MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Sunday, December 31, 2023

Politicians, beware – social media is the VAR of politics


Most Malaysians support an English Premier League (EPL) team. It’s kind of a fashion, and if you don’t, you are likely to be kept out of conversations at times. But the loyalty of these supporters is something out of this world.

Once you support a club from young, it’s your team forever – even if their performances dip and they get relegated. You will earn the wrath of your friends and relatives if you decide to switch to a winning team. This level of loyalty puts many of our politicians to shame.

However, there is one thing common among politicians and footballers though. That’s the play-acting to fool referees and try to earn a free-kick or a penalty. Many politicians do the same thing on different platforms.

Both are done shamelessly most of the time. The footballers put on ridiculous expressions when playing victim on the field, even after knowingly committing a foul on their opponents.

There are times when players roll on the pitch in apparent pain after a tackle but are up on their feet soon after a penalty is awarded. And guess what, they go on to score goals from the spot kick!

However, the video assistant referee (VAR) system introduced a few years ago has put these cheating players in a spot. Despite its warts and all, the VAR has called many a player’s bluff.

In politics, social media is playing the role of VAR. A lot of what politicians have said in the past come back to bite them. The darnedest things uttered a long time ago are all being laid bare now even after a decade or more. The upside to this is that voters are becoming more discerning these days as a result.

Beating the anti-hopping law

Take the case of the four Bersatu MPs elected under the Perikatan Nasional ticket at the last election, switching their support for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim recently but choosing to remain with their party.

This act, which displays a marked lack of gratitude for the symbol that made them win, is a serious matter. In football terms, this is a red card offence deserving a sending off. And the player will be suspended and cannot play even if he switches teams.

What is shocking is that Pakatan Harapan (PH), which lost power in 2020 after some of its MPs switched sides, has thrown its principles aside and embraced them, accepting their support.

It was PH which was mainly responsible for the anti-hopping law now being sidestepped by these MPs.

For the ruling party, as with football teams, winning is all that matters, by fair means or foul. Football and politics have both morphed into zero-sum games, resulting in a massive loss of sportsmanship and a sense of gratitude.

Sports and politics play a vital role in shaping young minds, so this will only influence them to think that winning at any cost is paramount in life. We are already seeing this in Malaysian politics with the leaders putting aside principles and indulging in doublespeak to remain in power or form the government.

DAP’s deafening silence

DAP, which had often been a victim of party hopping in the past, blithely ignored this transgression and decided to keep the puck in its court, not knowing how or where to return. In the past, DAP leaders had never opted to pass any opportunity to castrate the political frogs.

But it is Bersatu secretary-general and Larut MP Hamzah Zainudin who takes the cake. He abandoned Umno after winning the Larut seat in 2018 to join Bersatu and be in the ruling Pakatan Harapan government then.

After that, Hamzah was said to be a key leader who had led the switch of several MPs in the Sheraton Move in 2020 which led to the downfall of the PH government.

Recently, to the chagrin of many, the opposition leader challenged Bukit Gantang MP Syed Abu Hussin Hafiz Syed Abdul Fasal, one of the four Bersatu MPs who switched allegiance to Anwar in Parliament, to resign from his seat.

Syed Hussin shot back curtly, saying Hamzah should have then quit both the times when he switched support, effectively putting him in his place. And in a sarcastic tone, Syed Hussin said he was merely following Hamzah’s example.

Insult a community and pay the price

Politicians should also be aware that insulting any community intentionally or otherwise, even if it’s uttered at a race-based gathering, will not go unnoticed. Such video clips will resurface during every election and tend to become viral even after a decade.

For example, Anwar’s utterance of the word “k……g” in reference to the Tamil language recently has not gone down well with the community, with many noting that his apology was conditional. The number of Indians hitting out at the prime minister has not stopped, with DAP and PKR Indian leaders scrambling to do damage control.

Believe me, these clips will be used by the opposition to the hilt at the next general election. In 2018, Dr Mahathir Mohamad had to apologise unconditionally just before the general election to pacify Indian voters.

Anwar should know better about how old video clips resurface to embarrass politicians. His promise to bring down fuel prices the day after the 2008 general election if Pakatan Rakyat (as the opposition coalition was known then) won is still doing its rounds even after 15 years. It can be quite embarrassing.

This is only one example. There are many other promises made in election manifestos like eradicating tolls, writing off study loans and reforming key government institutions that are in the political VAR system waiting to be viewed by voters. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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