“We never see other people anyway, only the monsters we make of them.” -  Colson Whitehead, (Zone One)

COMMENT In a speech to Malaysian students in Indonesia, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak exhibited the usual thinking that afflicts most politicians when he said, “That’s why I ask, are people not able to think (that it’s illogical)? It has turned out that some people cannot think wisely, even lawyers can’t.” The “usual thinking” I am referring to is the disingenuous, patronising and divisive manner in which political partisans categorise issues and people, demonising those who do not drink whatever kool aid is being dispensed.

Do not believe the lies and slander of the opposition, says our prime minister, conveniently forgetting that his party’s mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia (or at least its editor) is on record saying that it is the role of his paper to spin for the government. Alternatively, what about the New Straits Times and its unskillful editing of a foreign politician’s (simpatico to the opposition) parliamentary speech to make him look anti-Islam? I have no idea why some people cannot think “wisely”, but can you blame them when it comes to the issues like the Royal Malaysian Police and their standard operating procedures?

In a 2006 article written by Farish A Noor for the Muslim Media News Service entitled ‘Whom does the Malaysian police force serve’, when the whole issue of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) was  reaching boiling point, Farish highlighted this interesting fact: “This all came to a head when a routine blunder led to the posting of a police report (meant only for internal circulation) on the Malaysian police website this week. “The internal circular was meant to explain to the members of the police force why they should collectively oppose the proposal to set up an independent commission to look into the conduct of the police. “In a telling giveaway sentence, the report noted that such a commission would ‘cause a state of anarchy that would undermine the ruling coalition’s power’ in the country.”

Online mob mentality
Perhaps it is best that politicians leave the “thinking wisely” to people who would hold them accountable. Of course, the punchline here is that this would probably not happen because it is all about the party not the candidate. In addition, what of the opposition? The whole Lynas fiasco is a good example of the hysteria created using lies and slander and an example of online mob mentality that is ammunition for the perception of the existence the so-called Red Bean Army.

Never mind the backtracking that happened of Wong Tack the very public face of the anti-Lynas movement, after he (officially) joined the ranks of the opposition, the whole drama made a mockery of the Green movement here in Malaysia. However, what I find “irrational” is that a candidate like Zulkifli Noordin who contested in Shah Alam, could garner 42 percent of the vote (apparently an improvement from the previous candidate) all the while pushing an agenda which is antithesis to the whole 1Malaysia concept.

Apparently, a healthy percentage of the population is not ready for either the 1Malaysia or Bangsa Malaysia deal. Zulkifli whose preferred method of discourse seems to be jailing anyone who disagrees with him - setting up special courts for “traitors”, defending the Election Commission as a “royal” institution etc - is unfortunately a ‘viable’ candidate if this election is anything to go by. This says a lot about the whole ‘race blind’ era some opposition supporters claim we are witness to or are the Malays who support Umno not Malaysians and therefore not part of this era.

Rationality deficit
Meanwhile the very supporters who demand ‘ubah’ of so-called giant oppositional parties, routinely mock PSM, a grassroots-level movement that so far has displayed none of the business as usual mode of thinking of the other. Indeed amongst the appeals-to-emotions arguments and downright poppycock that was heard during the Lynas fiasco, it was PSM’s Dr Michael Jeyakumar who presented a rational counter argument to all the baloney that was being fed to us.
  There seems to be a “rationality deficit” when it comes to oppositional politics in this country. I will not bother taking digs at the establishment since; they seem to be living in a strange world of denial and delusion where the two factions within Umno seem to be waging a ‘Mordor and Isengard’ type offensive. I was surprised that PSM underestimated the “party not candidate” sentiment, of the post-2008 political landscape ravaged by a tsunami that neatly divided everything and everyone along party lines. PAS getting a free ride when it comes to its Islamic credentials is evidence of this.

While there much outrage over the recent whipping of women for whatever offences they committed under Islamic law, there is not a peep from PAS, as if such events would be a distant memory if they ever attained a position of influence if they ever achieved federal power. As the main defender of Islam and a supposed “moderate” one at that, surely they should have reassured Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion of their mainstream secular credentials.  Of course, the loss of “moderates” like Mohamad Sabu and his compatriots either because PAS overestimated its reach or the whole “party not candidate” sentiment, would have far reaching consequences for Pakatan Rakyat, not to mention to the whole Selangor exco snafu that highlighted to the political pedigree of certain PKR candidates.

Delineation of constituencies
I have no idea why the prime minister would mention “lawyers” in his little spiel, but I am sure BN, or should that just be Umno partisans, would find much they would agree with Art Harun’s piece ‘Is BN a validly elected government’ which unusually (for Art) goes against the Pakatan Weltanschauung. In it he writes, “The truth is this. It is without doubt that delineation of constituencies have been made and used by the BN to somewhat favour them. The question is whether that was legal or constitutional. Why has there been no legal challenge?

“But why is it such a huge issue suddenly now? Because Pakatan lost the GE13? What if Pakatan had won? Would it be an issue? Or would Pakatan be ready to live under the same delineation just because it works for them? “Was Pakatan willing to hedge its position prior to GE13 by not making any kind of noise about gerrymandering prior to GE13? I don't know.” Neither do I, but I agree with most of what Art says in this piece and in another, ‘Election petition - a note to YB Rafizi’.

Studying the elections results and revisiting the polemics from both sides, I have no idea what is rational or irrational anymore here in Malaysia. I do know that it will be another four years of partisan nonsense with copious amounts of kool aid dispensed. Partisan politics is always irrational.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.