By Ezlan Mohsen
Twitter has been a very vital part of my life these past months, more than Facebook, Arsenal or food. I use it when the traffic light is red, when I’m bored, or anytime I’m watching Manchester United games. And I’m quite sure I’m not the only one.
When I observe the tweets posted by those I follow, most of their opinions are basically against the policies, actions or inaction of the government. I ask myself — are these genuine countrymen who want Malaysia to be better, or do they just hate the ruling coalition?
Though some remain mature and criticise the issue itself, many function as their party fortress, and will defend their party till their phone battery empties.
The need to get out of this overly partisan spirit is urgent. Though these calls to focus on the issue rather than party line or persona sound very clichéd, we cannot tire of it as it is vital for Malaysia’s democracy to move on.
Some argue that PKR has come up with the Buku Jingga — yet, to be fair, the ruling coalition also has their own set of new initiatives. However, in truth, we see nothing more than just a swarm of attacks and negative criticism thrown at each other, rather than debates to see who is right.
The Opposition Leader made a brave call inviting the prime minister for a debate, which was declined. Yet when the BN Youth leader offered to debate the issue with the Opposition Leader, the party’s chief strategist Rafizi Ramli was suddenly chosen to replace him.
This seriously cast doubts over these leaders’ real intentions: to debate for the benefit of Malaysians, or just to win a personal triumph?
As long as we stick to these negative criticisms and the swapping of personal attacks — yet do not talk about issues and give suggestions maturely — the political fight will be nothing more than just two groups of people who are blindly partisan, bashing each other.
One can easily assume that this blind partisan spirit stems from having two very strong political parties who have not done enough to move on and fight based on issues. It cannot be denied that the revival of the opposition has helped to bring better checks and balances for Malaysia in Parliament, yet this two-party system has made most Malaysians too loyal to either one, so they no longer have their own stand on each issue as they come by.
Let’s just say I am party A, I will hate party B even if they help lower the imported car prices, which I have always longed for.
Do not get me wrong, I am not here to ask everyone to back the government and make the opposition weaker, or even otherwise. I clearly realise that in this era where Malaysians strongly voice out their demands for their rights, I believe that we need to have a better check and balance system. Democracy can no longer take a back seat to physical development. Through this, transparency can have its fair game, where the ball is in the citizens’ court.
So, one possible suggestion is to break away from these dominant two. A third strong party with an ideology which is not individually-inspired can help break their dominance as well as to ease the two-party divide. Moreover, this can hopefully force coalition, which might provide checks and balances even before Parliament is in session.
A more plausible call is to pressure these dominant two to really make their stand on all major issues so their supporters can stop baselessly shouting their lungs out. If we have to be divided, let it not be because I idolise YB A and you, YB B. Let it be because of you want local cars to be protected and me wanting a cheaper BMW.
This is a difficult problem but I believe the leaders of the after-dinasour era can work this out, for a more mature Malaysia. In fact, they have to.
At the very least, I hope that they share the sentiments that we voters are tired of with our political battlefield being dominated by political dinosaurs such as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Tun Mahathir Mohamad, Lim Kit Siang or even Azmin Ali.
Oh yes, sorry, Datuk Ibrahim Ali as well.
Ezlan is a 2nd year medical undergraduate at Queen Mary, University of London. He tweets at @ezlanmohsen. He writes for the CEKU column in The Malaysian Insider. This article was published in The Malaysian Insider on 2nd August 2011.