When power is at stake, ethics take a backseat

Let’s begin with the definition of democracy.

Democracy, in modern definition, is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as parliament.

The term appeared in the 5th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in Greek city-states to mean “rule of the people”.

Democracy is often championed as a universal good; and is a way of governing in many nations. And Malaysia is one of the nations which practices the political system.

Indeed in 2018, we have seen a lot of changes in Malaysia’s political arena.

But somehow today, is democracy really changing things or has democracy changed?

In the 2018 general elections, it is not a secret that the majority of Malaysians have voted against corruption, abuse of power, cronyism and many other negative aspects of politics. The people gave a clear indication that they did not want UMNO to rule the government. Thus, it has created a win for Pakatan Harapan with the hope of a new Malaysia.

Transition of power was then made that allowed the formation of a new Government lineup. Malaysians have never felt so hopeful to this new group of Government leaders as well as backbenchers. 

But somehow towards the end of the year, there has been political changes with major announcements by party leaders and elected representatives. 

Some have announced that they are “crossing the floor”, whereby they change their allegiance against their party, also known as “jumping to another party”.

Some announced that they are quitting their party and remain as independent representatives; probably hoping to get offers or negotiating for terms to join another party.

Rumours, insider information and hearsay have been shared around, that these groups are looking forward to joining PPBM.

The Prime Minister has also mentioned that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) will accept certain former UMNO leaders.

If this happens, we can see how democracy and the decision of the people is disrespected. We have to remember that the people rejected them as the Government, and imagine them coming back as the Government again.

If Pakatan Harapan decides to accept these groups of elected representatives, what difference would they make? 

Mukhriz Mahathir stated that PPBM will conduct background checks before accepting any former UMNO members.

“If we receive information that a person’s integrity is questionable, we will reject that person’s membership application,” according to Malay Mail.

In the first place, if a politician jumps from one party to another, I wonder what integrity there is anyway.

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang also gave his ‘blessings’ to former UMNO leaders who wished to join Pakatan Harapan, and insisted that they must “atone for their sins” by admitting their mistakes. He said a failure to do so will result in those abandoning UMNO being seen as nothing more than a bunch of opportunists.

It is rather ironic though that for a group of people that has been criticized and condemned for decades can be accepted to work together in the same coalition. Can we justify that they have repented by merely words? 

With so many “crossing the floors”, it seems that the opposition bloc is getting even smaller and weaker. Who will then do the check and balance against the government? We need both a strong government as well as a strong opposition to keep public policies and decisions in check for the sake of the people.

Maybe we should question again, how has our democracy improved since the takeover of Pakatan Harapan as the government?

The local government election is another case for us to ponder when we discuss democracy. Previously, many leaders in PH have fought so aggressively to reinstate the local government elections for the past few decades.

Even in Parliament debates, the MPs then who are still the MPs now, made various statements on the issue of local government elections.

“…mencadangkan supaya pemilihan kerajaan tempatan itu dipulihkan.”
“…cadangan ini merupakan cadangan yang tidak dapat diterima oleh kerajaan dan hari ini kami masih mengalami ketiadaan undi yang ketiga. Saya harap pengkhianatan kerajaan terhadap rakyat ini dapat dihentikan dan pemulihan pilihan raya kerajaan tempatan dapat diadakan secepat yang mungkin…”

Tan Kok Wai [Cheras]
4 April 2005

“…kita haruslah beri rakyat untuk memilih Ahli Majlis Perbandaran mereka…”
“…kita dipilih oleh rakyat dan rakyat hendak pilihan raya kerajaan tempatan…”

Chong Eng [Bukit Mertajam] 
1 April 2010

“…kita lihat kepada negara-negara yang maju yang lain, yang bagaimana mereka menjalankan local council election dan kesan daripadanya…. Alasan yang kita hendak ialah pertanggungjawaban dan effectiveness dan rakyat penduduk warga bandar raya rasa dia ada hak.”

Khalid bin Abdul Samad [Shah Alam] 
1 April 2010

“…sudah tibanya masa untuk kita adakan pilihan raya pihak berkuasa tempatan (PBT). Jika ahli Majlis Kerajaan Tempatan dipilih oleh rakyat, mereka boleh selesaikan masalah tempatan lebih berkesan.”

Liew Chin Tong [Kluang]
1 Julai 2013

“…mereformasikan pilihan raya… Ini juga termasuk kembalikan pilihan raya tempatan atau local council elections…”

Maria Chin binti Abdullah [Petaling Jaya]
30 Julai 2018

When they were advocating and championing the local government elections then, the local elections was put as so important that it is one of the key issues in the general election content.

These same groups of people who have championed local elections, are in the government today; and it seems that motion to reinstate local elections is not happening anytime soon. Where are all their voices and actions? 

Although we should advocate for the opposite, maybe what we can conclude of our current democratic practice is that, “When power is at stake, ethics take a backseat”