Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Beyond The Rhetoric: Accusations and Bitterness Are Not The Way Forward

The dust is still settling on GE13. The post-election analysis is still underway, on all sides, those who accept the democratic verdict of the rakyat, and those who are unwilling to do so.
Yet Malaysia should be justly proud of the results of the Thirteenth General Elections. On that day, we voted and carried on with our lives as citizens of a mature democracy. Although the lead up to GE13 was partisan and divisive, we had hoped to move forward together afterward, no matter the result. Yet the aftermath is becoming worse, with accusations of bad faith on the part of the de facto leader of the opposition, and evidence of racial and class polarisation everywhere.
This should not be. There are examples before us of how to act.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who pushed through historic government and economic reforms, and who gave unprecedented attention to issues important to the Chinese community, saw a reduced majority in Parliament and a 'Chinese tsunami'. Yet from the beginning of his administration, he has made clear that he is the Prime Minister of all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion.
Even in the wake of that 'tsunami', he has consistently called for national unity, and has promised further efforts toward reconciliation.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whose relations with the Chinese community were rocky at best in the past, echoed that call. Responding to reports that MCA will not take any appointed government posts, he said, "If there are no Chinese in the government, the situation will not be good for the country because all along we believe in co-operation between the races."
Not all quarters agree. Perak's Pakatan Rakyat state assemblymen refused to attend the swearing in of Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as Menteri Besar, claiming that the election results were fraudulent. This was mere days after state Pakatan head Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin told assembled reporters, "We respect the people's decision and openly accept this defeat."
The danger of this sort of bitterness is not increased partisanship. Malaysia's democracy has matured enough that voters can see through partisan accusations and fighting.
The danger is that civil society will begin to deteriorate as accusations and counter-accusations fly. Pakatan supporters will believe that the government is not legitimate and cannot be trusted. Barisan supporters will believe that the Opposition is not legitimate, and is willing to sacrifice peace and security for power. Worse, those in the middle will become cynical about society in general.
Elections cannot be allowed to destroy the racial and religious harmony we enjoy here.
Disputes over election results should be handled in the courts, not in the streets.
We are one rakyat. Now is the time to show it.

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