May reason, wisdom prevail among our leaders

Josh Hong

Hannah Yeoh, whose political naivety sometimes borders on stupidity, is one such example of why we shouldn’t always trust the judgment of our leaders. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, August 30, 2022.

THE Electoral Commission recently reminded the public not to judge people by their skin colour and not to immediately accuse people of being to “phantom voters” just because they look like migrant workers. It was referring to the allegation that 40,000 Bangladeshis had voted in the 2018 election, a claim that the EC said was never proven.

It’s a timely reminder indeed for speculations are rife that the 15th general election will be called anytime now.
Even if Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob should have the will and wherewithal to resist growing calls from Umno warlords for him to dissolve parliament in the coming days, thereby risking a party implosion, an election must still be called no later than by the third quarter of 2023.

I cannot help but think back to the last two general elections in which leaders of the opposition pact – DAP especially – worked themselves into a frenzy over allegations of phantom voters, encouraging their party members and supporters to watch out for “foreigners” attempting to vote on polling day.

On the campaign trail, at the walkabouts, kopitiam meetings, rallies, press conferences and online, they were sure to send out the message that Barisan Nasional would be getting migrant workers to vote.
This relentless “ghostbusting” resulted in many overzealous opposition supporters warning their migrant workers to not go out on the polling day or face serious consequences. That eventually led to a climate of fear and xenophobia in which foreign-looking people were either barred from voting or forced to sing Negaraku to prove their Malaysian identity before they were allowed into the voting centres.

All of the victims of harassment turned out to be true-blue Malaysians.

DAP lawmaker Ong Kian Ming and then Bersih leader Maria Chin Abdullah were to concede later that there were no signs of Bangladeshis voting in the 87 marginal seats that they had observed. Bersih went on to conduct a public hearing and drew the same conclusion.

So, are we still going to take whatever that politicians tell us at face value without fact-checking? The danger of blind faith in political parties or politicians is they can take one’s support for granted and even make one (and themselves) look foolish.

Hannah Yeoh, whose political naivety sometimes borders on stupidity, is one such example of why we shouldn’t always trust the judgment of our leaders.

Exactly a year ago, she called for Azalina Othman Said to be appointed home minister, apparently oblivious to the fact that the latter was instrumental in passing the Anti-Fake News Act in 2018, a clear attempt by the Najib Razak government to curtail free speech just before GE15.

Way back in January 2002, I personally witnessed Azaline’s nastiness during the Indera Kayangan by-election campaign, when she allowed her entourage to harass and hurl verbal abuse at opposition supporters while she watched with glee and satisfaction from her super motorcycle.

She was only a political rookie then but already had no qualms about putting on the airs and graces that characterise Umno leaders.

In recent years, she has pushed for electoral and other reforms. The fact that she was merely doing her job as a lawmaker didn’t stop some opposition leaders, scholars and groups from praising her profusely.

Now that Azalina is arguing that the PM must appoint an attorney-general from among “his own people”, and questioned the judicial integrity of the Najib Razak corruption trial, does Yeoh and others like her still consider the Umno politician to be their ally?

It’s one thing to show support for a party but one must also keep the politicians on their toes.

Only then would politicians work for our votes and endeavour to win our hearts and minds with good politices.

If they are already certain of our vote, they would not make the effort to make our lives better, but expect to win with nothing more than populist rhetoric. – August 30, 2022.

* Josh Hong is a keen watcher of domestic and international politics, who longs for the day when Malaysians master the art of self-mockery. He has spent the last 15 years trying to win his feline friends’ favour as he considers it an endeavour more worthwhile than trusting politicians, aspiring also to be a tea and coffee connoisseur.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.