Thursday, June 30, 2016

BN’s gamble in Lim Guan Eng arrest

The Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional (BN) have thrown down the gauntlet. Riding on a feel good factor they have begun to purge the Opposition of their generals.

Lim Guan Eng’s arrest yesterday, brought out a sense of bewilderment.

Just a week ago I spoke of accountability and how politicians being the servant of the voting public should be held accountable over their conduct during their tenure as Members of a Legislative Assembly.

I do not subscribe to DAP’s policies, nor do I agree with how the Penang Chief Minister portrays himself to the general public (some may love his brash and in your face style, some do not).

However, I do not take great pleasure to see someone arrested.

During the entire episode of Bungalow-gate, Guan Eng has been nothing but transparent (to the point of humouring the press and allowing parodies to poke fun of his predicament) and, personally, accountable for his actions.

When one asks a Penangite who works in the civil service about Lim Guan Eng, nine out of 10 will answer: “I like and respect him. He has depoliticised the civil service”. Now this is commendable.
The first thought upon hearing the news was “why was he arrested just to appear before a judge?”, to which I believe it was a pure show of force.

The man had yet to be charged for a crime nor was he a threat to begin with. Of course, MACC and the police will perhaps justify it as “protecting” Lim Guan Eng from being harrassed by the press corps and his supporters who may or may not have prevented him appearing before the court.
This particular act is of course for show on behalf of BN and will bring out questions of Malaysia being a police state.

I do not know whether Guan Eng is guilty or not, as that is up to the court to decide. He must be given a fair trial under the law, as is his constitutional right, and allow the evidence to speak on behalf of him.

In hindsight, it is a straight forward deal of purchasing a bungalow below market price and some business allegedly thrown to the buyer to justify the under-market valuation. It is not as if he plundered state funds or laundered money via third parties, which is hard to prove without a paper trail.

Thus, Guan Eng is innocent until proven guilty.

Members of the general public need to be more politically aware and be accountable for their own actions pertaining to this incident. The DAP supporters, from the time of the Sarawak state elections right up until now have not shown any sign of maturity.

First, there was the Superman “Screw Malay” video to which many DAP supporters thought it was a joke (and did not realise the sensitivities of the Malays). Then, you have the outright blame on Sarawakian voters that chose Adenan Satem and, of course, the vitriol spewed against voters who chose BN in the recent twin by-elections.

Malaysians have a fundamental right to freely choose which party to support without any form of recourse, and they need not be bullied to think otherwise.

Furthermore, if Malaysia were to enter some form of mob rule, then by all means Guan Eng is innocent, but this is the difference between the rule of law and mob rule.

As for the BN supporters, this is not a cause for celebration. You can disagree with a party and their policies, but one should not jump for joy over someone’s arrest. That is sick and shows one’s immaturity.

In the realm of politics, especially Malaysian politics, there is no black and white and definitely no “Good Guy vs Bad Guy” scenario.

To DAP supporters, it is exactly this scenario that they have miraculously conjured up and this has left many fence-sitters sick to the stomach.

The Malaysian public should be allowed to call a spade a spade, if they deem it so. If one does not agree with your political inclination, please articulate it well and have a meaningful discussion.
Why must there be a “Good Guy vs Bad Guy” between a public that needs to be won over?
Objectively speaking, and returning to the episode at hand, BN may have scored a victory – but a pyrrhic one at that.

What BN have failed to grasp is that DAP has always been the scapegoat for whatever mishap that occurs (some are true, some are not) and they will always have a lone ranger and cowboy mentality when it comes to Malaysian politics.

This is where DAP gathers their strength from and Guan Eng’s arrest will galvanise much needed sympathy and support for DAP. In essence, BN has pitted urbanites (who tend to favour DAP and the Opposition) versus rural and fence-sitters and it may become a racial issue if it is not contained.
Furthermore, it also seems that BN is gearing themselves up for snap elections and with a split Opposition that is without a leader, it may seem that BN may win.

However, BN has not calculated that the Opposition will now have no choice but to rally behind Tun Dr Mahathir, Mukhriz Mahathir and Muhyiddin Yassin – three key people who have experience in running a country.

BN may feel confident that a government machinery will outbid anything that the Opposition can offer, and that their sustainable policies will provide a cushion of support.

This is where I believe their over-confidence can eventually derail them. Thus, I would not count a total victory just yet.

Besides, money is not always the solution to a problem, and it will run out.

[Tariq Ismail is a co-founder of Aura Merdeka, an NGO created to foster ties among Malaysians.]