Malaysian Elections – Historic night


I have been wanting to write about the Malaysian elections on May 9th. While I ponder to write a detailed one, I must say it was a historic night for Malaysia. No last minute attempts to change the outcomes at the ballot box prevailed. The will of the people reigned supreme. It was not about race or religion. It was about the choice of people. As I had said in my social media postings it was about the mood for change – recognising and anticipating it. It is something most politicians miss reading as one can see in electoral history. The ‘Yes You Can’ campaign of Obama proved how a campaign can build momentum and resonate with people. It was truly a people’s revolution that overcame the narrow political agenda, in the recent Malaysian elections.  Thank God it was a peaceful revolution through the ballot box and we must salute everyone for a peaceful transition of power.

It also clearly showed there was no age barrier to love your country or hope for the best. The country has now put tremendous faith going beyond race and religion to choose a 92 year old leader Tun Dr Mahathir to turnaround the country. Yet, one cannot forget in this euphoria, the sacrifices made by Tan Sri Muhiyuddin Yassin, the former Deputy Prime Minister who was sacked and humiliated three years ago. As Tun Dr Mahathir’s election director, he saw through the team going past the winning post. Not to forget the others from all the other parties including the incarcerated Anwar Ibrahim and family, Lim Kit Siang and Mat Sabu.

And, also, the courage of the countless number of others who we may forget to name but were brave enough to stand up and fight what they thought was right. They did not consider their interests; they did not have excuses, they simply stood up for what they believed to be right. We need to salute them. After all, was there not a famous saying: All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. There was a unity of purpose in removing the government. Moving forward this has to be replaced with removing the past government to serving the people in line with the aspirations of the people. It will be as Anwar Ibrahim said a movement for reformation and a movement for change  as President Obama said it so many times. It was as Obama said – audacity of hope. The people are hoping for a prosperous and harmonious Malaysia.

As history has showed us there will be tremendous challenges whenever change happens. Let us not take for granted this change will be smooth and easy. Francis Fukuyama in his book Political Order and Political Decay articulates his thoughts with a systematic, thoughtful, complete and even hope for reform minded political observers. I loved his account of the origins of three critical sets of political institutions: the state, the rule of the law and procedures promoting democratic accountability. We need to get this right. Shahsi Tharoor, in his book commenting on British rule in India  ‘slices straight to the heart of darkness that drives all empires’. It is about people, not about the rulers. Reni Eddo- Lodge in her Sunday Times bestseller says why she no longer talks about race. It is about humanity.

I watched the Hollywood movie Post recently. It is a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two overcome their differences as they risk their careers – and their very freedom – to help bring long-buried truths to light. The movie outlined the story of the Pentagon papers being released and the importance of the freedom of press. There is a beautiful one liner in the movie – when the President thinks I am the state, we have a huge challenge. The people are the state.

Ironically, when the change that we all craved happened, I felt sad for many of my friends who were in the past government and who had lost. Some of them if not all as is always the case were indeed good people but it was the system that people despised.  This is what Francis Fukuyama warns us about. He talks about measuring the quality of government not through procedures but what it does. And, when the government fails to do what it needs to do, the ballot box has to be the vehicle to initiate the change.

Many years ago I say a lovely Tamil movie ‘Uthiripookal’ (Falling leaves) where the villain in the last scene of the movie, just about to die, laments that he has finally turned over a good leaf while all the good people have turned villain. While the fact remains no wrong doing must be condoned, I do indeed hope as Tun Dr Mahathir said there will be no revenge and the rule of the law prevail.

God save Malaysia