Sunday, 5 May 2013

Every vote counts


TODAY is Decision Day: D-Day if you will.

D-Day is closely associated with the allied landings on Normandy beach in France during the Second World War.

The momentous day started the libe- ration of Nazi occupied Europe and the defeat of the oppressive and brutal regime of Hitler.

While Malaysia certainly does not need deliverance, today may go down as a significant day in the annals of our country’s history.

This is because the latest indications are that it is going to be a close election.

I welcome this as I see it as another big leap in the development of a two- party system.

A two-party system means that there will always be a viable alternative.

While political stability is always trea- sured, the crescendo of complaints about leakages, corruption, unfair income and wealth distribution, governance and fiscal policy has meant that the opposition has been able to mount a viable alternative.

All 222 parliamentary seats are contested, mainly in straight fights between Barisan National and Pakatan Rakyat.

It is also a first for Sarawak that all 31 parliamentary seats are contested.

Again, this to me is a sign of growing political awareness of a need for a robust democracy that no party should command an overwhelming majority that may make it oppressive.

So today is going to be interesting and exciting.

I don’t expect Barisan to lose its majority of seats in Sarawak.

It may lose a few as a more educated and politically mature electorate clamour for change but its entrenched machinery and patronage will see it scrape through in most rural seats.

I’m quite disappointed with the quality of debate and campaigning.

My biggest concern, corruption, was not that visible.

I don’t see a robust debate on policies on housing, education, economy, inflation and income disparity. Instead we have seen candidates talking bad about each other without offering solutions.

It is really sad that the measure of a winnable candidate is how he or she is able to ensure that drains will be clea- ned, how much the yearly handouts will be, whether there will be free electri- city, whether the road leading to my house will be resurfaced or the derelict bridge re- paired.

Development and basic amenities and infrastructure are the rights of every citizen. It cannot be used to bargain for our political choices.

Gone must be politics of race and religion and politics of development.

Development cannot be a political issue; it is the constitutional right of every citizen, irrespective of who they vote for.

Development funds are people’s money. The government is just a trustee of our money and is entrusted to spend it in a transparent and equitable manner.

We talk about getting rid of corruption, but are we not corrupt too if we vote for this candidate or party because we get more handouts, more contracts or more karaoke bars?

One may complain about the indelible ink that is not indelible (can someone tell me why we are going back in time to a third world system of using ink to show that we have voted?), constituency delineations, counting of votes at polling stations that enable one to narrow down voting preferences and the perceived fear of denial of development if one was to vote for the opposition, money politics, postal votes, among others.

At the end of the day, it is still one man, one vote.

Nobody puts a gun to our heads and force us to vote for them.

It is still a generally free election so voters got the leaders they deserved.

In a democracy, the majority prevails. I do acknowledge that it is always harder to change the status quo as people are reluctant to move out of their comfort zone.

So my wish is for voters to send a strong message and discard the age-old grandfather politics of promises of development to win votes. It is irresponsible.

We must move beyond a third world mentality and develop first world political culture as we move into a developed and high-income nation.

Election campaign cannot be a competition to see who gives the most handouts.

I do not want subsidies and handouts.

I want my tax ringgit to be spent wisely.

I want empowerment and opportunity to have a decent job and a decent wage for me, my children and my fellow Sarawakians.

I want businesses to flourish without political patronage.

There must be no place for politics of fear. The civil servants and the police must be impartial.

The police must not be para- noid and must be there to facilitate peaceful and constructive debate.

The tragedy of our day is the fear of change in a changing world.

Political parties must have the courage to engage with all members of society, so that we can make an informed choice of who to vote.

Political parties must be able to come up with policies and action plans to make our beloved state and country a better place to live in. A better place for our children.

So the candidate and political party will get my vote if they can assure me of an open transparent, accountable clean and fair government.

To make this happen, get out there and vote today. One man, one vote; every vote counts.

Finally, once we, the voters decide who wins the elections, everyone must respect and accept the results.

The government and the country must continue to function smoothly, regardless of who is in power.

The actual power belongs to the people. The victor must be gracious and work towards unity and progress, the loser must accept the result.

Actually, in a free and fair election, there is no loser — it is the people who win.

After all, the government is of the people, by the people, for the people.-thestar online

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