Proud to be Malaysian once again

IN the aftermath of the fall of the Barisan Nasional government after over 60 years in power, I'm often asked by many friends, especially foreigners, if I had expected it to happen. My answer is an emphatic "yes."

The writing on the wall was all too obvious during the campaigning when huge ecstatic crowds converged at Pakatan Harapan (PH) ceramah to cheer Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, now our prime minister once again.

The 14th general election was labelled as the mother or father of elections and there were some who called it the grandfather as well. But what an election it turned out to be, living up to all expectations and beyond for the silent majority who wanted a change.

Opinion polls including by some of the more established pollsters all had pointed to the BN returning to power and now that they have been proven wrong, it's pertinent to ask whether it's time to opt for more realistic methodologies to gauge public opinion.

My take as to why the once invincible BN came down to its knees early last Thursday as the nation woke up to the dawn of a new era boils down to three reasons: taking things for granted, comfort zones and denial.

Being in power for such a long time and unbeaten in 13 general elections, it never crossed their minds that they could overstay their welcome while believing that the power of incumbency would always give them the upper hand come what may.
In all the elections that veteran journalists like myself had been through all these years, we have never seen anything like this in terms of the excitement particularly by the younger generation to partake in shaping the nation's future.

The more the frenzy in social media among netizens in uploading stuff, the more it became obvious that the vote was going the PH way simply on account that Gen Y by and large are anti-establishment.

In retaliation, the campaign line coming from the BN was the same old strategy of displaying how much they were in comfort zones and worse the denial syndrome.
The elephant in the room was the goods and services tax (GST), which former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak considers his pet achievement as PM in terms of having the political will to introduce it effective April 1, 2015.

Since GST appeared, the cost of living has gone up and every one feels it while minister after minister denied it. And cost of living became a key issue in GE14.
The newly-formed PH on its way to toppling the BN placed the scrapping of the GST on top of its manifesto.

This was PH's masterstroke while for the BN, it was a recipe for disaster. In crude terms, the introduction of the GST was political suicide.

Denying that GST was the cause for the rising cost of living within the BN camp was an insult to voters' intelligence and in the run-up to polling day, the logical thing for the then ruling government to do was perhaps to at least reduce it, but there was none.

True to its word, the new government quickly kept its promise by announcing that the much-hated GST would be abolished from June 1 to the jubilation of all.

The seeds for the beginning of the end for the BN that has been ruling the nation since Merdeka in 1957 were planted when the scandals surrounding 1MDB erupted in 2015, the same year as the start of the GST regime.

For their criticism of how Najib handled the issue and Najib being the chairman of its investment committee, he sacked his then deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and senior minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.

Muhyiddin and Shafie were then Umno deputy president and vice-president respectively. The sackings manifested as another act of political suicide for Umno.
Muhyiddin heading a new party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, and Shafie with his Parti Warisan Sabah came back with a vengeance in last week's polls.

Johor, the birthplace of Umno, fell to PH on the strength of support for Muhyiddin while Shafie is now Sabah chief minister, both amazing political developments.
The BN's losses were almost total. It now rules only three of 13 states – Sarawak (the biggest), Perlis (the smallest) and Pahang.

But the elephant in the room was Najib himself, tainted by the 1MDB fiasco but after removing critics like Muhyiddin and Shafie, ran Umno without a whiff of dissent and surrounded by cheerleaders.

Thus Umno as the kingpin of the BN living in a comfort zone and in denial put up many recycled candidates, including those defeated in previous polls, and retained all its ministers. This hardly impressed voters and as a result many of them lost.
I spoke to some senior aides of the defeated ex-ministers. When I asked why their bosses lost? The standard reply was: "The anti-Najib wave was too strong".

In other words, they paid the price for being staunch Najib's men.

According to prominent political analyst Prof Sivamurugan Pandian, even the so-called safe deposit postal votes, that mainly comprise police and military personnel, were against the BN this time.

Commenting on Najib's decision to quit as Umno president three days after the BN's defeat, Sivamurugan said had Najib resigned one or two days before Malaysians cast their votes, the BN would not have lost that badly.

Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin, touted as a future prime minister when Umno was riding high, admitted that after Muhyiddin and Shafie were purged, nobody wanted to acknowledge that Umno had a problem.

Khairy said looking back, he wished he had told Najib what it meant after he dropped both men from the Cabinet, adding "the mistake of failing to speak the truth in order to protect Najib is one I will have to live with for the rest of my life".

Moving forward, Malaysians can now hold their heads high as we have shown to the world that democracy really works and power was passed from the old to the new without spilling even a drop of blood.

Worldwide, leaders and netizens have come out praising Malaysia unlike in the
past when there was condemnation because of the 1MDB fiasco. We can now be proud to be Malaysians once again.

Malaysia is now the focus for world breaking news, and exactly a week after
GE14, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, slated to be our next prime minister when Mahathir is scheduled to step down midway into his term, walked out of prison a free man.

Malaysians really feel like their country is reborn and that we are going through Merdeka 2.0.

What happened was a people's uprising that changed our political landscape for good.

Hail the rakyat, the true heroes of GE14.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com