The contest for Sibu has been decided in favour of the DAP prevailing over the BN.The response of the BN leaders as represented by the PM and the DPM was that of acceptance and self-introspection. Both the PM and the DPM in their capacity as Barisan's leaders had instructed the coalition to undertake a study of its defeat and probable causes, amid insinuation that the wrong choice of candidate could be an important factor, while criticisms are also levelled at the 'racial' and 'seditious' campaigning of the DAP.There is mounting unhappiness on the Malay ground against alleged communalism or even racism in the voting pattern at the by-election.
In its postmortem of the Sibu defeat, the BN would have to be very objective in identifying the problems for what they are. Self-denial and ideological blinkers should be set aside. A wrong diagnosis could set them astray in terms of strategising for future by-elections or even the next General Election.The distortive effects of self-denial and apology could obscure even the most glaring and obvious problems staring right in the eyes.The way politicians delude themselves sometimes remind me of a most instructive parable by Jalaluddin Rumi,the great Muslim mystic.
This is the story of the oil trader who had a parrot in his shop,where he stored many rare,exquisite and expensive oil. One day a stray cat wandered into the shop and broke many jars of very fine and valuable oil. On seeing the calamity, the oil trader was furious and besides himself.Thinking that the parrot was responsible, the oil trader gave the parrot such a pounding that it shed its feathers and became bald.One day a bald man came to the shop looking for some fine oil.On seeing the bald man, the parrot could not contain its curiousity. The parrot asked the man emphatically, 'pray tell me whose oil did you spill?'
Some statements by BN leaders in relation to the BN defeat in Sibu would impair the effectiveness of their proposed by-election postmortem.Take for instance how they had formulated the inquiry.The discussion seemed to have been framed whether the by-election was decided on 'local' or ' national' issues.It would appear to many objective observers and analists that we cannot dichotomise electoral issues in contemporary Malaysia in those terms.What seems to be more accurate is that both the national and local issues have had their impact on the poll.The nature of politic is more complex than a simple 'local' versus 'national'category. For instance the 'Allah' controversy raised by the DAP would be more correctly defined as a national issue albeit with local manifestation and dimension.The same thing goes for the hotly debated issue of national type Chinese schools.The many issues concerning development would similary reflect the concern of Malaysians at the national level.In addition to these, we have the whole gamut of issues like corruption,inaptitude in leadership, and of course that of pluralism, multiracialism and nation building.
And yet I have heard it said several times that the Sibu by-election was mainly decided by 'local' issues and not 'national', and therefore does not reflect on the PM's leadership or other national leaders.In my opinion such a stance is indeed a serious error, and a dangerous one for the BN. While it is erroneous in the sense of sidestepping and trivialising the issues in Sibu, it would appear to be contradictory too. While the BN's leadership seems eager to define the decisive issues in Sibu as 'local politics',it also faulted the DAP for bringing 'national' or 'national style' issues to Sibu.So in the BN perspective, what is the case in Sibu, , 'national' or ' local'? The view that the Sibu by-election was determined mainly by local politics is also contradicted by the DPM's statement that there is similarity or common pattern between the Sibu outcome with 'urban politics' or 'politik bandar' elsewhere in Malaysia.
Responding like Jalaluddin Rumi's parrot, confusing between cause and effect,seeing only form but not essence, would certainly cloud BN's understanding of its threats and challenges,and consequentially its political calculations and strategies.I hope the Barisan's study on the Sibu outcome would yield clear diagnosis, and hence more effective strategies for the future.