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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Poll Position: Wishlist and a Mandate

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Earlier this month, Walski put up a poll to ask you folks to pick 3 things you wanted to see happen in 2008. What Walski didn't tell you was that the list put up was part of Walski's personal wishlist - a mandate, if you would, for the next government, whenever that's going to be formed. Indications are, however, that the whenever will be sooner, rather than later.

The results of the poll, based on the 92 of you who responded (equating to 276 responses, 3 per respondent), are shown below, in descending order of preference.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe majority want a shift in how the NEP is structured

What most of you wanted for this year, was that the NEP be realigned towards absolute needs, and no longer be race-based. And in terms of a mandate for the BN government, this is something almost impossible to hope for.

We live in a time where an entire generation of Malays has grown up on the NEP crutch, and see it as a privilege belonging to the right race, rather than something meant to help those who most need it. And UMNO, who claims to speak on behalf of the entire Malay population, will never allow the NEP to be adjusted to fit any other need, other than their own, of course.

"Wait long long" as the Hokkien speakers will probably tell you...

And a long, long time is probably what we'll have to endure, being that Pak Lah has flat out said that BN needs more time. But if each BN government is going to exhibit the same ineffectivenes - okay, incompetence - as the current one... that long time may just be an eternity.

The sad thing is, though, is that Walski fears most Malaysians are going to be gullibly sweet-talked - again - into giving BN the mandate they don't deserve.
(more wishlist analysis, in the full post)

If it's any consolation, however, and if this poll really reflects how most Malaysians feel, then there is some consolation. Like Walski, most of you are tired of BN being able to bulldoze whatever the fuck they want through Parliament. And as such, most of you chose BN being denied ⅔ majority in the coming General Election (with a sizeable response for BN not getting ANY majority). If this reflects the true feelings of the Malaysian public, then Walski's sweet-talk prediction is wrong - and in this instance, he'd be more than glad to be wrong.

For far too long, the ⅔ majority in Parliament essentially meant that what BN wants, BN gets. Regardless of how strong vocally the Opposition, due to the sheer lack of numbers, what BN wants, BN gets - especially when the BN creed in Parliament is "party first, screw the people". There are, of course, exceptions, but these conscienable MP's are sooner or later ostracized by their political masters for not toeing the line.

One of the things that becomes a major barrier to good governance is, of course, corruption - at all levels. And when it comes to this bane, 42.4% of the responses wanted the PM to be held personally accountable for the success (or lack of ) in eradicating corruption. Again, the current PM may have stated that eradication of corruption is high on his list of priorities. To date, it would seem that this important factor is only high on his lip-service puchlist.

Walski won't elaborate on the rest of the results, which pretty much speak for themselves. It's heartening to know that every single thing on the wishlist resonated, to some extent, with all respondents. Including, of course, the one about less governmental interference in our personal lives. Particularly when it comes to faith.

Unfortunately, there is no indication as to the demographics of the respondents. From reading through the Malay language media and blogs, Walski gets the impression that some Malay/Muslims actually want more stringent controls over their personal lives, and the lives of other Malay/Muslims. And that the intrusive behavior of the religious bureaucracy is simply not intrusive enough. Walski doesn't honestly know if this is prevalent throughout the Malay/Muslim community or not, but he's certainly seen a lot of opinions to indicate that this is what they want.

Of course, these sentiments are the ones being capitalized by political parties like PAS and UMNO in their battle for the Malay mindshare. The ongoing one-upsmanship (the my Islam is more Islamic than your Islam kind of thing) seems to have no end in sight - the latest assault being the exclusivity of certain Arabic words, which have been deemed only useable by Muslims.

What many people don't seem to realize is that any erosion of rights and liberties, once decreed by those in religious authority, are usually irreversible. Lose it, and you lose it forever. Which means, given enough rope, we'll see ourselves sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand of conservatism, without any hope of resurfacing.

But mindset is something that's difficult to change, and change is seen, particularly by those whose mindset needs to be altered, as dangerous. What The Malaysian recently reported - a statement by the US Ambassador to Malaysia, James Keith - is a case in point. The Ambassador, commenting on the not-so-smooth FTA discussions, had this to say, among other things:

The world is changing and anyone who just wants to preserve what one has is facing a dilemma because if one doesn’t change with the times, then in time, one won’t even be able to keep what one already has,” he said.

“That’s the problem with Malaysia. These are tough political decisions and they won’t get any easier, as the neighborhood is getting more competitive. That’s the hard reality, and Malaysia has to face it.“

The option is not to stop the world from changing, it’ll keep going whether Malaysia does or not.

(source The Edge Daily, via The Malaysian)

Walski was in Vietnam in May 2007, and compared to the previous time he was there (seven years earlier in 2000), the pace of development has been scaryingly staggering. At the rate they're going, and at the rate Malaysia isn't, it will just be a matter of time before they leapfrog us in terms of economic prowess. As Vietnam scurries down the road of liberalization, it would seem like we're going the other direction.

As long as BN remains the self-serving entity that they've evolved to become, things are not going to change. And if they change, it won't be for the better. Liberalization, from the BN perspective, will mean having to concede the tight control they have (via the Government) over the people. It will mean that the Government has to be more transparent, which is another are BN (particularly UMNO) will have great difficulty accepting. Liberalization will also mean making tough political decisions, which may not necessarily be popular ones, but are beneficial to the people.

Is BN capable of taking Malaysia into the second decade of the 21st century, to fulfill this wishlist that Walski's put up? One that at least 92 Malaysians identify with... Or is it time to try something new?

Like the Einstein quote Walski likes to use to death: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Change is drastically needed, and sorely needed now. And perhaps it will take a little less of BN and more of the opposition to elicit that change...