The opposition needs to buck up

The opposition needs to buck up
By Zan Azlee

I was at a recent book event promoting my books, when something dawned on me. People who were familiar with my writing (yes, there are people who follow my work – all three of individuals!) approached me and said, “Hey Zan. Now that a new government has been voted in, nobody will want to read your writings anymore!”

My writings (and my films) throughout my career as a journalist for the past 18 years have been anti-establishment and for that whole time, being anti-establishment had meant being opposed to a BN government. In fact, nobody in Malaysia had known any other government since independence.

I will be honest and say that I had no expectations that this past general election was going to be the one that would change it. I expected the margin to be reduced, but that was it. So I actually had a little soul-searching to do! My entire life objective has been turned completely upside down now that the big fight I was fighting had been won.

Jokes aside, I think this is a good opportunity for democracy to develop in Malaysia. For journalists, it should always be an anti-establishment fight in order to check and balance authority. Journalism and the media are considered the fourth estate so we should take that responsibility seriously.

I will still be anti-establishment, no matter who the government in Malaysia is. The new Pakatan Harapan government isn’t going to be perfect. They were mainly voted in because people were already so upset with the BN government. Of course, that is not to say that Harapan didn’t have a proper manifesto. But the main reason was frustration with BN.

I also think that it is very dangerous for any political party to garner too huge a majority in Parliament. BN being the example whereby they had at least two-thirds control for most of their ruling period. The constitution was changed and all kinds of laws were amended and created on a whim, some of which have been quite detrimental to the country.

So Harapan, although they did not win a two-thirds majority, still needs to be kept in check and held accountable. And now that BN is the opposition, they need to buck up. If they were not a good government, there is a high chance that they won’t be a good opposition either. They will need to change their strategy and, of course, their fight if they want to stay relevant.

If we look at BN right now, its major component parties have basically been killed off. MCA has one seat in Parliament. Let’s not even start talking about the MIC. That makes BN now mainly an Umno party. Can one race-based party really play the part of a strong opposition against a party that was voted for by every layer of society in Malaysia?

They cannot continue talking about Malay rights and its preservation if they want to oppose a government that does not talk about racial preservation anymore. In fact, the whole of Malaysia right now has almost buried that hatchet. Issues that take the limelight now are issues of national significance like corruption, the economy, education and more.

And what can Umno bring to the table when it comes to these issues? For a party that has, for decades, been using fearmongering to stay in power, they might not know what to do. The people have united to vote them out. Their divide-and-conquer method of manipulating the people isn’t going to work anymore.

It’s not like they aren’t trying, but unfortunately, it just hasn’t been good enough. Recently, the former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (who is now acting president of the opposition party) tried to make a statement against the government. He tried to highlight the issue of Harapan being inconsistent with their promises by calling them “tempe”.

Come on Zahid. You can do better than that. What you are doing is similar to primary school children in the playground calling each other names. Make an actual statement backed up with facts to show that Harapan is doing wrong. Then maybe the people will listen and maybe even the government will notice. Right now, everyone is just laughing.

Former BN minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan also tried. He criticised the government’s decision to scrap the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail because it would mean a loss of potential income – an opportunity cost – of RM209 billion. Okay, here’s something. But unfortunately, he provided no proof and it seems like the number was pulled out of thin air.

So my appeal is for the opposition to really take things seriously and get their act together. These are different times and we need a strong opposition to go against a strong government. It is an opportunity to make Malaysia rise and progress the way it should be. Do not squander this chance that the people of Malaysia have created.

I, for one, am going to continue to be anti-establishment. It doesn’t mean that I won’t sing praises where praises are due (I used to do that during the old rule as well). It’s just that I really believe we need to be critical in order to progress. It is healthy for all Malaysians, no matter how euphoric they feel right now, to always keep that little voice of dissent inside of them.

[This article was originally written for and published at]

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