Malaysia At The Crossroads : The 15th General Elections

The 15th general elections are not due until 2023 but for all its worth, it would not at all be surprising if the 15th general elections were to be held very soon and ‘very soon’ means either late 2021 or within the first half of 2022. Of course, the status of the Covid-19 situation and the success of the vaccination program permitting.

Truth be told, should the general elections be held earlier than scheduled, it will not be totally down to the way the current Perikatan Nasional (PN) government of Tan Sri Mahiaddin Yassin (or previously officially known as Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin) managed, or some would be inclined to say ‘mismanaged’, Malaysia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic that unfolded in Malaysia.

Whether the response was competently managed or otherwise, total blame should not laid at the doorstep of the PN government. Despite being constantly harassed by its former political allies with cries of ‘backdoor government’, PN’s introduction as the government of the day was quite smooth sailing, truth be told. It made all the right moves and made all the right noises, as the gathering dark clouds of the Covid-19 pandemic gave PN their golden opportunity to show their mettle as the government of the day. 

But as governments all over the world were to discover, and I would even include the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) in that exalted circle, the Covid-19 pandemic is not your everyday run-of-the-mill virus that comes and goes with the seasons. Instead, it came to stay and stay it did, to devastating effects at different countries and at different times.

The last time a pandemic came a-calling, it was 1918. The Spanish Flu as it was known then, ravaged and savaged about 500 million people worldwide. Equivalent to about a third of the world population, the Spanish Flu claimed the lives of between 20-50 million people. 

This time around, the pandemic is called Covid-19 and despite the many questions being asked with regards to the origins of the virus, what is certain is that there was no definitive cure for the virus. Whatever vaccine that was being developed in a hurry in the laboratories of Big and Small Pharma all over, it was still decidedly a long way to go before any vaccine could be approved and rolled-out, if the normal procedure were to be observed.

Hence, as many governments discovered to their collective dismay, they were basically helpless in the face of the pandemic’s onslaught.  

Malaysia was no different. From a well coordinated initial response to the pandemic, the ensuing response to the developing saga of Covid-19 can best be described as a frustrating mixture of the competent, the incompetent, the inept and the hapless. So much so that the PN government attracted much, much more than its fair share of brickbats that is reserved for all governments in power.

Question on everyone’s lips was whether Malaysia could have done any different? The answer would be a resounding YES but then again, I would suspect, the same conclusion would be reached in the hallways of governments all over the world. The rollout of vaccines to be delivered to the different nations of the world should provide a reprieve to the number of heartbreaking news and images coming in from all over, of bodies of the deceased filling the morgues and mortuaries all over the world to the less-than-dignified burials of the very same.

Despite similar images beginning to appear in Malaysia itself, Malaysians in general had come to understand and accept the delays to the vaccination program. After all, Malaysia do not produce the vaccines ; the closest being to having such a facility was a facility to bottle the vaccines. As such, Malaysia had to wait and bid its time to get its share of vaccines.

But what Malaysians would not and could not accept was the incompetency of having the standard operating procedures (SOPs) being selectively and irregularly enforced between the haves and the have-nots, the powerful and the weak. Nor would Malaysians accept that the rationale of a section of manufacturing companies being allowed to operate at a time when the well being of the ordinary folks were under severe threat from the pandemic, with these manufacturing companies’ classification as ‘essential services and industries’ hotly disputed.

Today, never have politicians, regardless of the divide, been so vilified and flayed by the common folk that the mere mention of the word ‘politician’ is treated with disdain and mistrust, unlike when, once upon a time, it was described as a-calling of service to the people and to the country.

But how did we Malaysians came to be in this state of mind we are in right now, one might ask. Personally, its my personal opinion that the mess officially began when the results of the 14th general elections were announced with the results of the polls being in the favour of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition who then went on to form the federal government under the premiership of Tun Dr Mahathir (again). The seeds however were planted much earlier though, as far back as the 10th general elections some would opine.

The results of the 14th general elecctions when it was first announced were described as being momentous and of huge impact to the country by both the local and the foreign press, regardless of how that result came about. Basically, how momentous was it would depend on the organization reporting the results but what is sure is the impact the poll results had on the country since then. 

In retrospect, with the benefit of hindsight, the 22 months following the conclusion of the 14th general elections can now be described as a period of uncertainty and upheaval resulting from the witch hunting, fault finding to name but a few. Call it what you may but the situation was such that the political temperature came dangerously close to the depths prior to the racial riots of 1969, with some in power having no regard to the very fabric and history that made up and bind this country called Malaysia.     

It was against this rising temperature that was threatening the peace and stability of the country carefully constructed since independence in 1957, that the political maneuver dubbed ‘The Sheraton Move’ came to the fore. With one swift move, the then governing PH government was brought down to be replaced by the now-governing PN government by the coming together of a bloc of MPs from the PKR and MPs from Bersatu to form a new federal government. 

Ironically, both PKR and Bersatu were two of the four parties that made up Pakatan Harapan. Reflective of the confusing and divisive times that had characterized PH’s stay in power and so convoluted was the situation after the Sheraton Move, His Majesty The King himself and in consultation with his brother Rulers had to step in to determine what’s what.

It did not escape the notice of Malaysians that the fall of the PH government led by Tun Dr Mahathir was triggered by the resignation of Tun Dr Mahathir himself as Prime Minister, when he was being pressured by PH’s presidential council to make way for Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the president of PKR. What was even more ironic was that the Tun then offered himself to be Prime Minister again.

Whatever that reason maybe, it was declined and despite the wafer thin majority that Tan Sri Mahiaddin could cobble together, the baton of Prime Ministership was passed on to Tan Sri Mahiaddin who then proceeded to form a government with the support of the then opposition parties, PAS and the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional (BN). This was despite word that the two parties would have preferred to have Parliament dissolved and the mandate returned to the people to elect a new government.

But with Covid-19 and stability being the keywords prevalent at THAT moment in time, especially with the debacle that was the Sabah state elections, health-wise that is, led both PAS and the UMNO-led BN to lend their support to Tan Sri Mahiaddin to form his government. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, 19 months after that fated evening at the Sheraton Hotel, Malaysia is back at another crossroad. this time around, it is evident that only a loud and clear voice from the electorate will sort whatever mess that might exist now. Whether that voice will be loud enough to make itself heard above that din called the body politics, remains to be seen. As it has been observed many a-times before, politics is ever so fluid in this country called Malaysia and one should not take Malaysian politics for granted.

But fluid or otherwise, a day of reckoning will beckon upon all, be they be politicians and be they be the people. For Malaysia is at a crossroad and a very important, and maybe, a very critical one it is.

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