Our nation’s destiny will be shaped as much by the realities on the ground as by the character and courage of our leaders.
WHAT direction will Malaysian society take in the post-GE13 era is a question on many minds. The future is not for anyone to predict with certainty. The spirals of history do not have a pre-determined, dialectic path.
What can be said is that our destiny will be shaped as much by the realities on the ground as by the character and courage of our leaders. Will they rise above the timberline to transcend race, religion, region and narrow partisan politics to persevere with an agenda for transformation? Or will they sacrifice idealism at the altar of expediency?
Only time will tell. It is periods of changes that test the mettle of leadership.
“Leaders of substance do not follow opinion polls. They mould opinion. Not with guns or dollars or position but with the power of their souls”.
The rise of two major political coalitions is now consolidated.
This supplies political unity to a society deeply divided along ethnic, religious and regional lines.
The 2008 and 2013 general elections have legitimised the existence of a strong political Opposition.
People have begun to believe that some check and balance in Government is necessary.
In the recent elections, Barisan Nasional’s victory appears to be owed to three disparate groups – rural votes in the Malay heartland; lower income groups of peninsular Malaysia that benefited from Government handouts and Barisan’s safe deposit seats in Sabah and Sarawak.
The Chinese and Indian components of Barisan failed to deliver and this has led some foreigners to comment (I believe prematurely) that Malaysia’s multi-ethnic coalition is near collapse.
It may be difficult in the long run for Barisan to maintain its grip on its GE13 electorate because rural areas are shrinking. Rural to urban migration is widespread.
The Malay community is the most prone to internal migration. In any case, PAS has captured some erstwhile Malay rural fortresses. As to the poor, if their socio-economic condition improves, they may develop new preferences.
Therefore, Barisan needs a new orientation and new policies.
Specifically, it needs to consider how far issues such as elite corruption and the perception that business opportunities are being monopolised by the political and administrative elite has alienated it from sections of the Malay grassroots.
While ethnicity remains a potent factor, other dynamics seem to have emerged. Among them is the rural-urban divide. Areas penetrated by Internet appear inclined towards the Oppositon.
On the non-Malay side, its withdrawal of support for Barisan is fuelled by official over-zealousness in the enforcement of Article 153 policies. There are a number of intractable religious issues, among them the recurringly painful one of conversion of minors to Islam when one parent leaves his religion to become a Muslim. Limited places in public universities, low representation in public services and the escalating cost of private higher education are also fomenting frustration.