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When it’s better to just say you’re from North Borneo
Published on: Sunday, July 16, 2017

By Datuk Dr Johan Arriffin
THE recent Economist article entitled “Opposition in a sorry state if it needs Dr M” points to some glaring weakness on the opposition front.

Unable to find any credible young leader, opposition depends on an old war horse like Dr Mahathir Mohamad, but this may be a godsend, according to the respected magazine.

On July 10, Dr M turned 92, and Jahabar Sadiq of Malaysian Insight in his posting said, “Love him, hate him, despise him, Malaysia’s longest serving Prime Minister continues to carve out space in public and political life.

I grew up in Dr M’s era of 1981 to 2003 and was proud to be a Malaysian. Whenever, I go overseas, I am proud to say I am from Malaysia. The people I met praised our Petronas Twin towers, the Sepang Formula 1 tracks, and our recalcitrant PM. Foreigners respected our country then.

Today, it’s safer to say that you are from North Borneo, the land of the head hunters.

The exotic name of North Borneo conjures romanticism and awe and it’s easier to deal with.

Otherwise you will spend your time explaining what happened to MH 370, corruption and scandals in 1MDB, curtails on freedom of speech, Pas and extreme Islam and so on. Sadly, owning up that you are a Malaysian nowadays will probably spoil your holidays.

Talking to Malaysians from all walks of life, many would like to see a change for the better.

The reason is obvious and it needs no explanation. It seems as years gone by, the situation in Malaysia has gone from bad to worse. We are more racially polarised than ever before, the gap between the rich and poor is getting even wider, corruption is rampant, social ills are increasing among our youth, and religion which is supposed to be personal is exploited for votes.

Sad to say, we have more gloom and doom stories than feel good stories in our daily narrative. Many would agree that the BN government during Dr M’s time, have brought the nation to greater heights.

We were on track to become a developed nation by 2020 and respected by other nations as a modern and progressive Muslim country albeit ISA, Anwar Ibrahim case, BMN Forex losses, the bleeding of MAS, Perwaja Steel, etc.

Today, the Petronas Twin Towers seems shorter, Formula 1 has done its last victory lap around Sepang Circuit, Malaysia Airlines seems to be getting from bad to worse, Universities and Hospitals are facing budget cuts year after year, our Ringgit does not buy much in our neighbouring countries as before and 1MDB is the topic in every kedai kopi. Vision 2020 has now become TN50 and the goalpost seems to be moving all the time to fit the political agenda. I don’t want to be a pessimist, but there’s nothing much to look forward to unless we make the change.

It’s difficult for people to favour a government riddled with controversy such as 1MDB, Felda FGV, and in bed with PAS whose only objective is to introduce Hudud laws in the country. Citizens cringe and snigger ‘Malaysia Boleh’ when USA Department of Justice DOJ announced 1MDB as the biggest kleptocracy case they have ever handled to-date, and when MACC stated that Sabah Waterworks RM 114 million graft case seizure as the biggest in their history. We seem to create so many record breaking events that deserves to be included as new categories in the Guinness book of records.

These issues are only the tip of the iceberg and are hurting the BN Government badly.

When you have been in power for so long, you become complacent and untidy; and with the entrenched money culture, it’s difficult to make the change.

On the opposition side, are they ready to challenge BN? Going by what is written in mass media and internet chatter, is no straight answer. The opposition is in disarray and facing leadership struggles and back peddling on major issues. They have not been able to present a united front and platform for the people to have confidence in them.

The critical part of their cooperation is whether they can agree on the seats allocation.

In the current situation of open disagreement, they will only succeed in giving BN government another 5 years on a silver platter. The Economist says one might expect the 1MDB scandal to propel PH into power at the coming election, but, no, the opposition looks likely to lose ground. It may even hand back to Umno and its allies the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution.

It’s not plain sailing for BN either. The IMDB saga continues to dog them. Singapore prosecutors stated 1MDB as the main victim and Jho Low as the main benefactor. Despite vehement denial by Federal Ministers from Sabah, Rahman Dahlan and Salleh Said Keruak, Singapore investigations into 1MDB related activities has so far seen five people convicted, four of whom were jailed. People who follow the new reports can only say, you can deny all you want but the fact remains that the investigation and conviction of bankers in your closest neighbour country and around the world point to massive wrongdoing. You don’t really need a high IQ to understand that.

Umno love affair with PAS is now complicated with Kelantan Assembly passing an amended Syariah Bill which provides for public caning. PAS is a political party which loves to implement archaic punishment and is not interested in promoting true Islam.

People are wondering if Umno would continue to support the proposed marriage of PAS in view of these new developments. Imagine people being caned publicly in KK town Padang after Friday prayers in full view of the public and tourists. We can say goodbye to our tourism industry and our economy

With the combination of 1MDB, Felda FGV impacting the rural Malays and PAS Hudud antics, it’s a little wonder that the next election won’t be easy for both the opposition and BN. It remains to be seen whether BN can reinvent themselves and shake the dirt off its back.

In GE 14, the youths can make the difference. In 2013, youths made up 43pc of Malaysia’s total population.

There were 2.6 million first-time voters in GE13 in 2013, making up roughly a fifth of Malaysia’s 13.3 million eligible voters. Talking to our youth, many of them are tired of the examples that they see in the current leadership and will certainly look elsewhere other than BN. They are well informed in this era of connectivity and are not afraid to criticize the leadership for their failures in looking after the people’s needs.

If the opposition wants to improve their chances they should put aside their ego and arrogance and bring in new young professional as candidates. Fielding recycled candidates with overweight baggage is a non-starter.

Whoever wins the next election, we pray that they will restore the nation’s pride so that we can be proud to call ourselves Malaysian once again and usher Malaysia to a new era of clean and efficient government.

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