Marina Mahathir, daughter of Tun Mahathir Mohammad, otherwise known as a leader in many non-governmental organizations such as the Malaysian AIDS Foundation and an active socio-political blogger, has come out to share her thoughts and views on the 13th Malaysian general election. This is coming after the post effects of the GE13 e.g. silent protests, #black505 rally.
It’s a little lengthy but it’s worth spending a few minutes poring over. Perhaps it can give Malaysians an insight on how things have turned out post GE13 through the eyes of Marina:
For the last year, everything was put on suspended animation. First, because we did not know when the election would be; then, because we did not know what would happen afterwards. Now, we know and, in many ways, it was a very Malaysian result.
We gave every party just enough; not enough to make anybody ecstatic, but enough that they can console themselves that they did partly well. It may not be good enough for the people who want all or nothing, but the one thing about democracy is its unpredictability.
Perhaps there were a few heightened characteristics in the election campaign this time.
One is the incredible amount of advertising being thrown at voters from every possible direction. You couldn’t drive anywhere without seeing banners and posters, some of which should have been taken down for obstructing the view of drivers. You couldn’t even play games online without having to first endure a political video.
In the last days of campaigning, three human traits became obvious – fear, paranoia and mistrust.
All sides used fear to create paranoia and mistrust. Unfortunately, many allowed themselves to be used by politicians in that way. It made some Malaysians turn against other Malaysians, as well as foreigners. Tolerance, understanding and respect went out the window.
This is not the future that we expected, where all humans would enjoy equal rights. Instead, we fell to making distinctions between one human and another, based on suspicion and conjecture. We should really reflect on how easily this ugly side of us came out when provoked.
No doubt, we can blame various parties for creating an atmosphere in which this was possible. But we fell for it. In the name of democracy, we became undemocratic. But this is the day after, and we have to move on. Again, do we rely on our leaders of whatever stripe to lead us in moving on, or do we do it ourselves?
As the ever-cynical writer Gore Vidal said: “Democracy is supposed to give you the feeling of choice, like Painkiller X and Painkiller Y. But they’re both just aspirin.”
I feel that we will learn from this and we will focus on the next election, where we will insist that all sides have to earn our trust and, therefore, our votes. I don’t think we will succumb to manipulation any more.
I also think that the most crucial reform needed is in the media. It truly needs to redeem itself from its outrageous behaviour during the campaign, dispensing with any semblance of objectivity or balance. We need to demand from the media an account of how much it thinks it contributes to national unity and healing. The people voted out the worst proponents of disunity and the media should take heed of that.
I would really advise the Prime Minister to stop thinking of Cabinet posts as a form of reward but, rather, as assigning tasks of huge responsibility. For that, he should not choose the same old faces. To really show that he is sincere about change, his criteria for his ministers should be talent, youth and gender, three things that were wholly absent before.
Only then will we believe this is a fresh new beginning.