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should vary his 70th birthday wish – that Sarawak leads the
nation in setting the pace for the growing-up of democracy in Malaysia so
that we can fulfill our destiny as a first-world developed nation
I visited Kuching, Bintulu, Bintanggor and Sibu and the deepest impression that I will carry away from the Sarawak state general election is that Malaysia has still a very long way to go to grow up as a democracy. We probably rank the world’s No. 1 in talking the language of wanting “world-class development” but occupy the last places among countries with “world-class development” ambitions in having “world-class” mentality, mindset and culture among its government and leadership.
Without “world-class” mentality, mindset and culture, there can be no sustainable “world-class development” and I fully agree with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who lamented that the greatest Malaysian malaise is “First-World Infrastructure, Third-World Mentality”!
This is painfully illustrated by the current Sarawak state general election theme set by the Barisan Nasional, whether an opposition is needed, whether the opposition should be totally wiped out in the Sarawak state assembly and whether the Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud should be rewarded for his 25-year tenure with a special 70th birthday present on Sunday – a “clean sweep” for the Sarawak Barisan Nasional tomorrow with only a one-party Sarawak State Assembly.
In first-world developed countries like the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, France, Switzerland, Canada, Australia – which we aspire to join in 14 years time under Vision 2020 – if the leader of the ruling party seeking re-election of his government asks the electorate in the general election to give him a special birthday present of a one-party legislature with a total “knock-out” of all opposition candidates, he would be regarded as a pseudo democrat, a threat to democracy, a joker if not a “crazy”! Such request for a special birthday present with the total wiping out of the opposition would have ensured his rejection and defeat in the polls!
But in Sarawak and Malaysia, such a request is regarded as perfectly legitimate and normal – which shows how “abnormal’ is the Malaysian democracy as such a mindset is more akin to some African countries where the Opposition is regarded as inherently disloyal, anti-national and destructive and deserves to be discriminated and persecuted as distinct from “first-world developed” countries where the Opposition are given full respect by the government-of-the-day.
At least, former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad spoke the truth when he recently said:
“I’m against one-party government.”
“There should be an opposition because they are there to remind us that we are making mistakes or that we need to study things much more deeply. But if there is no opposition, you’ll think that whatever you do is right and it may be very, very wrong.”
“I believed that we need to have an opposition. That is the essence of democracy.”
“I congratulate them. But this I say after I’ve stepped down from being prime minister. Of course, as prime minister, I would not say anything nice about them, but I think they serve a useful purpose, so let’s put up with the opposition.”
The Prime Minister has issued a message to the people of Sarawak who go to the polls tomorrow, saying that the State should be maintained as the “bedrock” in the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
What is significant is that Abdullah did not ask for zero opposition in the Sarawak State Assembly for the state to continue as the “bedrock” in the BN coalition. In fact, Sarawak will continue to be the “bedrock” in the BN coalition even with a two-thirds Assembly majority, which is a rarity in fully-developed nations where legislatures have strong, vibrant and effective Opposition representation. The Sarawak BN can afford to lose not just one, half a dozen, but even one dozen seats as it would still have a very comfortable two-thirds Assembly majority!
If Taib Mahmud gets his 70th birthday gift of a “clean sweep” in the polls tomorrow, with the Opposition totally wiped out in the Assembly, we are not seeing the maintenance of the state as the “bedrock” of the BN coalition but the creation of an “Alcatraz” (maximum security prison) locking up the waves of democracy reaching out to the whole country to usher in democratization, accountability, transparency and good goverenance but also tying the hands of Abdullah from fulfilling his reform pledge and programme when he became the sixth Prime Minister in 2003.
As a 70th birthday wish asking for an Alcatraz of democracy in Sarawak with a one-party Assembly by completely wiping out the opposition is unworthy of a committed democrat, Taib Mahmud should publicly vary his birthday wish to one where Sarawak can lead Malaysia by setting the pace in the growing up of the democratic process so that Malaysians can fulfill their destiny as a first-world developed nation.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP
Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission