Pakatan’s true colours begin to show
Even as the Barisan Nasional is seen climbing down from perceived arrogance to embrace humility, the Pakatan Rakyat coalition has begun to show its insolence, contrary to its message in the run-up to the last general election.
IT took five decades of uninterrupted rule for the Barisan Nasional to develop a sense of invincibility that saw it punished in 2008.
But just two years in power, the Pakatan Rakyat – especially its members DAP and PKR – showed its insolence by trying to scuttle the national-level Chinese New Year celebrations in the second-biggest new village in the country last week.
Pakatan leaders in the state government tried to disrupt celebrations by taking down banners and forced the Barisan to change the venue from Pandamaran by giving various thinly disguised excuses.
These were tactics the Barisan had previously been accused of employing against its opponents, but such moves are no longer seen as smart and are considered petty and an abuse of public power, especially with the changed political landscape of the country.
In the end, the celebration was a resounding success, going by the 40,000-odd people that crowded Jalan Chang Ah Choon, the venue of the event.
Political sources said this was probably the biggest turnout of Chinese for a government-organised function since the March 8 tsunami that saw the majority of Chinese voters siding with the Pakatan.
However, the size of the crowd doesn’t really mean much this days and Barisan leaders agree but say it is a beginning.
“It rained, but the people stayed,” one Barisan leader said, taking heart in that fact.
He explained that the passage of time between March 8 and now was beginning to heal the wounds of the Chinese community, which is angry over its perceived unequal treatment.
“They are beginning to see things in perspective,” he said. “We have to convince them we can do better.”
While one political coalition with a long history behind it is climbing down to humility from perceived arrogance, its rival Pakatan which espoused humility during its climb to power is showing political arrogance and beginning to misuse public power to tarnish and derail its political opponents.
Hardcore Pakatan supporters would approve of these tactics but ordinary Malaysians are in deep fatigue and are averse to Pakatan-style of heavy politicking.
The trappings of power is visible among many Pakatan leaders, the DAP included.
They used to dress in the humble white shirt but today go about smartly dressed in expensive shirts and ties and with an entourage constantly around them.
One of the reasons why the Barisan was punished in 2008 was because it was deemed arrogant in words and deeds — from the famous keris waving incident to temple demolition and liberal use of the pendatang word.
Today, the Barisan Nasional is making amends for its past mistakes.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is actively courting alienated minorities constantly travelling the country meeting people from all ethnic, religious and social groups.
He knows it is a do-or-die battle for the Barisan, whose members, except for Umno and east Malaysian parties, fared poorly in the last polls.
Some of them have yet to recover from the severe beating they received at the polls and remain trapped in their own narrow leadership tussles leaving Najib to carry the extra burden of reviving the fortunes of the Barisan.
The very fact that the Najib and the Barisan leadership went down to hold a mass gathering in a Chinese new village and among ordinary people shows how important is the battle for the people’s hearts and minds.
Najib’s 1Malaysia message in Pandamaran, as elsewhere, was the same – “Yes we made mistakes, we were wrong. But give us a chance, we have learnt our lessons.”
Najib has also been swift to punish his own officers who fail his 1Malaysia mission.
While Najib is gaining political mileage with his people-centred, humanistic policies, there is a need to move beyond sloganeering and public relations to make tangible differences in people’s lives, especially alienated communities, irrespective of race or religion.
The Chinese community is not asking for the sky – just simple, plain fair play, egalitarian policies that treat its culture and language with respect and decorum.
Recognise and respect its contributions to nation building and where possible, leave it alone to manage its own affairs.
Beyond sloganeering and rhetoric ,there is a need for tangible changes that make real differences in the lives of ordinary people.
The younger generation – the generation that really matters – wants to see changes in government policies, institutions and the delivery system, especially a commitment to fairly share national resources with all citizens. - Comment by BARADAN KUPPUSAMY/The Star