Taken From Malaysiakini.com
By Mariam Mokhtar
As they say, politicians are like nappies – they should be changed often and for the same reasons. Yesterday, the people of Sibu made history when they elected DAP and rejected BN.
Days earlier, at Rejang Park, the prime minister convinced me that BN does not have the interests of the people of Sibu at heart.
1. He said: “I don’t have to come here…..to Rejang Park……This is not the place for a prime minister to come.”
2. He insulted the intelligence of the people by making deals in exchange for public service.
3. He lowered the tone of his speech by saying “Bull Shine”. Is vulgar slang accepted speech by a prime minister? Without the involvement of money politics, DAP’s majority could easily have been in the thousands rather than just 398 votes.
Nevertheless, this win has caused a tiny seismic shift in the Malaysian political landscape. Once again, politics has become interesting and dare I say it, fun too? DAP’s victory is well-deserved but it must be under no illusion, for if the electoral dice had fallen differently, politics in Sarawak and Malaysia would have been business as usual.
Was there one single factor for the swing away from BN? Or was it a combination of factors? There was more money available last week than at any single time over the past 47 years. Was it divine intervention, in retribution for the PM’s fleeting visit to the Tua Pek Kong temple?
During this campaign, only a person with a heart of stone would not have been troubled by the poverty that sits uncomfortably beside the wealth in Sarawak. The state is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Why then is a sizeable portion of its people living in shanty towns devoid of running water and electricity?
My single defining reason to tick the box for DAP, had I been a voter, would have been Najib Abdul Razak’s speech at Rejang Park.
Who could forget that ’speech’? Some people have called it ‘You help me, I help you’ talk. Those present witnessed the display of arrogance of condescension; how he talked down to people; and disgracefully made the public gesture of money in exchange for votes.
He showed us how NOT to demean people and thus get the backs up of those whom we wish to help us. Surprisingly, Najib overlooked how the Internet beamed his unflattering comments worldwide.
Najib also showed the political elite how NOT to treat the electorate or to make empty promises. To a lesser extent, it revealed how his spin doctors, who stage-managed his campaigns, failed to register the suffering of the Sibu people.
The PM joked about solving the flooding, saying: “Can we have deal or not? Can we have an understanding or not? You help me, I help you. It is quite simple.”
I recall how a policeman once stopped me for apparently going through a red light, even though I had not. He also used similar phrases like, “We got deal or not? We have understanding, yes? I can help you. Easy-lah.” These phrases sound very familiar don’t they?
Needs long neglected
Najib told the crowd he would have a cheque ready to help solve the flooding, only if Robert Lau Jr was elected. He wasn’t aware of the actual cost for the flood defences, but guessed it to be RM3 million.
He insulted the intelligence of the crowd by believing they could be easily seduced. Equally, Lau’s credibility was given little value. If he (Lau) had any pride, he would have been angered that his selection as candidate was not because of integrity, hard work and public service, but only because Najib was feeling generous.
Sibu’s flooding problem is not new and it is impossible to imagine there were never discussions about this at cabinet meetings – RM 3 million or even RM5 million is a fraction of the total cost. The whole scenario is reminiscent of an auction with shouts of ‘lelong! lelong!’. Have we stooped as low as this?
Then came the shock declaration: “’I don’t have to come here…..to Rejang Park……This is not the place for a prime minister to come.” I am sorry, Mr Prime Minister but your statements have done you and BN untold damage. What sort of place is suitable for a PM then? We are sorry if Rejang Park is not as luxurious or exclusive as Belgravia in London or the White House, which you visited last month, in Washington DC.
Rejang Park is often flooded, but it is still home to thousands. They live, work and play here. And for the past 47 years, the government has neglected to serve them.
When the PM told us about the security concerns of his visit, he said: “My security boys say there are back alleys…..”
Yes. Sibu is infamous for its gangs. Civil law and order is included in the long list of Sibu’s problems. If the PM was advised to stay away, then it speaks volumes about the law and governance of the place.
People will recall how when Princess Diana died, the British premier – then Tony Blair – captured the mood of the nation’s grief and called her the “People’s Princess”.
When Najib amused us with his visits to the Sibu pasar, the people thought he was “really friendly”. He used the term “People’s Prime Minister”. I am sorry, but three trips to Sibu’s pasar does not make him the “People’s Prime Minister”. If only it were that simple.
He then said that his government would “fight for the people”. So, why does it hold the people to ransom? Sibu’s problems include flooding, lack of basic infrastructure, land issues, poverty and economic malaise. Offers of help should not come with a proviso. That is not responsible government. That only creates mistrust in an already maligned political system.
The PM claimed that “people come first” and “people really matter”. However, these ideals are not addressed in Sibu. Withholding peoples’ rights does not win the battle for hearts and minds.
The repeated use of “I never fail to deliver my promises…we honour our commitment” throughout the speech has the same stupefying effect as someone saying, ‘I never tell a lie’ or ‘Honestly speaking’. The opposite effect is achieved.
Body language relays important signals. The regularity with which the PM wiped his mouth with his handkerchief during the speech is disturbing. What is his subconscious trying to wipe off his lips?
Now that the electorate has shown BN the door, what lies ahead for the people of Sibu? Will Najib’s compassion shine through? Will he solve the flooding and other problems in a calculated move to win back the trust of Sarawakians for the upcoming state elections? Or will he punish Sibu and cancel the cheques for the schools and leave the people to drown their sorrows, in the floods that wreck their lives?
If he does that, the state elections and GE-13 would create another massive tidal bore, just like the ones the Sungei Rejang – and now Sibu – is famous for.
You See you believe
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real–speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.