The Change that Changed DAP

Change in the dictionary generally means “the process or end result of becoming different.

When people talks about change, we are always hoping to change for the better. That is what Malaysians were hoping for in the governance of the nation. We wanted a more transparent, effective, progressive and a better government.

It was that hope for a change that has mobilized probably a historic voter turnout in the 2013 general elections.

It was the ‘Ubah’ spirit that DAP has instilled in many people; that has urged our family, friends, neighbours and colleagues to come out and vote.

There were many first-time voters; there were many who drove back to their hometowns to vote; and there were also many who flew back to Malaysia to fulfill their responsibilities as voters. All for the hope of change.

The word ‘change’ in government can be very subjective and have different interpretations. Change can possibly mean a change of leaders. It can also mean a change of different political party governing the nation. Or it means a change of new, progressive ways of governing the nation irrespective of who wins the elections.

Recent happenings on several issues has incited doubts in how people perceived ‘change’ as campaigned by the DAP.

There were cases where DAP’s actions contradicts with what they have fought for in the Parliament.
One of the obvious contradictions can be seen when we compare the Malaysia Stadium Corporation Act which was passed in 2010 in the Parliament and the Penang Stadium and Open Area Enactment that was passed in the State Assembly last May. Both the act and the enactment are pretty much similar which is to further improve the management of sports facilities with the exception of a few sections. The main difference though is that one is a federal law, and the other is a state law.

When the Malaysia Stadium Corporation Act was tabled in the Parliament in 2010, the then DAP Seremban MP, John Fernandez questioned the absolute power of the Minister in appointing the Chairman of the Stadium Corporation; but in Penang, the Chief Minister is the Chairman of the Penang Stadium and Open Area Corporation himself.

In the same Parliament motion, YB Ngeh Koo Ham of DAP objected for the section of the “protection from legal actions” in the Malaysia Stadium Corporation Act; but in Penang, the DAP-led state Government passes a similar law with the section that includes protection from personal liability.
There was so much irony on what they have campaigned for ‘change’, but they were practicing the same thing that they have objected for in the Federal Government.

There is probably one change in the enactment though is that the DAP-led State Government added an “Open Area” as the responsibility of the corporation, which would mean the Chairman who is also the Chief Minister having even more power towards the lands of Penang despite there are already controversies in regards to land matters.

There were also many occasions where we see how the DAP objected when it was the act of the Barisan Nasional, but was considered noble when it is the act of the DAP.

Freedom of Information and speech was one of the agendas when the DAP campaigned in the election. They have also boasted their action when they passed the Freedom of Information (FOI) Enactment in Penang. Today, it seems that the FOI has become a tool to hide documents rather than opening it up. Gerakan has applied to gain access to over 20 documents but we never gain access to any one of it.

The Federal Government was accused of selling the nation to China when huge investments were brought into the country; but when the Penang Government applied for loan from China, it was claimed that it was for the best interest of the state.

The DAP was so against the UMNO that they have vowed not to award the state projects to companies owned by UMNO members. Few weeks back, Zarul Ahmad, the chairman of Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd which was awarded to build an undersea tunnel and three major roads in Penang admitted that he is an UMNO member.

There are other ironies, such as the open tender in state government projects, the public car park charges, restoring local government elections, cleaner, greener and many others.

It is not about the right or wrong regarding the decisions on the said issues; but it is a matter of the meaning of ‘change’ is perceived by the DAP.

Yes, there is indeed change, the DAP changed.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 30th June 2017.

Throw the bad apples, but keep the good ones.

Youth, or the millennial that are born from the 1980s to the 2000s makes up about 7.2 million of the Malaysian population. In terms of voting rights, they would have made a growing political power with such numbers of people in the nation.

Unfortunately, despite of that, there are still over 4 million Malaysians that have yet to register as voters.

We could have blamed the political system that does not allow automatic registration of Malaysians as voters. But if we were to look at the numbers, it is quite obvious that many weren’t even interested in the voting process, let alone participating in the governance process. Registration of voters is not automatic in our nation yet, but it is not as difficult as we could imagine as well.

Of course, there are also a huge number of youth who are concerned and cared for our country, if we look at the number of people who participated in various demonstrations, and how people shared and commented on social media. There can be arguments on what was shared on social media is true or not; but the amount of discussion in the digital world shows that they care.

When I met up with youth from various backgrounds in these recent years, there are many that have extensive knowledge about politics and governance. But I also find a troubling trend in the general knowledge about the government in a certain group of youth.

I met with people who have a hard time differentiating between a local, state and federal government; let alone which aspects those each of the government controls.

I met with people who have a hard time differentiating between a State Assemblyman and a Member of Parliament; let alone their roles and responsibilities.

I met with people who have a hard time differentiating between one political party from another; let alone what ideologies that they advocate for.

It really makes me think of how sure they were in making decisions during the elections.

As the millennial voters mature, and some might have voted their third election as young adults, which is the age where young people would start their transition to become consistent voters; they must understand the different levels of governments, the roles of elected representatives and the ideologies that they stand for. And not voting merely because we dislike the other party for their weaknesses.

Only then, we can elect an effective government and also opposition, no matter who wins in the respective constituencies.

We, the young voters must learn how to be pragmatic for the sake of the nation’s betterment, and not be a political pawn.

We must not be fooled by the promises of stars and moon, which is usually not practical in achieving it.

Just look at how DAP has played politics all along. In the early 1990s, they were desperately going against PAS and their Islamist agenda as though they were sworn enemies.

Then in the 1998, DAP formed the Barisan Alternatif coalition which includes PAS but left the coalition after the September 11 attacks realising that they were losing supports to the fear of an Islamic state.

In 2008, they came back to join with PAS again to form the Pakatan Rakyat together with the PKR and subsequently they manage to create a setback to the BN during the elections.

Today, they drew a clear line with PAS again after the RUU 355 issue and formed another new coalition without PAS, the Pakatan Harapan.

If we look at the period of the DAP-PAS separation and cooperation; it is usually around the general elections. It is rather obvious that the actions were made for the sake of winning votes in the elections.

Remember how the DAP played the issue of probably using the PAS logo to contest in the 2013 elections?
And how they convinced the non-Muslim voters to vote for PAS?

Now the great Lim Kit Siang can hold Tun Dr Mahathir’s hand and formed a coalition after bashing each other for almost half a century.

Are we going to put more hopes in a political party that changes its stand from time to time and keeps focusing on their opponents’ weaknesses; all for the sake of winning elections?

They have governed the state of Penang for nine years now. We have seen double standard practices, promises unkept, and it seems that only a group of political elites and corporates are benefitting from the policies of Penang.

Barisan Nasional may not be perfect, and they have bad apples in it as well. But are we going to forsake good apples in the party? No matter which political party it may be, throw out the bad apples and keep the good apples. Then we shall not be afraid of whoever wins the election and forms the government.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 16th June 2017.

Race and religion shouldn’t be used as a tool to gain political power

After finish reading former Deputy Minister Tun Musa Hitam’s book ‘Frankly Speaking’, it creates more curiosity upon me to search more about him. I happen to found some interesting interviews on the internet particularly on liberalism and religion.

While being a religious person, Tun Musa is generally liberal when it comes to governance, which I think many Malaysians should be more practical about it.

Tun Musa does not hold back when it comes to hitting out at politicians who incite racial and religious tension. He states bluntly that only “bankrupt politicians” use race and religion to gain political mileage and in trying to get political support. I believe that he is referring that politicians who do not have anything else to campaign will result to using racial and religious agenda.

Although the former deputy PM has resigned for about three decades now, the trend of using race and religion for political mileage still exists in our community.

From the top of the leadership where we see leaders championing for the rights of certain race and religion. And to the normal rakyat where we see the people have stereotypes or certain perceptions towards the people of other races or religion.

The recent Deepavali commercial by Petronas is a reminder on how the general public perceived our Malaysian Indians as someone who steals or robs.

Racialism is such a useful weapon to any politician who cares to use it, that anything can be interpreted in racialist ‘gain or loss’ terms. One can use any number of examples in the everyday activities of the community and interpret those as racially discriminatory.

As much as I respect the faith of others, I believe that there should be a clear line between religion and government. Without a doubt, religion plays an important role in maintaining and promoting good and effective government. Many problems that we face today can only be solved perhaps, spiritually such as violence, racism, hatred, social issues.

Despite that we should have a clear line between religion and governance, both are interdependent with each other in order to have a prosperous nation.

All great religions offer spiritual guidance in understanding this life and the purpose of our existence. These conceptual ideas can be used to revitalise societies generally by providing ethical frameworks.

As a Buddhist, I never thought that Buddhism should be integrated in law or government, technically. But the universal values and teachings should be brought into any government, such as honesty, not harming living things, and many more. I believe these are also the teachings of many religions.

Civility in society is achieved when the majority of people do what is moral because they believe they should, not because they are compelled by law or the authorities.

Government oversees the conduct of its citizens. It tries to get them to behave in a decent and moral way. Religion, on the other hand, tries to get them to desire to behave in a decent and moral way.

However, as Tun Musa has said, “Too many politicians want to become religious leaders and too many religious leaders want to be politicians.”

During campaigning or political speeches, many politicians adds in religious words or quoted religious sentences to make them sound more religiously intellectual, and hence, to put them in a ‘higher status’ to a certain extent. That is when the politicians are out of constructive points of material progress and development to talk about.

“I have been seeing a very strange phenomena where many, in order to project an image of religiousness, start learning quotations from the Quran and making themselves sound to be very learned. Whereas they only learn these few sentences in order to impress people.” – Tun Musa

And many religious leaders tried to endorse certain politicians or political party in their sermons or preaching. Yes, religious leaders have their rights to their opinions of who they would like to support, but their political opinions should only be voiced in unofficial discourses. Religious leaders are respected and influential people, in which they should not use their influence on wide and vague topic such as politics. They have to guide the people on the teachings of universal values such as honesty and good leadership; and let the people decide on who are the better leaders.

Good government need not take sides. It should allow all religions to foster by itself. Its representatives must be free to believe and practice according to their own conscience. And good religion should neither endorse nor oppose any political party or politician. Its believers must be free and even encouraged to participate in the political progress and to support whichever party or politician they think best.

Let us be clear and not confused with how religion and politics should be mixed up with each other. Religion shouldn’t be used as a tool to gain political power.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 4th November 2016.