The one-mile journey 

A file photo of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak launching Barisan Nasional GE14 manifesto.

Commentary

By Lian Cheng

WHEN the outcome of 14th General Election was finalised, many Malaysians each proposed a toast. But different people held up their glasses for different reasons. For some, the toast was made not to the downfall of Barisan Nasional (BN) or the victory of Pakatan Harapan (PH) but rather to the birth of “real” democracy in Malaysia.

Before May 9, even though Malaysia is constitutionally a democracy, the nation, as we all knew, was ruled by a coalition without alternatives. The best it could be is `a democracy in the making’.

When PH helmed Putrajaya, those who made a toast to the dawn of real democracy were jubilant that, finally, Malaysia was what it should be — a democracy with check and balance. The dark age of one party dominating the political scene was a thing of the past, so we thought.

Disappointedly, a few months down the road, one starts to realise that, perhaps, we are still one last mile away from democracy. It seems that while PH is gaining in strength, BN, which is supposed to play the part of a responsible opposition, is withering away and looks like it is going to fade into oblivion.

The process started with its former president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak charged with multiple counts of graft and money laundering. When most think that Umno was at its lowest ebb and could not go any lower, news broke that its current president, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, was arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Committee (MACC) on even more money laundering, receiving gratification and criminal breach of trust (CBT) charges.

Umno, which used to be an all mighty and powerful party, is now facing its biggest challenge ever, and it is a blemish that might take decades to purge. This is because the mere mention of its name now denotes corruption for many Malaysians. With its image destroyed and its reputation tarnished, it is fast losing its credibility.

With Umno heading south and the remaining coalition partners contemplating leaving, the BN brand is as good as dead. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had remarked that “BN is dying”. It means there is no other party or coalition to pose as an alternative to PH.

This is definitely a letdown because Malaysians are now back to square one — the one-party system.

Even though some within the PH coalition would like to naively think that there is check and balance within the coalition itself and that their opinion matters, the truth is they are like the smaller parties within BN before.

They may have the right to voice it out, but their top leaders will have excuses to push them aside. DAP should now be able to sympathise and identify with the MCA. What they are experiencing now is what MCA went through before.

This can be seen from some of the unfulfilled promises, especially the ones made by DAP. The most obvious of them all is recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). During the reign of BN, then Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon of MCA claimed it would be “the last mile” journey to gain recognition. And this last mile remained the last mile until the government changed.

Before May 9, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng promised that the UEC would be recognised within 30 days if the DAP was voted in. Other Sarawak DAP leaders also sang the same tune — that there would be no more begging, that the UEC would be recognised instantly when PH took over the government.

Today, after five months in power, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching is making the same claim as Chong Sin Woon did before — the recognition of UEC is only a mile away.

How effective is it for the component parties within PH to provide check and balance to prevent one party from dominating and lording over others, especially now that BN or Umno, as a whole, is incapable to play the role of an effective opposition?

With BN fading into oblivion, Malaysia now needs another alternative — a young, vibrant force that is free of baggage to stand up to the might of PH.

Perhaps, that is why a rumour has been circulating of late that a prominent, young Umno leader will be starting a truly multiracial party as the new force. It will not be a coalition but rather a party comprising all Malaysians, irrespective of their race and religion. Should that be the case, it would be good news for Malaysia.

Having an alternative or more will be a progressive sign for Malaysia. And hopefully, with the setting up of a new multiracial party, the way to true democracy will not be a never-ending one-mile journey, like the recognition of UEC, for instance. — DayakDaily