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Voters not obligated to any party
Published on: Saturday, March 11, 2017

By Datuk John Lo
LOYALTY can be defined as the “quality of strong support of being loyal to someone, something or some cause” and “a strong feeling of support or allegiance”.

I want to touch on political loyalty today and what I think is entailed when it comes to our national and political lives.

At the national level, all true Malaysians, without fail, must be loyal to King and country.

Our Monarchy is the only institution that personifies our Country. Our loyalty to this institution is the same as being loyal country and it should never be in doubt.

Any feeling of disloyalty to our Agong is tantamount to being traitorous to our country.

An excellent example is the current problem we are having with North Korea.

Whatever words have been exchanged between Malaysia and North Korea, the bottom line is that NK’s Ambassador has been very rude and has exceeded far from normal diplomatic norm.

He has insulted us as a sovereign nation. Any Malaysian who wants to side North Korea in this issue is being disloyal to our King and Country.

I for one cannot condone breaches of security meaning to say selling or passing critical security or economic information to other countries, especially that can damage Malaysia’s interest as being extremely disloyal.

Loyalty pertaining to the two aforementioned examples are what I consider “absolute loyalty” that all Malaysians should be committed to render if they are true Malaysians.

Then there are other types of loyalty in regards to government and political parties.

Please allow me to put the “absolute loyalty” and this type of loyalty in perspective as a Federal Minister has asked for loyalty for the government and his political party from Malaysians and Civil Servants recently.

Similarly, a few opposition leaders have asked people to give them a chance.

In countries, including Malaysia, that practice the British parliamentary model [popularly known as the Westminster model], have some outstanding features:

[a] There are a party in government and another party in opposition.

[b] Obviously the party in government has been voted by the people with a majority of seats in Parliament.

The people have given them the mandate to govern till the next general election.

[c] The opposition serves as checks and balance, keeping an eye on the party in government.

It also acts as the alternative government. In Britain, it is often called the “Royal Opposition” for obvious reason.

[d] The parties in Government and opposition are the critical components of Parliamentary democracy.

[e] During the parliamentary term, the party in government will need to show its best ability to govern for the benefit of the people and the opposition to show where it has gone wrong and how it [the opposition] can do better than the governing party for the people.

[f] In a parliamentary democracy system, no political party can have the birthright to government for the final choice rests with the people in each general election.

[g] Every one, irrespective if he is a Tan Sri or a beggar in society, is equal before the law.

The rule of law must always prevail. No one is above the law.

As can be seen from the aforementioned logic, the people are not bound by any “absolute loyalty” to the party in government or opposition party. Of course party members are expected to show more loyalty to their respective parties than common people.

This type of loyalty can be classified as “shifting loyalty”, the quality for which are conditional on a number of things. Every citizen has an absolute right to vote for a party of his choice. There is nothing wrong to vote for a different party in each election.

A party that says a voter is disloyal if he does not give it his vote is violating the basic democratic principle of freedom of choice.

Political parties can never and should never demand loyalty from the people for it is the people who have voted them into their respective positions in government or opposition. By the same token the people can vote them out in the next general election.

There should be no compunction or compulsion for the people to give their votes to any party.

The people can vote for any party or give their votes to another party in the next general election, depending on the perception of the political parities’ performance, political philosophy and creditability.

It is therefore wrong for political parties to expect or demand gratefulness or gratitude from the people.

After all, the people have installed them and can vote them out of office in the next general election.

The people should reject a political party which demands or thinks they deserve their loyalty.

Effectively, all MPs from PM, ministers, opposition leaders have been elected to serve the nation at the pleasure of the voters.

It should be abundantly clear by now that there is no such thing as “blind loyalty” in parliamentary democracy political system.

No political party which is worth its salt will demand “blind loyalty”. No country can do well if the people give “blind loyalty” to their politicians.

“Blind loyalty” produces bad governance, corruption and selfish interest. It is a licence to breed abuse of power.

The people should never be blindly loyal to any political party.

Always vote for a political party who can best look after their interest.

The most effective way to breed and maintain “blind loyalty” is for a political party to keep the people poor, uneducated so that they can be feudal lords over them. Or a political party which promotes political hatred with religious and/or racial hegemony.

Such political tactic should never be encouraged for it can destroy the harmony and foundation of democratic society.

The most effective way to secure “blind loyalty” is to prevent the people from improving themselves so that they will continue to be dependent on the patronage of the political party and its leaders for survival.

The hallmarks of the feudal system, which has been replaced by parliamentary democracy in Britain a few hundred years ago, are:

[a] Absolute monarch or the king [or a few elite] has the birth right to final say in everything.

[b] The king [or a few elite] is the owner in everything.

[c] To assist him are elites appointed by him and serve him at his pleasure.

[d] The people are mere serfs in the absolute monarchy system.

At one time, people can be sold and bought by these elites. There should be no place for these or in any disguised forms in modern Malaysia.

How can politicians and political parties cultivate strong and steady quality loyalty in a democracy?

What should the people look for in exchange for their loyalty?

First thing first, the people should not look for leaders who are too eager to please for this can only bring temporary happiness and long term sufferings.

No one can disagree that Lee Kuan Yew has been a very tough Prime Minister of Singapore.

Relentlessly, he has extorted his citizens to work hard. His policies are anything but easy!

He is a hard worker himself, exemplary in fairness, in being corruption free and he expected no less from his ministers and civil servants. He has built up Singapore as a modern city nation, gave Singaporeans one of the highest GDP in the world and world class infrastructure.

Tough as he has been, Singaporeans love and adore him and have given him unwavering quality loyalty since independence, which is more than 50 years. He is a respected world figure.

To attract genuine long term loyal support a political party must and should have respectability, fairness in the treatment of people, creditability, a genuine love and concern for people and country.

Above all, they must be corruption free and to be seen as such. All these qualities are not quite enough as in addition, they should be able to produce policies and implement them so that the country can achieve respectable economic growth and well being for all.

Now let me touch on the relationship between politicians and civil servants.

The norm is that the civil servants are there to advise and implement the policies and decisions of the politicians.

There is no loyalty involved here. It is their profession or job to do so. If the political party comes out with policies that are not in the interest of the country, the civil servants are duty bound to give advice.

The final decision rests with the politicians in government for they are the ones who are answerable to the people during election time. The politicians must take all responsibility for their policies and decisions.

They cannot push the blame on the civil servants or claim innocence or they have been badly advised.

This is ministerial responsibility. The civil servants may have the same or different political views to the party in government.

It is their right and there is nothing wrong. However, they should never let their political feeling interfere with their job.

Other than the aforementioned the civil servants are just like ordinary people. They should give their votes to a political party of their choice. Nothing more and nothing less.

The voters’ interest is best served by assessing the political parties carefully before casting their votes.

Choose the political party that works the hardest or has the best programme that can give voters a better life in the form of good education, medical facilities, better job prospects and competitive income.

Avoid a corrupt political party.

The best form of loyalty for the voters is to ensure a political party can deliver what they want.

Not for them to serve a political party.

Voters do not owe any loyalty to any political party. The political party must prove its worth or it deserves their votes to the voters.

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