Cool heads needed amid heightened political temperature

AFTER a prolonged period of political uncertainties, the dust has finally settled with the appointment of Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the country’s ninth Prime Minister.

While there is relief that the Government could finally get back to the business of governing amid a worsening COVID-19 pandemic, many are also upset that the Prime Minister’s post has gone back to Umno.

To them, it’s an affront to the sacred principle of democracy where the electorate voted Pakatan Harapan (PH) into power during the 2018 general election. Rightfully, as the argument goes, PH should have been given a chance to return to Putrajaya.

As far as the public is concerned, Umno and its offshoots like Bersatu, as well as those in Barisan Nasional like MCA and MIC are corrupt and incompetent. On the other hand, their perception of parties like the DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Amanah are “clean” and “honest”.

Therein lies the problem: our propensity to pigeonhole parties and their leaders with broad strokes can lead to the kind of morass that stifles the development of a vibrant and robust political ecosystem that this country badly needs.

Just because we are angry with certain leaders and parties for their corrupt ways or tendency to race-bait, we tend to tar all their colleagues with the same brush. And in our fit of anger, we zealously embrace the political opponents of those we deemed as corrupt or racist.

Such stereotyping is counterproductive. It blinds us to the underlying goodness or deceit which are present in varying degrees in the political parties and their leaders. The truth is that not all PH leaders are angels and neither are all from Perikatan Nasional corrupt to the core, on top of being racists.

Even in the short 22 months PH was in power, there were already reports of abuses that mirror those perpetrated by Barisan Nasional, although not at the scale BN had gained notoriety for.

Neither are PH leaders the paragon of professionalism. In fact, some had during their short stint in Putrajaya, made the nation the butt of jokes with their gaffes and policy missteps.

In Penang where the DAP and its allies have ruled for 13 years, the state government has been riddled with allegations of corruption and misdeeds of the kind that has cast a long shadow over that of their BN counterparts.

Our job as voters is to assess politicians and their parties in a calm, collected manner, free of emotional conditioning. If we were to get carried away by sentiments, or become clouded by our preconceived notions, we risk giving a blank cheque to those in power to do as they please.

We also unfairly deny promising politicians the opportunity to climb up the political ladder and serve the country.

As the countdown to the next general election gets underway, it is time we wise up to the antics that politicians usually resort to in attempts to pull a wool over our eyes. It is time we assess politicians based on their deeds and not just their words. – Sept 6, 2021


Dominic Tham is a FocusM editorial contributor.

The views expressed here of solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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