A spoilt vote will not bring you the change you want
I read with appreciation Hafidz Baharom’s response to my letter. I would like to state in addition that I very much enjoy his articles in support of waste incineration in Malaysia, and coincidentally, my Final Year Project is on the topic of Waste-to-Energy technology in Malaysia.
I would also like to clarify that I am male, as it seems that Hafidz and many commenters on Facebook seem to think I am female.
Hafidz writes how he finds the economic promises of both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Harapan (PH) manifestos as unfeasible and unsound. I agree with that, as in many elections, the parties involved promise the stars and the moon to their supporters, not just in Malaysia, but in the UK elections I have witnessed. I disagree with many of the points on the PH manifesto, especially the promise to abolish the GST, as on principle the need for GST is undeniable. However, this is tempered by the fact that the GST nearly drove my mother out of business. Also, I believe that economic manifestos should be focused entirely on helping people work their way up the socio-economic ladder through skills training, micro-loans for small business and technical and vocational education rather than handouts, goodies and ‘dedak’ handed down from the sky, but I digress.
Hafidz writes that PH is led by the very man who led us to our current state, the very man who set up and enforced the laws that have eroded our democracy and government, and that PPBM is a uni-racial, racist party. He says that you can’t fight racism by supporting racism to win an election. He also says that PH has turned hypocrite in order to win control of government.
Hafidz neglects to mention that Mahathir is the one championing the side that wishes to undo the draconian laws that we live under, that he is leading the coalition that wants to reform Malaysia. BN is never going to do so. PH is far from the coalition that I want to see lead this country, but I believe that we have to work with what we have, not with what we want. Also, there are no permanent friends and enemies in politics.
Hafidz has focused his entire letter on economics, but my support for PH is not for its economic platform. Rather, the reason I support PH is this:
I’m sick of being called a ‘pendatang’ despite my family living in Malaysia for five generations. I’m sick of being called a ‘Cina babi’, told to ‘balik Cina’ and being questioned of my loyalty to this nation. I was born in Malaysia and am loyal only to Malaysia, have attempted to join the Army Reserve (and was rejected on medical grounds) and whenever I visit (not ‘return’ to) China, I am constantly reminded how I’m a foreigner and don’t belong there. Now in my experience, PPBM has not said all that, it was Umno and if I have to support PPBM to defeat Umno so be it. All I want is to be treated with dignity, and this resentment and anger at our ill treatment is why we Chinese have abandoned the BN completely. If BN wants to regain our support, apologise and treat us better.
I’m sick of seeing billions of Ringgit flow into the pockets of the kleptocratic elite. The NEP, a well-intentioned policy to uplift and empower the impoverished Malays has been twisted to funnel money to only the top Umnoputra as the ordinary Malays languish in dead-end jobs and low-cost flats. The MCA is guilty of perpetrating the Port Klang Free Trade Zone scandal and the Cooperatives Scandals. The MIC carried out the Maika Telekom Shares scandal and completely abandoned its role in uplifting downtrodden and poor Indians. Add to all this the monumental scandal that is 1MDB. Hafidz mentions the unfeasibility and unsustainability of PH’s economic promises, but the bleeding of our national wealth to corruption is far more unfeasible and unsustainable.
Lastly, the BN has held back and stunted Malaysia’s enormous potential. Through the squandering of our natural resources for the benefit of the criminal few, and discriminatory and unfair policies forcing our talent to migrate overseas, our nation and our people are unable to enjoy the fruits of a Malaysia that could be. Our brain drain has reached such critical stages that Malaysians have begun to endure the indignity of being illegal immigrants in foreign nations. This constant loss of talent deeply saddens me, as one by one, my friends have left Malaysia, saying that there is no hope for this country, while those who remain desperately want to leave. (By the way, life outside of Malaysia is no bed of roses.)
To those commenters who have labelled me a ‘racist DAP member’, let me assure you that I have opposed Chinese chauvinism to the point of being called a race traitor. I have emphasised the need for Malaysian Chinese to speak Malay fluently, for the community to integrate with wider Malaysian society and for the Chinese to develop friendships and relationships outside of racial barriers. I have also argued that love of nation does not mean love for the government or political coalition that has treated us unfairly. I am not a member of any political party, as four years of engineering school in the UK leaves me little time for political activism. I also take issue with the narrow-minded focus of the DAP on Chinese issues and the chauvinism of some of the party base.
To Hafidz and the #UndiRosak campaign, I say this. You are well-educated, politically aware and well-exposed. You know of the malaise affecting this country and the need for change, and your vote will be particularly important in this election. However, I say again that spoiling your vote is only going to empower the status quo, as in the unfair and unequal playing field of Malaysian politics, where gerrymandering, cheating and fraud rule the day, every vote not for PH will reduce the potential for change, especially in marginal constituencies, as every single vote counts. If you want a new Malaysia, BN’s continued hold on power will dash your dreams, as a BN victory will only worsen the rot. A new Malaysia will only arise when PHs victory ushers in a two-party system, and when we reach a higher stage of political maturity can we begin to unravel the toxic identity-politics that define Malaysian politics. You can’t fight racism with racism you say, but the promise of a new Malaysia is far better than what BN can give.
You have many issues with PH’s manifesto, but after their victory, saddled with the responsibilities of power and governance, you can lobby for a far more reasonable and sustainable economic platform, as well as social and political reforms, but bear in mind that a BN victory will make any of this impossible.
To the good BN supporters, I know that many of you believe in a better Malaysia. I know that you must be disgusted by the scandals that surround your government. I know that you think you can change the system from within, but the leaders of your coalition are too self-serving, too rotten, too beholden to the status quo to ever change. If you want to save BN, you must vote against it, so that you can reinvent your coalition just like how the Kuomintang, Indian National Congress and the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party did when they lost power.
And if PH starts to rot from within and turns to the dark side while in power, you can vote them out, this time, in a free and fair election. For now, please hold your noses and vote for PH.
Chew Jian Li is an FMT reader
#UndiRosak is about sending a message, not about ‘change’
By Hafidz Baharom
I thank Chew Jian Li for clarifying his gender in his letter, “A spoilt vote will not bring you the change you want”.
I remained neutral in my letter to his earlier reply, to keep from giving offence by using the wrong pronouns. I am honoured that he has read up my pieces on waste-to-energy technology in Malaysia, which I still support.
I am sorry to hear about your mother’s business, but yes, I still back the GST rather than the SST.
That being said, I wonder whether Chew thinks only one side is offering “dedak” or animal feed – an offensive word coined by Dr Mahathir Mohamed himself to describe direct transfers of welfare by this government which was done in lieu of granting blanket subsidies in the form of the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M).
For those unfamiliar, BR1M is similar to the implementation of Bolsa Familia in Brazil.
Now, the problem with Pakatan Harapan in this instance, after calling it bribery (as labelled by Azmin Ali in December 2016), after Mahathir called it dedak (June 2016), is that it decided to continue the programme.
That hypocrisy is self-evident. So, if we disbelieve in giving dedak and bribery as these two labelled it, and they themselves have U-turned from this decision as per their manifesto, do you actually believe they have changed?
Let us not forget, Mahathir was a fellow who wanted to remove Ambiga Sreenivasan’s citizenship over Bersih (Feb 2013), which led to DAP leader S Ramakrishnan calling to revoke his citizenship over “Project IC” (Feb 2013).
There are a million and one contradictions to Mahathir that are somehow being whitewashed right now – the latest one is him denying even owning The Loaf which just shut down, as if we couldn’t just access the Companies Commission and show him lying.
This is the biggest problem with our former prime minister – he lies too much. From saying he “never abused the ISA”, to saying, “he wants to continue tolls” and then backtracking in the PH manifesto, to only apologising for using a certain word due to backlash and fear of losing the Malaysian Indian vote.
While Chew is correct that I’ve omitted mentioning Mahathir, it’s because I don’t see him as the saviour Chew does.
After all, Chew forgets the multiple failed projects of Mahathir such as the Plaza Rakyat, the Bank Negara Forex loss, Perwaja Steel, BMF Holdings which even Lim Kit Siang wrote a book against it and is now mum about it, independent power producers (IPP) with jacked up prices, MISC, the Bakun Dam project and many more.
Plus, I do believe Chew forgets that PKFZ was done during Mahathir’s time. It started in 2002.
Of course, for PH altogether, there’s also backtracking on free education and yet offering “free EPL” and the lack of funding a shadow cabinet, but let’s not go there.
For sure I’m unhappy with Barisan Nasional as well, but while you are focused on the racial and the loss of billions, along with the rape of the environment for natural resources, mine is again on the economic side.
For example – I’m none too keen about microcredit schemes, nor am I keen on having RM500 million allocated to fund Integrated Building Systems (IBS) when we already have such factories in place.
At the same time, yes, I’m critical of giving money to Felda settlers in the form of a RM7,500 grant for every hectare for replanting – which happens in 20-year cycles, and settlers should have focused on saving for that. What happened there?
Now, Chew, allow me to correct one misinformed belief of yours. #UndiRosak won’t just be an issue with PH, but also an issue for BN as well. The only difference is PH supporters are more vocal on social media – yet many do not understand this.
Consider the following – just recently Wangsa Maju Umno rallied against the seat landing in MCA’s hands. What do you think would happen if this continues? Surely, the BN people might not vote for their own candidate by boycotting the election altogether or doing what we advocate in spoiling their votes.
Thus, those of us keen to spoil our votes will keep saying this – our votes will favour nobody, not PAS, not BN, not PH. They will have to win without our votes and rely on the other voters. If they fail to even convince other people to vote for them, that is their problem, not ours.
This is our right in democracy and if Chew believes we need political maturity in this nation, then this will either drag all political parties to do so, or they can disregard it and continue to watch the growing disinterest among voters in continuing elections.
And let us be frank, everyday Malaysians are at the mercy of political parties in which we have no direct say who should be the candidates in state assembly, in Parliament or even as prime minister – the way it works in Malaysia is that these are all in the hands of political parties.
Thus, if political parties want to continue being little fiefdoms of keeping the same old, same old leaders who have lost general elections time and time again, that is their right – our rights as voters is to just not vote for them or spoil our votes to make them change within themselves.
Finally, I would like to just clarify with Chew one final point – #UndiRosak is not about change, it’s about sending a message.
We voters are sick of the hypocrisy of all sides of the political divide. We are sick of the easiness of all sides to just turn the cheek in order to try and win the election. We are sick of old fossils dominating politics while the young and talented leaders are denied their chance to lead.
If the only “change” that PH can market is letting a constantly lying 93-year-old former prime minister to take centre stage rather than their own leaders who have toiled for 20 years denouncing him, then they don’t deserve my vote.
As for wanting their victory, I stand by my statement on a certain “Live” video – I can wait another five to 10 years until they fix themselves up.
I will reconsider my vote when they grow up in 2023, but for this year, I believe many more will spoil their votes out of the disappointment with both sides unable to cater to our needs and wants thoroughly, either by economic policies or even structural reformation.
Hafidz Baharom is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.