Friday, May 27, 2011

The National Psyche

The key to winning an election is winning the hearts of the people. What is the key to winning the hearts of the people? It is to understand, and empathise as to what they want from their government.

Of course the DAP goes on the front that we want a government which is Competent, Accountable and Transparent or the CAT principle. This is fundamental to our campaign and it resonates strongly with the growing middle class, those with higher education, the youth and the entrepreneur. For too long, we have been putting up with a corrupt BN government and for too long we have sat by and watched as our hard earned money is poured down the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats.

Our former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Badawi is truly a great man. He was swept into office by the largest majority in the nation's history since independence, pledging to be Mr. Incorruptible and to clean up the corruption within our system. Our growth under Tun Mahatair came at a price, and it cannot be quantified to what extent the wastage and the corruption money had spread. Could it be that with the money we have spent so far, that our country could have been fully industrialised? I think we can say if we had taken all the money which had been diverted from the nation's coffers to individuals and thrown it all into nation building, Malaysia would be the leading economic power in South East Asia today.

So what made Badawi truly a great man? He opened up a can of worms by attempting to put anti-corruption measures in place and seeing a wonderful backlash as a result of this. Suddenly, everyone in the BN component parties are implicated in one scandal or another, which makes the Chua Soi Lek sex scandal look paltry in comparison to. Chua's biggest mistake was to tell the truth! We all had suspected these issues for years, and when it became clear that the corruption was so ingrained that bribery, cronism, closed tenders, under-hand dealings, scandal had all become a deep scar in the political landscape of this country. Perhaps his greatest contribution was to introduce transparent polling boxes, so that it would become more obvious if the boxes were to be stuffed. As I had mentioned, he was truly a great man, whom through we are able to wake up the people and democracy can thrive again.

The reason why the DAP is able to thrive in major commercial centres such as Kuala Lumpur, Klang, Ipoh and Penang is simply because the majority of the residents in these areas can understand and appreciate what the DAP is trying to achieve, and they all love the idea of a fair, transparent and non-corrupt government. But would one say that this is accurate in other parts of the country, especially the rural areas? What would their concerns about a government ultimately be?

We had Saudari Alice Lau tell us about her experience during the Sarawak State elections. Contesting against Sibu SUPP chairperson Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh in Bawang Assan she went into a typhoon without so much as an umbrella. The people are so poor in this area, lacking basic amenities such as electricity and running water. It was truly heart breaking to see that there are people of Sarawak, presumably one of the wealthiest states in Malaysia, have been deprived of what many would consider a basic human right.

Yet when it came to the crunch, they asked Saudari Alice what she could offer them. She said that she can represent them fairly and fight for them. Ruefully shaking their heads, they pointed to the electric fans and the net books they had received from the BN campaign, and asked the question again "The other people can give us these, so how much can you offer?" Should we really be so horrified by this? Although they don't have electricity or running water, they are still happy to receive anything and everything that they are giving. They said, in return for your vote, we shall receive RM500 for each vote we cast for them.

If it comes down to a dog fight for the better goodies, the DAP and the other PR component parties cannot compete with BN's seemingly unlimited resources. But then the principle comes down to what are the issues which plays in the minds of an aunty or uncle who sits down at the coffee shop when it comes to the government. For many, as long as they receive these three things, it's really simple what the government needs to do:

1. Security
2. Stability
3. Family

The job of the government is not to be intrusive in their daily lives. Where the system works for them, they would chose to vote to keep the system or not vote at all. As long as the government doesn't tax them too much, or raise water and electricity rates and provides decent services, there isn't much of an issue as far as they are concerned. The biggest challenge the DAP has to mount is not against BN, but against apathy. Fortunately, there are in-roads being made.

Perhaps the reason why democracy is so subdued in Malaysia as compared to the west is down to what we have been taught. Our culture is to sit down and shut up. Play the hand that you are dealt and don't dream big, because dreams get you into trouble. For so many, it is because of this doctrine that there is also the fear factor. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of change. How we can make Malaysians dream to bring our country forward is yet to be seen.

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