In the name of stability


JUST when the nation is about ready to collectively realise a ministerial suggestion that drinking warm water to check the coronavirus is as good as any fake news, another ministry decides to let loose Doraemon into the Malaysian sphere, only to ground it almost immediately.

Yet, not fast enough as it caught the imagination of the international media.

Then, there is another equal cause for chagrin when a minister decided to don a hazmat suit in a sanitisation exercise complete with the title “Menteri (Minister)” printed on her headgear.

It drew flak from two fronts — firstly, for having the exercise with a crowd when social distancing is the order of the day, and secondly, pulling such stunt when frontliners are facing a shortage of personal protective equipment.

But all these are actually seasonal concerns that will be replaced by equal or worse gaffes.

More of a concern is the recent pronouncement made by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin when tabling the stimulus package last week.

When concluding his speech, he said: “And this government may not be the government that you voted for. But I want all of you to know that this government cares for you.”

It may be said out of sheer confidence that the best way to deal with an issue is to take the bull by its horn, but that aside, it could be eerie.

By publicly stating that his government is not the government voted for by the people, Muhyiddin had effectively put it on record that his government was not a result of a due democratic process as understood, practised and accepted by the nation since independence.

The accompanying line that he wanted the people to know that the government cared for them is quite patronising, and in some parts quite feudal.

If anything, that is the justification or assurance given in most cases of unelected leaders and governments.

Without doubt, what Muhyiddin and the current government, legitimate or otherwise, is facing is unprecedented. If the current situation is bleak, the aftermath is expected to get worse.

The economic woes are threatening to unravel all the conventions and practices, and the fallouts are beyond comprehension.

It is going to be a new world altogether, not only in terms of doing things, but the way people think and react.

Futurists, movie makers and novelists had attempted to predict what the future would hold and many of them had depicted the apocalyptic and dystopian society hence forth.

Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” is one example and in an introduction by David Bradshaw, he had contended: “That events of the depression in the UK in 1931s with mass unemployment and the abandonment of the gold currency standard had persuaded Huxley to assert that stability was the ‘primal and ultimate need’ if civilisation was to survive the present crisis.”

It may be the work of fiction, but the narratives can be disturbingly real.

Given the fear of uncertainties and prolonged hardship, the last thing the nation would need is instability, and that fear is what had fed many dictatorships and usurpers in other parts of the world.

To a certain degree, the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) rule for over six decades was propped by the promise of stability, over and above ideal democratic conventions. Even then, the BN government was voted in through 13 general elections (GEs).

The 14th GE saw the coalition defeated for the first time by Pakatan Rakyat. The main reason was that the majority of the electorate was determined to see the end of a kleptocratic rule and they were prepared to take their chances with the new coalition.

There can be two ways of looking at it — one, the voters were more determined to rid the nation of the scourge of corruption and misappropriation at the highest level that stability become secondary, or that they were confident that the nation had matured politically that stability is a by-product of a legitimately voted government that is not corrupt or abusing power.

However, the bold efforts from the voters did not see the popularly elected government complete its term and midway, through horse trading and manoeuvrings, a new “government that was not voted for” was realised.

And this government claims that it cares for the people. Actually, that should be a given because if it is not voted in and it doesn’t care about the people, then what good is it to the people.

Thus far, the Covid-19 crisis overwhelms and as such, politics and power play would be the last thing on the mind of the people nor do they need it. The government, voted for or otherwise, will be judged on how it handles the crisis.

How long that concession lasts is anybody’s guess, given the uncertainties that are expected to prevail long after the Movement Control Order is called off. In that context, the government may enjoy some respite, albeit temporarily.

But if it continues with faux pas that makes the nation cringe, its time may even end sooner than later.

The problem with most politicians, they think they have time.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.