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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Normalcy trumps Harapan’s emergency rhetoric

 


History tells us that authoritarianism seldom bode well for the common women, children and men. I know for sure, the Malaysian people want, and deserve more than the tyrannical authoritarian autocracy that Muhyiddin has ushered us into.

- Howard Lee on Twitter 

The opening quote by DAP leader Howard Lee is indicative of the disconnect between political operatives and the rakyat of Malaysia. Saying that the current prime minister ushered in a “tyrannical authoritarian autocracy” is the kind of ahistorical statement that is right up there with the propaganda “saving Malaysia'' that failed Pakatan Harapan so badly.

When you have a religion of the state which determines the cultural, social and economic destiny of the majority of this country, you are already in a kind of autocracy. When certain words are verboten to some Malaysians based on race and religion, this is tyrannical. When you have news organisations afraid of touching upon certain "sensitive" issues, this is authoritarian. 

But that’s not really the issue. The issue is that for the average rakyat, this emergency has not affected them in the kind of way that Harapan political operatives think it has.

Do not get me wrong, I am of the opinion that Lee is amongst the young leaders of this country who actually could be of great help in reshaping the trajectory of this country. His tweets, especially those in Malay, are interesting because what he does; unlike others, he is presenting a coherent counter-narrative which seems to trigger many of the ketuanan political operatives I know.

The emergency is playing out like just another power struggle, between the ruling political class, for the rakyat. The MCO (movement control order) for certain states has more of an impact than the emergency declaration has had.

Even with potential military boots on the streets, the rakyat have been desensitised because, during the first MCO, the military was involved. Not only were they involved, but for the most part, they carried out their duties professionally and the curve was flattened. Things went back normal until the political class decided to play their games and we got back to square one.

DAP leader Howard Lee

When political operatives say that there is no need for an emergency because there are adequate laws to handle this pandemic and the designation of an MCO serves the same purpose, this is the reason why the majority of the rakyat do not seem so concerned. 

Because they see that the only people in a practical sense affected by the emergency are political operatives. Maybe if parliamentarians donated their salaries to the rakyat during the duration of this emergency, that would dispel the negative optics of this being merely another political struggle between parties craving power.

At the moment, they have bigger issues to worry about, and for some people. especially for those who are used to operating in a feudal system after years of political and social indoctrination, a decree by the king and the non-existent difference between a lockdown and an emergency is not the galvanising force some in Harapan think it is.

I have no idea how Harapan, which claims to be an alternative to PN, is handling this emergency issue. Mind you, I think they should be concentrating on the pandemic, which I believe is a better avenue to express the failings of this government than the desperate attempts by political operatives to appeal to the king.

10 questions

Speaking of the pandemic, kudos to the DAP’s Ong Kian Ming on his 10 questions to the Health director-general. Embedded in those questions are the foundation of opposing this emergency by relying on the science of rate of transmission and the like to demonstrate that the emergency is unnecessary, but at the same time, not making the emergency the central issue, but rather the health and economy of the rakyat.

But back to the question of how Harapan is handling this emergency. Folks like to claim that this is some kind of existential threat to democracy in this country. The reality is that democracy was always hanging by a thread in this country.

Repressive laws that were supposed to be overturned when Harapan entered Putrajaya were ignored or worse because suddenly not spooking the Malays became a big issue. Or maybe Harapan understood that such laws were useful when it came to dealing with a certain segment of the rakyat.

As with the response to the pandemic, Harapan political operatives are all over the place when it comes to presenting this emergency as a threat to democracy. The waffling on joining the special consultative council is really bad optics. 

Of course, you are not going to have much power in this council. Power is not the point here. It is sitting in on the council and assessing what is being done for the rakyat by the PN government. It is being the voice of the rakyat even if it means being a small voice in a big echo chamber and attempting to influence policy - and here is the important part - relaying this to the base and the rakyat.

Meanwhile, petitioning the king which basically means that you are telling the royal institution that they were hoodwinked by the prime minister is bad optics to the crowd you claim you do not want to spook. 

The fact that not everyone in Harapan is on board with this demonstrates to the rakyat that Harapan is in disarray and this all seems like another attempt of “politicking” in the political class.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says that the government should be offering a consistent, detailed plan, but the fact is that the rakyat are suffering because state governments, which include those controlled by Harapan, are not offering them a consistent detailed plan and all they do is blame the federal government.

In my last piece, I wanted to know what the Harapan strategy was for dealing with this pandemic. This really should not be such a difficult question to answer. Some DAP political operatives emailed me news stories of what individual political operatives were doing, and while I applaud these initiatives, this is not a national strategy.

But then again, you may not need a national counter health strategy to build grassroots goodwill. I would argue that Harapan carrying out all these initiatives could gather momentum which could translate to political gains. 

The problem of course is that this narrative, instead of being compiled into a greater narrative, is subsumed beneath the emergency narrative which does Harapan no real political good.

Those MPs who petition the government to allow F&B outlets to operate beyond the 8pm restrictions are doing far more than engaging in the emergency rhetoric that is of interest to nobody except the base. 

People who are struggling remember those who helped them out and those who just tried to gain power. They do not understand or have the time for the fact that democracy is failing when they do not have enough money to put food on the table.

More of these types of strategies and publicising it to the hilt together with Harapan MPs highlighting individual struggles of ordinary people are far more effective than the emergency rhetoric they are engaging in now.

PN fears this narrative.


S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy. A retired barrister-at-law, he hopes young people will assume the mantle of leadership – if there is to be any hope for this country. - Mkini

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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