Respect the voters

Voters' choices should be respected.

Commentary

As polling day inches closer, the final push by politicians as they vie to be the first to cross the finishing line gets more energetic. The final stretch gets more intense and the last barrage gets more vigorous.

While the politicians are arguing, holding press conferences, giving ‘ceramah’, and attending events, as part of their campaign trail, a section of their supporters appear to get more and more aggressive each day. With or without realising it, some of their supporters on the ground get more combative, quarrelsome and hostile by the day, both on social media and also in physical public spheres. Although not all supporters act irrationally, meeting one or two such characters is a ‘turn off’ for most of us. Whether the politicians whom these groups of fanatical supporters back are aware of their disruptive behavior, nobody knows.

Speaking of social media, the DayakDaily Facebook page, like most other Facebook pages covering the elections, has been swamped with cocky, pushy and unreasonable remarks. These remarks are usually not just directed at the politicians (covered in the news), but also other readers who give their opinions on certain issues. To these groups of cyber bullies, nothing can be done in any other way, except their way.

To effectively moderate the page, the DayakDaily page admins have resorted to banning vulgar words they come across each day. As of today, a total of not less than 50 vulgar words have been banned, and the way things are going and insults are hurled, more words are expected to be added onto the list!


Even posts featuring politically unrelated news coverage for road accidents have turned into a place where readers curse their political opponents. For example, recently DayakDaily reported a traffic accident involving five casualties. While other readers sent their condolences through their comments, one particular supporter of a certain political party cursed a leader of another political party. The reader asked ‘did xxxx not die in the crash too?’ The comment was of course deleted by DayakDaily moderators.

Out of curiosity, Dayakdaily admins looked up the profile of that particular reader. Surprisingly he is a both a husband and a father. One cannot help but wonder if his mother, friends, wife and children know that he is actually a cyber bully.

From cursing one politician to ‘die’ in a car crash, there are also supporters who post numerous comments stating nothing of importance to other readers. The only thing they do is distract attention and disrupt discussion in the forum with their repeated messages of ‘Vote for X party’ or ‘Vote for Y Party’. These people with different political alliances post the same comments continuously, day after day non-stop. For other DayakDaily readers, these groups of people are putting them off from contributing any comments they might have regarding certain issues, and actually affect the perception other voters have about the political groups these vocal supporters represent.

At the same time, without realising that their actions can be perceived as downright manipulative, some politicians have decided to take the opportunity at this time to issue one batch of land titles after another and to announce their efforts in conducting perimeter surveys for native customary rights (NCR) land. Many readers including Philip, Rickie, Telian, Oshi amongst others expressed irritation that titles are being issued at this time.

One reader wrote to DayakDaily to say that while there is nothing wrong with issuing titles and giving out goodies to the rightful landowners and the underprivileged at this time, he felt that the sensitivity of the timing should have been taken into consideration. As a bystander, he also felt that the benefactors might have been ‘made used’ of as part of political propaganda, and thus might be ‘emotionally compelled’ to vote in a certain way. Another reader said that it is an ‘out-dated’ giving ‘gula-gula’ (treats) strategy which might actually backfire.

Another reader by the name of Anthony said that he felt ashamed when a West Malaysian e-hailing car driver asked him why Sabah and Sarawak still supported BN when the Peninsular is trying to change government. The reader then suggested maybe it is time for Sarawakians to think wisely and wake up. Was the reader pressured to comment what he did?

Another reader by the name of Antu kept calling politicians ‘stupid human beings’, while failing to contribute any other constructive opinion in the forum. What he is trying to achieve is anybody’s guess, but maybe that reader is bitter about some issues that he could not articulate. Instead he unleashed his negativity on everybody in the forum especially the politicians covered in the news. The sad thing is, while he is calling people stupid, never once did this reader even think of whether his attitude is reasonable, let alone ‘smart’.

Unfortunately, these kinds of attitudes are not only reflected online. Taking a break from Facebook, one of our admins decided to enter a hair saloon. They overheard a woman insisting that everybody in the saloon should vote for a certain party she fancied. She was practically hurling abuses at other customers. She said ‘only by voting for opposition, Sarawakians will do justice to the poor, because then GST will be abolished,’. People who voted for the government are heartless and cruel — according to her.

After the woman had left the saloon, the other customers in the saloon revealed the woman was the daughter-in-law of quite a wealthy family. The family she married into own businesses that were allegedy involved in tax evasion (which has to be emphasised, was not substantiated with proof by the other customers). Again, how true these allegations are is another story. But the moral of the story is the said woman is in no position to act ‘holier than thou’ and elect herself as the moral police or to forcefeed information into unwilling listeners who just wanted to go for a hair cut on a Sunday afternoon.

One obviously upset customer said that nobody is trying to stop the vocal woman from voting for whichever party she intends to vote for, but at the same time, as an adult, she should respect others people’s choices.

“If everybody should vote just for one political party, there is no need for Parliamentary or state elections to be held in the first place!” said the upset patron.

While elections are held in the name of democracy, it is perhaps time for all politicians to remind their respective supporters to respect democratic rights and walk the talk, not just pay lip service to freedom of choice.

Whatever their supporters’ personal decision are, they can advise, inform, advertise but not impose. However passionate they are about their political parties, it’s their business and no one else’s. But when they try to bully other voters into choosing what they want, it might backfire because in the midst of irritation, voters might decide to say ‘NO’ and vote for their opponent instead. To put it bluntly, please ‘Do not tell us who to vote’. — DayakDaily