Malaysia’s Election Eve

Power corrupts. Fifty six years of power corrupt absolutely. That is how long the ruling elite has held the reins of power in Malaysia.

What new ideas could it possibly offer which it had not thought of during its half century of uninterrupted rule?

In a country thousands of miles away, I remember the Thatcher years. I became an adult in Britain then, and watched an initially energetic government run out of steam by 1992, a mere thirteen years later. The Conservatives limped on for another five years, but change was inevitable.

Imagine if the Conservative Party had carried on for three times longer than their run of eighteen years. The governmental coalition in Malaysia, known as Barisan Nasional (National Front in Malay), has done exactly that. Is it plausible that any regime which has held authority for so long could remain uncorrupted? (This is something neighbouring Singapore has achieved, but Singapore is an exceptional country; see for example Transparency International’s 2012 League Table.)

Tomorrow, Malaysians will go to the polls. Some of us overseas have already handed in our postal votes (a right which incidentally, we were denied until a few months ago. Before then, the only Malaysians living overseas who were given postal votes were students, public servants and members of the military).

I, like many of my fellow-Malaysians, will be following the election results closely. I have no illusion over whether this 13th General Election will be free and fair. It has so far been a dirty election, and is likely to be up to the last minute. Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the Opposition Coalition, has complained of dubious voters being flown in from neighbouring countries. The Malaysian ‘Electoral Commission’, a purportedly impartial organisation, has admitted that voters have been flown in from abroad by ‘friends of the ruling regime’, but the Commission has actually defended this practice! (Such is the state of Malaysia today).

These are the desperate actions of a morally bankrupt regime. Despite all this, I am filled with anticipation, a little excitement, and plenty of apprehension too, for I know I could yet be disappointed.

The possibility of change is frightening. I have no idea what form any change in Malaysia would actually take, should it happen.

Do I trust Anwar Ibrahim? No. But he’s the best hope we have.

His Opposition Coalition includes an Islamist party, the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, commonly known as PAS. Does PAS worry me? Yes, but the incumbents, who have abused religion and race through the years as tools with which to divide Malaysians – solely to keep themselves in power – worry me even more.

Malaysians do not take easily to the streets. We are often afraid of expressing our true opinions. But the political scandals have become too numerous to list, or ignore. Let me quote just one statistic: under the current government, Malaysia became the third most corrupt country in the world as measured by illicit outflows between 2001 and 2010 (third after China and Mexico, both far larger and more populous countries).

For Malaysia, change must come, if not tomorrow, then on another day. I know that no maggot-filled regime has ever survived indefinitely in history. At some point the maggots will run out of flesh and will have to feed on themselves, or be overthrown. Unfortunately this could take decades, even centuries.

Tomorrow, whatever happens, I will take heart from the words of American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’

Malaysia, Ubah!

11 Comments

Filed under Malaysia

11 responses to “Malaysia’s Election Eve

  1. bonnie cox

    I lived for four years, from 1995 until 1999, in the beautiful country of Malaysia.
    As an American ex-pat, we lived a life of priviledge. The words this writer expresses are so true. I wish the best as these people search for the right government. The curruption must end for these intelligent people to truly and freely particpate in our world.

  2. Siu Fun Hui

    I met you briefly at the reading of your novel in March at the lunch organised by the HK Women’s Society on Women’s Day. I did try to register myself as an Overseas Voter but did not succeed. I hope this time there will be change in Malaysia, but I am not optimistic.

  3. Siu Fun Hui

    This is how Malaysia conducts its democracy and the incumbent naturally retained its grip on power. This is not the only posting I received with videos showing blatant vote buying.

    http://www.sarawakreport.org/2013/05/caught-on-camera-bns-hatchet-faced-vote-buyers/?utm_source=Sarawak+Report&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=5bf1967ae6-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_97635b3a5d-5bf1967ae6-291707845

    • Hi Siu Fun, (hope that’s your name and not Fun Hui!)

      We knew they would cheat – they had to. I watched the results live on Malaysia Kini and the race to put 112 seats to Barisan for a simple majority was quite evident. Then there were the discrepancies: whisker-thin majorities of 80 suddenly jumping up to 462, just like that! (even with 462, I would want a recount).

      But their time will come; it has to. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the video clip.

  4. Thank you for the beautiful quote at the end – I will share it with all my Russian friends… as we have such a hopelessness in this country amongst those thoughtful group of citizens and feel completely powerless. I have more hopes for Malaysia than for Russia somehow. Though you guys beat us on the illicit capital outflows – we are the 5th… very ‘impressed’. Good luck!

  5. dennis

    good that the BN suffered its worst results this year. they are fat and corrupt after years manning the country.

  6. A bit late but, better late than never. You talk about corruption. Well, if the British did not let the Chinese in the Malays would never have known how to receive bribes. So don’t complain if your Chinese philosophy of greasing palms come back to bite you on the bum.

    • I appreciate your candour. You are of course entitled to your views, just as I am entitled to disagree. Indeed, I find your views disturbing; if you want to know why, please see my latest blog-post.

    • Sheema

      noorainimydin: Such racist and ignorant views are utterly shameful and disgraceful, not to mention totally incorrect. How would you like it if someone Chinese said to you “Don’t complain if your Malay philosophy of laziness has come back to bite you on the bum”? It’s people like you, and your attitudes, that are contributing to the serious racial problems our country is experiencing now.

      Chin Yoke, as a Malay myself, I am so sorry you still have to encounter such terrible racial prejudice as this. I find it utterly disturbing too. Thanks for highlighting this in your latest blogpost, so that more of us are aware of it and can call out these kind of people on their bigotry. Please believe that not all of us are like this person.

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