I’ll be honest. One of the things that persuaded me many years ago to vote for Pakatan Harapan is the fact that they have socialist ideas. This was the direct opposite of the then Barisan Nasional government which was clearly very capitalist.
In fact, BN’s Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad played a key role between 1981 and 2003 in leveling up Malaysia’s capitalist efforts. Now, Pakatan Harapan has finally become the government and, lo and behold, the BN Prime Minister is now the Harapan Prime Minister.
There is nothing wrong with the former PM becoming the current PM. In fact, the reason for him wanting to leave his old party and joining Harapan was quite a noble thing to do. He wanted to fight corruption and the opposition provided that platform.
In fact, many would even say that the tipping point actually happened because Mahathir joined Harapan. Sure. I have no beef with that and, I can confidently say that, neither do a lot of people. Harapan needed him to pull all the elements together anyway.
However, this is one man that has joined a big coalition of parties. So, a lot of the basics that have built the support that Harapan developed needs to stay intact. And that includes the socialist ideas that have appealed to the people like me all this while.
Attack was a little offensive
When Mahathir called on all of the Harapan leaders to let go of their socialist ideas, I felt a little offended. The prime minister said that these leaders needed to stop criticising capitalism because they are no longer the opposition.
He said “For example, some among the opposition are socialist in their outlook and regard businessmen as capitalists who should be opposed because (to them) they are a menace who oppress workers and the people.”
He reminded them that businessmen and businesses are the ones who will build the country by setting up industries, provide employment and pay taxes. So the government needs to be friendly and foster good relations with them.
Look, I don’t have any problems with that either. Capitalism is all fine and good in a democracy but it needs to have its place. So too does socialism because we need to make sure that workers and people are constantly protected and provided for.
Welfare system for education and healthcare
The first place where socialism is important is in the education sector. For many years, the Harapan politicians have gone on and on saying that education is a basic human right that the government needs to make sure that everyone has access to.
Harapan leaders have criticised the fact that under the BN government, education was expensive and not accessible to many people. There is a quota system whereby certain races are given the advantage of actually being permitted to further their education in the tertiary level.
The second sphere where socialism needs to exist is in healthcare.
Just as with education, healthcare is also considered a basic human right and this has always been stressed by the Harapan government. Many Harapan politicians have said that healthcare, just like education, again needs to be free or at least affordable and accessible to everybody.
Fortunately, healthcare is something that the BN government had also seen as necessity that needs to be provided to the people. For the most part in Malaysia, healthcare is affordable and is accessible to everybody. However in the tail end years of the BN government’s lifespan they were finding it increasingly difficult to sustain the government health care system.
BN leaders even said that they needed to devise a way where people would have to pay for healthcare or have to pay more than they used to. The reasons was that medicine was getting expensive and healthcare overall was getting expensive and they needed a way to make it sustainable because the government could no longer subsidise it.
From a government that is based on capitalism that was no surprise. But now that Harapan is the government, I expect much more. Personally I would not mind paying more in taxes if the money gets funneled to the right channels such as subsidising education and health care.
Putting the people first
Having socialist ideas does not mean that the government leaders still have an opposition mentality. What it means is that they constantly have the people in their minds and that they want to provide for them. It means having empathy which is something the previous BN government lacked.
So, my call to the Harapan leaders is that they should not forget where they came from and who their base is. Malaysians have changed and they have seen that they can make a difference. So do not think that Malaysia is the same as before. We demand better from our leaders that we ourselves have actually selected.
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