Yesterday, I was riding in a Grab car heading to an appointment in the morning when the driver, an elderly Malay gentleman, started a conversation with me. Typical of any Grab or taxi driver, the topic of conversation that he chose to talk about was politics.
Coincidentally, the day was May 9, the exact one-year anniversary of Pakatan Harapan taking over the government from BN. The gentleman asked me what I thought about the performance of Harapan so far, compared to the old administration.
I decided to entertain and indulge him because I could see that the conversation, if proven to be interesting, could actually lead to me having something to write about for my column here at Malaysiakini.
Anyway, judging by the tone of the gentleman’s voice, he seemed a little bit frustrated with the Harapan government. To be honest, I think many people are getting frustrated with the Harapan government. Many feel that they are moving too slow in fulfilling their manifesto promises.
I understand that it will definitely take a while to fix entrenched systems that have been in place for over six decades. For the most part, a majority of Malaysians understand that too. But if the government is going to fall back on this excuse every single time they are criticised, well, that’s not fair either.
Yes, there have been improvements, but there have been disappointments too. That’s just something everyone has to live with because nobody is perfect. And what we constantly need now is the push from external parties to ensure the government doesn’t get complacent or dismissive.
The press need to play their role and the rakyat need to play their role too in calling out the government. These two parties are doing okay so far. Well, the press could be a little bit less sensationalist and be more substantial in their coverage. But it’s still not too bad.
What we are lacking now is a strong and intelligent opposition, and this was exactly the conversation the Grab driver and I had. We both agreed that any democracy would not be an efficient and strong one without the most important check and balance element, that is the opposition.
And right now, the opposition is a weak one that does not seem able to grasp the real issues affecting the country. They are only loud when it comes to issues that relate to racial and religious sentiments, and even then, the focus is towards the Malays and Muslims.
The fight of the opposition now seems to be only the fight of Umno and PAS. We see their leaders constantly harping on the fact that Malay rights aren’t protected and the sanctity of Islam is being threatened. They even organise demonstrations.
However, their effort echoes their old methods of governing, which is to create fear through a divide-and-conquer method where it is more of an ‘us against them’ rhetoric. It is more exclusive than it is inclusive, and this is something that does not resonate with a lot of the rakyat today. Basically, their fight is now irrelevant.
What the opposition needs to do is to get on with the times. Race-based politics is now in the past. The real issues at hand now would be more holistic issues that can affect every layer of society instead of just one particular group. These issues include corruption, the economy, education, and human rights.
I have yet to hear any opposition members raise issues that relate to strengthening the fight against corruption. If they ever touch on corruption, they would just be whining about how their members are now being investigated for corruption because they are apparently ‘politically’ targeted.
I have also yet to hear any strong argument from the opposition on the economy and infrastructure. If they do raise this issue, it is mainly just to nitpick on how slow the government is at repairing and improving policies and practices that, ironically, were put in place when they were in the government (ie: issues relating to Felda, Tabung Haji, East Coast Rail Link, et cetera).
Neither have I heard the opposition put up any fuss about education, aside from harping on insignificant issues that would even be considered stale such as the black shoes issue. Have they raised any concerns about the actual education system and issues surrounding teaching and knowledge sharing?
Yes, they did oppose the racial quota regarding matriculation programme admissions. But even then, the effort was small and only made by a quieter segment of the opposition instead of them as a whole. Why? Well, it is most probably because it is to the advantage of a particular racial group – the Malays.
Ironically, this is a system that the previous government put in place to protect themselves, and now, the Harapan government can’t do much about it because if they removed it totally, it would be too much for the rakyat to handle. So they have to slowly wean the rakyat off it.
So after one year of our new government being in power, the most concerning issue is that we need the opposition to buck up and revamp themselves if they want to play the role that they are suppose to play. They need to organise themselves and listen to the people instead of listening to their own members who are just self-serving.
It goes without saying that a strong opposition is needed, because how else would you monitor and keep the government in check? No matter who the government is, they still should not be allowed to do whatever they want. It needs to be done because of the people. A strong opposition helps to ensure that.
For a country to progress and move forward, everyone needs to play a role. The government needs to play their role well and we definitely need the opposition to step up and play a better role instead of half-assedly trying to serve their own individual interests only.
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