Why we must vote

IN A HUGE way, the procrastination over the timing of the 13th general election has created the perfect opportunity for the rakyat to seriously weigh the good, the bad and the ugly.

For close to a year, we have been inundated with statements and counter statements, attacks and counter attacks from both sides of the political divide. Going by the vigorous campaigning of the opposition parties, it would appear that nothing is going right for Malaysia.

In their eyes, the nation is in a state of near collapse or chaos, all the policies are wrong and their implementation flawed – until they take over.

Yet on the side of the ruling party, we have been exposed to the daily barrage of structural changes and systems transformations; achievement records and policy successes; innovative paradigms and motivating game changes.

There are promises and more promises of what is to come. Indeed, despite what the economic pundits and financial whiz kids warn, the next phase of Malaysia's development will be even brighter according to the official spokespersons.

Then there are the numerous counter-arguments highlighting the national boo-boos and failures. Crime and corruption loom large; racial integration is at an all-time low; education woes are unresolved; justice hangs in the balance; equity and equality are miles away. Pointing fingers at the government is easier to do than to admit that the people themselves are creating these perennial problems.

Those who are able to resist the political blame game see the national dilemma as one of failing ethics and falling moral standards in a society that is growing more materialistic by the day.

Businesses evade regulations to maximise profits; lawyers exploit loopholes in the law to earn big money; politicians dole out ringgit to secure power; the public and private sectors are graft-ridden; enforcement officers and criminals seem to be entangled in bribery cahoots.

It seems as though we have created a culture where money begets money, political and economic power at the expense of sound values and principles.

However, in a country where more than one half the population are still grappling with a low-income status and one quarter are aspiring towards the highest income levels, talk of economic advancements and business opportunities is the crowd puller for the government in power at the state and federal levels.

Public platforms promoting discourse on ethics and decorum, values and principles attract mainly a sprinkling of the urban converted thus leaving out a huge chunk of those that need to be educated in them.

One exception seems to be the congregations in places of worship – mosques, churches and temples. If only the arguments about ethics and morality can be removed from a strictly spiritual perspective and injected with greater relevance for day-to-day living.

Thus when we talk about winnable candidates for the elections and who we should vote for, the question remains as to who is winnable and in whose eyes?

When we talk about who has taken the election integrity oath and who has not, the question remains as to what exactly they have sworn to do or not do? If the pledge requires candidates and their parties not to indulge in money politics, then we have to ask why the BN leaders have readily agreed to take the oath and the opposition parties have not?

It is obvious that Malaysians will vote in the candidates and the party that are winnable in their own eyes. People will choose the candidates/party with a sound track record and with considerable persuasive powers to convince the constituents that they will continue to deliver.

Indeed, when we are faced with the ballot paper we should be looking at candidates who are known in the community and not complete strangers thrust upon us from afar.

Foremost on our mind is whether the person has the capability and the clout to get work done. Our main consideration should be that the candidate is able to work with the authorities to bring about the necessary improvements in the lives of the people.

An overriding concern is whether he or she will be fully committed to the promise of bringing optimal benefits to the people.

We have had ample time to reflect on the type of political leaders we want to lead us into the next phase of the nation's life. Whatever our convictions are about Malaysia's needs for the next five years, we have to exercise the greatest wisdom in selecting the right people to be our state representatives and MPs.

Most will agree that Malaysia needs visionary leaders with the foresight to anticipate and plan for the nation's economic development.

Some will insist the country needs courageous leaders to innovate, implement and enforce strong socio-cultural policies. Some are convinced we need principled leaders to put us back on high moral ground. A few will abstain for reasons best known to them.

The writer keenly follows developments in politics, culture and education. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com