Now is a time for unity against floods, not divisive elections

NATHANIEL TAN
NATHANIEL TAN
20 Sep 2022 09:25pm
A file picture of a recent flood in Malaysia. (Photo by BERNAMA)
A file picture of a recent flood in Malaysia. (Photo by BERNAMA)
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Let’s look at two different approaches to the flooding season which has begun in Malaysia.

Rakyat: Let’s focus on really working hard together to prevent floods and help flood victims.

Politicians: Let’s focus on elections.

This insanity once again highlights the widening gap between self-centred politicians and their interests on the one hand, and the rakyat and their welfare on the other.

Umno President Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi proudly declared that Umno would wade through floods in order to win snap general elections.

I have no doubt that Zahid would do his level best to get his whole party to put himself in power, and in a position to ‘save’ himself from his various impending court cases - even to the point of sending his various underlings through severe floods.

The question is: Does this really benefit anyone besides him?

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Our colonially inherited Westminster system gives the sitting Prime Minister the rather disproportionate power of calling for elections whenever he or she likes.

As an alternative to what many see as an unfair advantage, Professor Wong Chin Huat and several other civil society organisations have been calling instead for fixed term Parliaments, which more closely resemble systems like the one in America where the date of general elections are fixed and always known in advance.

There are of course pros and cons, but the biggest advantage of this alternative is perhaps that it eliminates the massive waste of energy and resources that goes into speculating and arguing over when the general elections will be.

Our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Yaakob thus has the power to call elections during this flooding season should he so wish to. Should he?

In doing so, he will likely be the very first prime minister ever to call for elections during the flooding season.

There are very obvious, and very good reasons why no prime minister has been mad enough to do so before.

Even from a politically self interested point of view, trying to campaign during the flooding season, and going around handing out leaflets instead of flood aid will most surely only backfire against whichever party decides to call for elections.

Far and away the most important reason not to have elections during the flooding season is also far and away the most obvious one.

Given the massive damage done to property and homes, and worse yet, the loss of lives, flooding season is some of the greatest hardship that many Malaysians will ever face.

In such traumatic times, the whole of Malaysia - including the very highest leaders in government, who should be the most accountable and responsible for these matters - needs to come together and focus hard on protecting and helping our fellow Malaysians.

It’s hard to imagine any duty being more basic and fundamental than this one.

A proper response to the flooding season should take up the full attention and focus of all our leaders, especially those elected to power.

We should all be lying up awake at night thinking about what more we can do to help those affected by the floods.

The way most politicians clamouring for elections are talking, not only are they not losing any sleep because of the floods, the issue doesn’t seem to be crossing their mind at all.

Their entire radar screen seems to only be occupied by this one massive black hole that blots out and overrides any other single concern: self-preservation and self-aggrandisement.

And at no time is this single concern more prominent and overriding of everything else than during general elections - a period where most politicians are at their very most political, divisive, and toxic.

Is that the national mood we want, going into flooding season?

No leader with even the barest shred of genuine concern for the rakyat’s welfare would even for a second consider having elections at a time like this.

Given the available facts, we can only suppose that the only reason someone would even consider such madness is a fear of meeting the same fate as recently befell former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

It is understandable I suppose, the lengths one might go to avoid going to prison.

But for the rest of us, we cannot let one man’s obsessive fear of prison plunge the whole nation into the darkness of political divisiveness at a time when all our nation’s energies are needed to help people through the flood crisis - a crisis which, it must be said, could perhaps have long ago been averted had our leaders taken all the correct flood prevention measures over the years and decades.

Looking at more mercenary political calculations, it may be worth considering what Umno’s actual prospects are in these upcoming elections.

In honesty, in the wake of the Melaka and Johor state elections, I was one of those who felt that Umno was headed for a massive landslide victory in the next general elections.

That was then though, and now is now. Many have observed how quickly things change in politics.

One major development is of course Najib’s jailing. Another related one is the fallout within Umno that has occurred as a result.

Simply put, Umno is not the strong monolith it was say a few months ago.

Its internal conflicts have crippled the party’s image in the public eye, and tainted the nostalgic glory it may have been riding on previously.

Where once the sitting government looked weak in comparison, the field seems a lot more balanced now.

It occurred to me that opposition parties may see how having general elections during flooding season may incite more anger towards incumbent political parties.

Hopefully, this will not be an excuse to openly or secretly goad people into also pushing for elections now. The opposition may see it as fitting their political interests, but it is again, certainly not in the interests of the rakyat.

As the rakyat, we can only look to raise our voices in the hopes of preventing this insanity from happening.

For the love of all things good, please let us all focus our every energy on doing all that we possibly can to mitigate the severe damage that will soon be upon us. Let us come together, focus on what’s important, and alleviate the suffering of every single Malaysian affected by the floods.

NATHANIEL TAN works with Projek #BangsaMalaysia. Twitter: @NatAsasi, Email: [email protected] #BangsaMalaysia #NextGenDemocracy.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.