Saturday, October 31, 2009

Deepening political crisis in Malaysia

I observe with great concern the deepening political crisis in Malaysia. By 'political crisis' I do not mean the constant bickering and convenient patch-ups of  factions within political parties, the hip-hopping of legislative members, in and out, or across party affiliations, nor do I mean the fluctuating fortunes of political parties at the polls, be it general or by-elections. Of these we have a plenty, of daily occurences, the staples of mass media, pundits, punters, speculators, adventurers, as well as long term investors. I do not mean the financial but the political kind.

Now I say a 'deepening' crisis. It might be legitimately asked, how do I know? Unfortunately there are measures to say perhaps I am not wrong. How I wish I am mistaken and perhaps just imagining

One measure is the extent of it. In the past, we use to have one main play occupying the centre stage. Be it one battle royal for UMNO presidency, or that of component party of ruling coalition, and perhaps on the side, one or two tid-bits on the scandals in the opposition ranks, just the usual kneedling of the 'small punks', the 'kuci rats' of an opposition. The political mood among the public then was the daily excitement and stimulant of watching a major 'cock-fight' in town, good for conversation at home, coffee shops and the office.No real contest based on serious issues, scandals, just contest between individuals and personalities, of warlords jockeying for party posts and positions.

But now, we have a more widespread and pervasive frictions and conflicts. So many and simultaneously. The press, the media and the internets have a frantic time covering them all. This is not the case of the camp fire in keeping with the nature and fun of politics. This is a general picture of conflagration, the uncontrollable situation of bush fire, fast spreading,consuming and destroying. UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan, PAS, PKR, PR, just a quick listing, and I am sure I missed out a lot. The legislative assembly in Perak, Selangor, Trengganu, Kedah... and many many more. This is like 'durian runtuh' of a different kind. A big picture of attrition and crumbling. Now all this is matched with a picture of social (not to  mention economical) deterioration. In a single newspaper page we have rape, murder, robbery, corruption, incest, sex and drug offences, not of the ordinary kind but outlandish in its blatant flouting of law and order. Two parallels running, the political and the social, conjuring the bigger picture of a country going down the drain.

There is another unmistakable measure of the depth of our political crisis. There is widespread cynicism and scepticism everywhere. There is mounting criticisms not only pertaining to abuses,scandals, wrong doings and irregularities, but those which go deeper into the legitimacy of our vital institutions themselves. The whole saga of Anwar Ibrahim from sacking, prosecution, to political meanderings, had been very damaging. Initially his politics criticised and challenged only the reputation of individual judges, but soon widened to undermining respect for the judiciary itself. In the beginning the opposition made issue of individual police abuses and indiscipline, but soon undermined the reputation and legitimacy of the police force, the instution itself. By now the police force has been so demonised that it is considered kind of heroic to have a scuffle with them, or to literally bite them!

There is now a big storm brewing on this score, this unhealthy trend of  undermining the legitimacy of vital institutions. I am referring to the politics of Perak. It started when the opposition could not and did not get to appoint its candidate as the Mentri Besar of Perak, and had to settle for a compromised candidate of its own choice. As a result, the opposition saw the ruler and the state constitution as serious stumbling blocks to its design. When hip-hoping politics backfired and caused the opposition to lose the state of Perak to BN, and opposition manoevering to win the support of the ruler in reverting its fortune failed, the opposition decided to widen its criticism beyond that of individual ruler to the instution of monarchy itself. The relevant  statements of opposition leaders over the Perak crisis bear testimony to this development.

This developing and deepening crisis is visibly demonstrated by the latest posting by RPK and the ensuing debate provoked, orchestrated perhaps, by it in the internet. While the content of RPK's posting pertain to alleged abuses or corruption, the crafting of it certainly points to casting aspersions on the monarcy itself. The effects are alreading showing in ensuing debates.

Like I say, the crisis is  spreading and deepening. From isolated and far- in- between conflicts of the past to a conflagration. From cynicism and scepticism towards individual integrity to the legitimacy of vital institutions themselves. It is no longer a case of bad people running good institutions, but simply a case of evil institutions . Damn the police, the judiciary, the rulers, damn all except...In the history of social movements this points to anarchy and revolution, when all is scrapped and history starts afresh...if you are successful that is! Otherwise it is endless cycles of anarchy and chaos.

 I am reminded of what Datuk Seri Najib, PM once said, on how extraordinary times require extraordinary solution. He said it in the limited context of ushering in Liberalisation, replacing the NEP. I think there is a dire need  now for him to widen the context and application of his precept. More than ever, I would humbly submit, these are extraordinary times indeed!

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