forex losses.

Given the wealth from natural resources, Malaysians should have the purchasing powers of singaporeans, i.e. RM1 = SGD1.

Even a dumb ass can make Malaysia in the 1990s better than 1980's because
1) world economy was in down turn during 1980s and not sure if you remember in 1986, we actually experienced a -1% GDP decline

2) China, Vietnam and India in 1980's were still closed economy so we were THE attractive investment and tourism area. Now, they are hungry for FDI and we are doomed.

Intellectual wise, Mahathir murdered us. The education system promoted route learning, discourage or even banned free-thinking and advocation of non-conformist ideals (non-conforming the government policies)

Funny that Anwar came from the days were university students are free to demonstrate against the government and yet when he was the education minister, what he did was a no-no to all students.

Of course there was the judicial crises......the other check and balance in addition to Mr Lim & co.
Today, Malaysia is devoid of intellectual dynamism, the best of our brains are other nations' gain and we have lost the sense of knowing what is right and just, and cannot accept justified criticism.

Pretty soon, when our oil well runs dry and all FDIs goes to other country, we will see the final legacy of mahathirism and it is up to us to write the next chapter in Malaysia history.

I am not sure that there is much more to add to this. Those who are now eager to praise Mahathir for his criticism of the government would do well to recall that many of his achievements were really mean feats after all, and that many more of his accomplishments have actually been net negatives for the country.

Wee Tak also disagreed with me on the subject of the election boycott.

hi John,

I think I have to disagree with you this one coz I think opposition was right to boycott mainly

1) no chance for BN govern to spend our money on election. you know, whenever, BN do something, some crony will get $$$

Considering the possibility of independent candidates contesting, and the fact that the BN election machinery has already been geared up, I'd say that the public is by no means assured of seeing its money well spent. Still, it is a point worth considering.

2) opposition can conserve some money to fight in the GE. even if they win this one, it would not make a differenc and in fact they can hide their hands until the big match.

This is also a very good reason. This is actually a reason many parties around the world choose not to contest particular by-elections - because they feel it would not be an efficient usage of time and resources. However, it is one thing to avoid a by-election to save your energy, and another thing to claim to boycott it for ideological reasons when all you are doing is making a tactical move.

The reason I focused on the rationale of boycotting the by-election and possibly the general elections as well so as to oppose the unfree elections system here is because this is the only rationale given by the opposition for boycotting the by-election. If they had stated that it was not in their strategic or tactical interests to contest, or that they felt the odds in this particular constituency (where BN has never lost, after all) were too slim, and avoided casting their decision as a "boycott" for ideological purposes, I would have been in agreement with the decision. Party resources are a precious thing, and they should not be wasted on elections of little importance.

The problem is that this isn't the reason cited at all by the opposition for the decision not to contest. They are simply not contesting in the hopes of attracting international attention to the election system here, and also in the hopes of undermining the government's credibility - reasons without any grounding in reasonable fact, as I have already stated.

A while ago, you wrote that the opposition has no ambition to govern and offer an alternative.

Too bad. That's why they are called "opposition" and not "alternative".

How I wish we have what the yanks and the brits do - rep or demo, lab or conserve....

Well, to be fair, the tradition of referring to the opposition as the opposition is one we derived from Great Britain, which refers to the largest non-government party in Parliament as "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition". Still, the two-party system is more entrenched in these other countries than it is here. It has never been viable for the opposition to form the government, so they have entered a self-perpetuating vicious circle - because they believe they'll never form the government, their performance is slanted towards simply being the opposition, and as a result their own prophecy is self-fulfilling.

DAP knows only to pick on specific issues to criticise and what i would like to see is they actually come up with a proper manifesto and government plan and paste ont their website

We can imagine what malaysia will become under PAS by just extrapolating kelantan 10 times. I can see International Double Tax Agreements, international defense pacts amd especially commerical contracts etc can be construed as "unislamic" and just banned by PAS government.

Keadilan? I don't know what they wat to achieve now that anwar is out. Yes protest against oil price hike. Fine but so point as DAP...a complete government plan, please, so we voters can assess you.

An interesting commentary on the three leading opposition parties, and one I wholeheartedly endorse. It is good that Keadilan supports social causes, but it must be more than a run of the mill NGO.

Another writer, Sigma, also had his two sen about the decision to boycott:

Thanks for dropping by at my blog :) I agree with you on your disagreement towards the boycott strategy as well.

PAS and PKR would be making a monumental blunder if they decide to carry this strategy into the coming GE, although I really am more concerned about PKR doing that than PAS :)

In case Anwar's a bit of a political idiot, I would think that for the first time since Semangat 46, there is a sizable number of disgrunted non-PAS Malay voters now just itching to give PKR their votes. They are the former UMNO voters whom have been hurt bad by the succession of toll, electricity and petrol hikes. Irregardless of our differing stands on this (since you seem to be an advocate of minimal subsidies), PKR should and is rightly politicising this to garner support for itself. One cannot be too much of a gentlemen in the game of politics, especially if it's as dirty as Malaysia's.

In full agreement there, although as Wee Tak pointed out above, PKR needs a plan to put into action should it ever form the government to address these issues. The money for subsidies will not fall out of the sky. It is fine for NGOs to simply protest, because they rarely have the power to effect change. It is different, though, for lawmakers, who do have real power. PKR's leadership must understand this and promise to effectively use their power as MPs to bring about new plans for eradicating poverty and developing the economy, instead of just hentaming the government without providing any alternative policies.

I also think PKR should try to play on the non-Malay discontent with the events at the last UMNO AGM. This is something the DAP would easily capitalise on, and there is no reason PKR should not do the same, especially if they want to appear truly nonracial.

Anyway, these 'secular-inclined' disgrunted Malay working-class voters are the key for PKR to break UMNO's hegemony in Malaysian politics, and it should seize this opportunity with both hands (and maybe even both legs :P) now. In fact, PKR can build on this segment of voters to mould it into becoming their 'voter bulwark' for their continued political survival.

I hope they don't end up confining themselves to this base alone, however. To win power, the rural voters are often the key (thanks to beautiful gerrymandering) and PAS/UMNO have this constituency locked up. (This is actually the reason that some PKR insiders have cited for their alliance with PAS - to gain recognition and appeal amongst rural voters.)

It is very dangerous to lock in one group of voters, and then never expand beyond it. This is what happened to the DAP - they locked in the non-Malay urban dwellers, and never went beyond that. As a result, they are hamstrung by their image as an urban and non-Malay party, and as we all know, in politics perception is everything. That is why I have been so critical of the DAP - it must break out from this mold and expand its horizons.

With all this going for it, it would be ridiculously stupid for PKR to even entertain thoughts of a GE boycott right now. Thankfully DAP has stated that it doesn't want anything to do with this, and rightly so, since it's chances in capturing those urban seats, like PKR, is also exceedingly bright at the moment.


To other readers, if you have anything to chip in - even just a sentence or two - please do. Your comments are appreciated. We also have an active discussion on federalism and East Malaysia as well as a thread for general commentary on Malaysian politics, so I hope you'll consider registering and joining the fray. Right now, we the people only have two avenues for expressing our sovereignty over this country: the ballot box and the pen/mouth/keyboard. Let's use both of them to the fullest.

Update: A discussion thread has been opened at the forums for discussing the decision to boycott the by-election.

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