What a flurry in government giving we are seeing these days! Bonuses, dividends, loans, grants and scholarships and now doled out like candy by UMNO, MCA and the like to the masses and their constituents. Acting more like NGOs or charities, the Barisan Nasional component parties have engaged on a charm offensive by handing out our money back to us, and trying to discredit the Opposition.
It really got going when our Prime Minister announced that the government is handing out half month Hari Raya bonuses for all civil servants, which would cost in excess of RM1 billion to taxpayers, despite reduced subsidies and mounting budget deficits.
When austerity is the name of the game, does not look particularly good when billions are handed out at the drop of a hat. Furthermore, the announcement that the first Volkswagen cars to be produced in Malaysia would be out of Pekan, the Prime Minister's constituency, it certainly looks like an attempt to protect his interests.
The second big announcement was from the Finance Ministry, with their intention to provide assistance to urban poor earning below RM3,000 a month while keeping mum on how exactly this fund is going to be distributed and how they are going to afford the assistance, when subsidies are going to be reduced left, right and centre for the fact that they say they cannot afford it! Is this rational or is it just to pander to a certain section of society to buy them over?
On the political scene, Barisan Nasional is pulling out the stops through the Main Stream Media to give the impression that they are making substantive gains throughout the country. A report appearing on The Malaysian Insider mentioned that BN is confident of taking back Penang, a Malaysiakini report had UMNO Kedah saying that the people were tired of the PAS government, and an independent report from the Mederka Centre saying that rural folk would be more likely to vote for BN than otherwise.
The issues do not stop there. The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to review Electoral law is now seen as mere lip service to the Rakyat as our Prime Minister saw it fit to declare that the timing of Elections was the UMNO/BN government's prerogative. This is irrespective of whether reforms can be made on time. Obviously, when Najib Razak tells us not to question his sincerity to pursue, we can do nothing but.
Nazri is probably the best known Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in the history of the office, who is not helping his own public perception by completely dismissing the views of Opposition parties in the PSC as only the minority view, which therefore means that they are in the wrong. Hardly fair and equitable for the de facto Law Minister.
The continuing trial on Anwar Ibrahim once again places the opposition leader in the spotlight, and obviously BN are taking every opportunity to discredit him as a potential future Prime Minister. However, by now they should realise that the further they try to prolong this charade and mockery of both the justice system as well as intelligence, Anwar's popularity is now on the rise as once again he has become the victim of the system, rather than his own merits.
With BN machinery in overdrive across the country, the signs are actually ominous for UMNO/BN. They know that they are likely going to lose Terengganu, Perak and Negri Sembilan to Pakatan Raykat. They know that their chances of winning back Penang, Kedah, Selangor and Kelatan are slim to impossible. They know that there is now a considerable body of opinion which would swing several seats in Sabah and Sarawak. There has also been no let up in the grassroots work from Pakatan Rakyat component parties.
This is no reason at all for Pakatan Rakyat to celebrate though. In fact, PR component parties must work harder for the greater good of the Rakyat, so that they are able to genuinely earn their votes, rather than throw goodies at them. The "Lu Tolong Gua, Gua Tolong Lu" campaigns no longer works as proven in Sibu.
308 was a significant milestone in the history of our nation. The major difference going into GE-13 is that the youth have woken up, we have the highest number of registered voters in history, there is more information available than ever, and our daily conversations are awash with politics. The fact that people are now actually being outspoken about political issues is a big step forward from the days when we just kept quiet.
Despite fears of foreigners allegedly being given citizenships and swearing to vote for BN, gerrymandering, phantom voters, if the Rakyat indeed rises up in the polls to oust UMNO/BN from office, this would herald a time of change and healing when our nation finally throws off the shackles, and the power to decide our own fate is indeed returned to the people.