THE ASIAN VOICE

Should populism be king: Sin Chew Daily

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak at a closed door meeting with Barian Nasional leaders on Aug 14, 2015.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak at a closed door meeting with Barian Nasional leaders on Aug 14, 2015.PHOTO: MALAYSIA KINI

For the past several years, the federal as well as Kelantan, Pahang and Johor state governments have successively declared "football holidays". 

And now, even the Selangor state government is embracing this populist policy by declaring a state holiday following the Malaysia Cup win, in a bid to win the favour of the people.

Populism is one of the culprits of political degradation in this country, selfishness, opportunism, unprincipled politician and double standards being the others. 

Such mainstream ideas have shaped our country's politics today as well as her economic and social dilemmas.

Other than declaring a "football holiday", other populist measures include the distribution of money or free water by the Barisan Nasional government as well as Pakatan governments in Penang and Selangor.

If the treasury is well loaded, distributing money to the people would not have invited this much grumble, but given the government's 19th consecutive year of fiscal deficits, such unchecked populism should be put to a halt.

Take for example, international crude prices have already dipped below US$36 (S$50.70) per barrel, further weakening the government's revenue.

However, the government is still offering double increments for public servants in 2016. This is not a responsible way of doing things where financial discipline is concerned.

Distribution of money should be carried out for certain legitimate reasons and not political ones, or the entire nation will have to bear the brunt of the government's unduly generous handouts.

Moreover, such money-distributing acts have gone unashamedly public. 

For instance, a certain political party has given away money to attract participants to its assembly, while grassroots leaders lured their members to come to Kuala Lumpur for the party's general assembly with free money and other perks.

When someone has justified the distribution of money, others will feel justified to ask for it. This has no doubt boosted the culture of greed.

The same has also spawned vulgar politics, when our leaders no longer need to contemplate ways to win the hearts of the people.

All that they need to do is to give away money freely.

Those benefiting from such generousity will never think where the money has come from, or to pursue the issue of so-called political donations. 

In the end, the people in this country will become unable to tell between what is right and what is wrong.

In the past Malaysians would do everything to stay away from the "racism" label. Unfortunately many take pride in calling themselves chauvinists and racists.

The opportunism in politics has also rendered our leaders from both sides of the political divide to discard the principles they once championed, and can still argue for their justification.

PKR has been unwilling to forsake PAS because it needs the latter's help to win the support of 30 per cent Malay voters in its mixed constituencies, or Putrajaya will remain just an accomplished dream. 

Because of that PKR has proposed two opposition alliances. 

With PAS now decisively reversing to its consecutive old way, how is the opposition pact going to work with PAS to form a stable government in the event it wins the federal administration?

It is imperative for the opposition to prove to the voters that they can sacrifice for the sake of democracy, failing which they may not eventually win the trust of the people.

The same also happens to the ruling coalition. 

Umno can swing between secularism and hudud law for the sake of ballots. 

The party has previously voiced its support for PAS's bid to implement the hudud law in Kelantan, and now it officially held out the olive branch in the just concluded general assembly.

MCA and Gerakan were earlier very vocal against DAP's collaboration with PAS, but now with Umno proposing a tie-up with the Islamist party, they seem to hold a very different set of standards.

For the sake of their own gains, political parties have become excessively tolerant towards conservatism and extremism. 

For example, G25 - a group of influential people appealing for rational discourse on Islam - has dedicated itself to a more liberal and progressive Islamic society for the sake of the country's future, but such noble initiative has become the target of merciless onslaught during the recent Umno general assembly.

If our leaders are not courageous enough to hold down conservative thinking, how do we expect them to promote moderation to bring the nation forward?

In Malaysia, politics is king, and no one can wean itself from the influences of politics. Even if you struggle to stay away from politics, it will still come after you.

Sin Chew Daily/Asia News Network