If you cannot step up now, then step down at next polls

Health Minister Dr Adham Baba & Minister of Women and Family, Datuk Seri Rina Harun

By Francis Paul Siah

FOR those of us political observers who watch the political developments in the country closely, nothing politicians do or say should surprise us at all.

Why, even the government most of us voted for in 2018 has been hijacked and unsurprisingly, the traitors and turncoats seemed to think nonchalantly that “it’s okay, life goes on”.

There is not an inkling of shame or remorse on their part. So, what else is new?

I am not convinced that the Covid-19 pandemic will stop politicking in the country or anywhere else. At best, this unprecedented crisis will halt it momentarily or lessen its vociferousness.

Greek philosopher Aristotle rightly stated that “human beings are by nature political animals, because nature, which does nothing in vain, has equipped them with speech, which enables them to communicate”.

By Aristotle’s cue, it is unfortunate that opposing politicians today are hardly able to communicate rationally and responsibly. They indulge in politicking, paint one another in the worst possible light in order to win public support to their side.

The same is true of politicians in our midst because there is a total lack of trust and understanding. In some cases, long, deep-rooted resentment and enmity of each other tops it all.

Who is surprised that there are political enemies, not merely political opponents, among political animals? It is true that some of them are behaving like kids; they hate each other so much that they do not talk anymore. At public events, they avoid eye contact. The guilty ones know who they are.

Aristotle would probably have added today that “nature must have equipped human beings with speech in vain, at times too”.

Surely, many of us must have earnestly wanted an end to politicking during this trying time, but no, our politicians are still at it.

How often have we heard opposing lawmakers putting the blame on ministers for the non-distribution of food aid in opposition constituencies, for example?

I could see clearly that there were valid reasons to do so in most cases. Even so, why is it not possible for them to communicate by phone or via a polite letter, rather than go to the media to voice their grievances publicly?

I want to ask seriously: Are lawmakers unable to talk to one another anymore? Not even when it concerns giving food to the needy – the very people whom both sides have pledged to serve.

I believe there is a breakdown in communication somewhere down the line, probably among the aides on both sides, which caused such public tirades to take place.

Both sides are to blame

I put the blame on both sides, with their inability to communicate being the main issue. I am disgusted to learn that food aid for the poor and needy has still not been distributed, even after two weeks of the MCO. In some cases, this is happening right in the urban centres, which I find unforgivable.

Do we have to wait until we hear of people dying of starvation in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Baru or Kuching before we spring into action?

The day that we officially hear of the first Malaysian to die of starvation during this pandemic will be the day we know where we are – a miserable Third World nation when we are supposed to be a developed nation this year – 2020.

That will be a verdict on the uncaring government that we have, with a bloated cabinet of ministers living off the people and doing very little for them in return.

Few would envy the onerous tasks before Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today. I still want to believe that he wants to do his best at this precarious time – but perhaps he should also realise that his best is not enough.

Right now, Muhyiddin must direct all his ministers to step up, to cast politics aside, communicate with all as Malaysians and to concentrate on saving lives.

I have also noted that ministers have appointed special advisers and lawmakers appointing special assistants, presumably to help them in their duties. Have these “special people” been fulfilling their “special” responsibilities at a crucial time like now?

If not, what is so special about them? If not too, then we do have an issue if these so-called special advisers of ministers are also paid with taxpayers’ money?

My final plea to our politicians on both sides: This is the time to stop politicking and to get down earnestly to do your utmost for the people.

The nation and Malaysians demand the best from you at this difficult period of the coronavirus pandemic as only the best will do. We are fed up with hearing your public salvoes against one another, as if this tit-for-tat posturing will exonerate you from your failure to deliver.

If you can’t step up at this crucial time for the people, I suggest you step down at the next election.

We have seen enough of ‘passengers’ and ‘parasites’ in our august legislative chambers.

This commentary first appeared in the Malaysiakini. The views here do not necessarily reflect those of this portal.

Francis Paul Siah heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at [email protected]