Thursday, September 24, 2009

If our politicians are working only for their own interests, it is because we do not make them work for ours!

Dear Readers,

Hope you all had happy and meaningful Hari Raya holidays, because now it's time to get back to the work we must all do: bringing change to our country, beginning with ourselves.

Raja Petra wrote an excellent article, "Me serve the rakyat? Nah!", published on Malaysia Today yesterday. While I can't vouch for the factuality of the specifics RPK reported as going on behind the scene of Pakatan Rakyat Selangor, on the whole it seems plausible to me. However, what struck me the most were these words (bold emphasis mine):
It is therefore not difficult to understand why there is so much chaos in Pakatan Rakyat Selangor. Not only are PKR, DAP and PAS trying to outmanoeuvre each other. Internally, within PKR, DAP and PAS, there are many factions and each is trying to kill off the other.

We have inter-party and we have intra-party wars going on. And it is all because no one is interested in bringing changes or to serve the rakyat. They are only interested in seeking power because politicians naturally lust for power.

So we, the people, need to keep them in check. If power goes to their heads they will very quickly forget that it was the people who put them there. They will forget that they are supposed to work for the rakyat. They will become just like Barisan Nasional in thinking that the rakyat are the slaves while they are the masters.

Never trust politicians. They will use us when it best suits them. Then they will turn on us and betray the trust we gave them. And that is why the need for some of us to remain as political activists and not become politicians. This is so that we can whack the politicians when they forget themselves, which will be as soon as they win the election and form the new government.

Please read the entire article here. I feel that RPK has put it in the best way possible: if we elect a particular set of politicians, and expect that they will automatically do what is right and good for our country because (we hope) that they are good people, then we are in for a big disappointment. While I believe that there are individual politicians who are principled, the prevailing political culture and system, compounded by we Malaysians' apparent apathy to values and good governance, make it difficult for them to make their voices heard over the shrill cacophony of self-interest. As Franklin D. Roosevelt told A. Philip Randolph, who had just given FDR an earful on what direction America should be taking (my bold emphasis):
"I agree with everything that you've said, including my capacity to be able to right many of these wrongs and to use my power and the bully pulpit. ... But I would ask one thing of you, Mr. Randolph, and that is go out and make me do it."
If we want our government and politicians to listen to us, and act to promote our interests and aspirations, we have to make them do it. We have to have press freedom so that what they do behind closed doors is exposed in the open. We need to tell them what we want, keep track of their promises, and hold them accountable when they don't deliver. We need to fight for what is right whenever it is right, not just when it suits us or ours. We need to unite our voices so that when we speak, they sit up and listen. We cannot do this as long as we identify ourselves by our race and religion, as Umno/BN wants us to.

Our end goal must be to establish a new political culture in Malaysia: one where the rakyat's interests come first, and one where only principled leaders have a chance of being elected to office.

I believe that the Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia initiative is an excellent platform from which to make our politicians work for us instead of the other way around. Please read their charter here, read the SABM powerpoint presentation here and see Haris Ibrahim's speech here.

Whatever we want Malaysia to be, it's not going to happen if we just watch from the sidelines. It's time to get involved, people! ARE YOU, YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS REGISTERED VOTERS?

Malaysian Heart

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