Get to know your MP : What and How

Posted on April 21, 2007

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KSTAN asked : “Can you kindly explain in detail as to what you’re trying to achieve here if I were to sign up? What are we expected to do or contribute?” 

I will try.

I had made the observation in my first post that the average voter does not know much about his candidate of choice, particularly the stand of the candidate on issues that may be important to the voter. I am no exception.

The PM made a host of pre-election promises. Although I did not know much about the BN candidate, he got my vote because of those promises. Until then, Opposition always got my vote.

The PM has not kept to those promises. Worse still, since the PM secured a landslide victory, there has been an alarming decline in race relations, supremacist sloganeering goes on inside and outside of Parliament by UMNO MPs and ministers, religious persecution is rife, with blatant moves daily to turn this country into Talibanland.

MCA Youth takes exception to the brandished keris one day, the next day all is well after a meeting behind closed doors.

Gerakan takes on a mufti one day, the next day it grovels for forgiveness.

MIC is the only consistent one : stony silence.

Post the Moorthy case, the show of bravado by 10 non-UMNO ministers could not see itself through even one day.

Over the last 2 years, citizens have been told by judges whose oaths of offcie bind them to defend the Constitution and hence the fundamental rights of the citizens : ‘you may have a right, but we have no jurisdiction to offer you a remedy’.

Corruption scandals are popping out of every governmental nook and cranny : DGs, deputy ministers, chief ministers, MPs.

Most of these issues have been grouped in the the 4 broad areas of concern I narrated in the ‘Get to know your MP’ post.

The last straw for me, though, has been the shoddy manner in which MPs have apprehended their role as law-makers, particularly in the context of amendments to the Constitution. I have been doing research in Hansard in respect of 2 amendments to the Constitution, 1 in 1988 and the other in 2001. I will share my research with you soon. Let me just say now that these 2 amendments and the related reports in Hansard bear testimony to the highest degree of incompetence and dereliction of duty on the part of a great many of those ‘Yang Berhormats’. 

We put those ‘Yang Berhormats’ in Parliament, without the slightest notion of their competence in the law-making process or their stand on a lot of the issues I have mentioned above.   

Go to any SOPO blog, Malaysiatoday or Malaysiakini and you will note that these are not my concerns alone. Everyday, ordinary people are writing about their concerns relating to this issues.

Since February, 2005 up to now, I have personally taken these issues to 7 Barisan MPs, 3 of whom are federal ministers. The UMNO minister’s take on these issues was simple : the electorate do not understand the dynamics of the politics of compromise practised within Barisan which is so very necessary to maintain stability in this country and that we, as a nation, are not ready for the ideals that I advocate. The 6 other non-UMNO MPs, on the other hand, applaud the stand I take on those issues but then lament that they are uncertain how many in civil society feel as I do. ‘Are there enough of you?’, each asked me.

The UMNO man thinks we are not ready. The non-UMNO chaps do not know what the people want.

The perfect receipe for disaster!

We put into Parliament people we do not know and who in turn do not know what we want.

This is the first thing that I want to achieve. In the time that we have betwen now and the next elections, I want to try to put in place an initiative by which we get to know something of our MP and in the process get across to him or her what our concerns are and what our expectations are of him or her. If we emerge from this exercise with a sense that the present MP does not stand with us on these numerous issues, we must make it known to Barisan and the usual opposition parties that they must not assume that we are condemned in our choice of representatives to the usual fare. And if Barisan and the opposition will not pay heed to our cries, then we must have the courage and the will to find that candidate of choice from amongst our own ranks.

This is what I would like to achieve. How to do this?

As A. Williams pointed out, some 30 positive comments have been posted to the ‘Get to know your MP’ post. As I also mentioned above, go to the SOPO blogs and the letters to Malysiakini and Malaysiatoday and you know that the UMNO minister I mentioned above is wrong and that there are many of us with these concerns. 

Three problems, though, as I see it.

First, we do not speak with one voice. Therefore, we appear to be dispersed, rather than being collective. In that sense, not only are we perceived by the ‘other’ as powerless, we too see ourselves, individually, as impotent to bring about change.

Second, we are reactive rather than proactive. Letters are written to Malaysiakini when there is a Moorthy case or Rayappan case. And then there is nothing.

Third, when we do react, we are content to merely ‘lepas geram’ through letters to editors of the electronic media, at the pub or in the coffee shops. We have failed to direct our energies in the right and most effective direction.

Through this ‘Get to know your MP’ effort, I hope that we can put a stop to this ‘lepas geram’ stance, enough of writing to blogs like this one to gripe and bitch about our useless government and start to do something about it. It is about empowering ourselves.

Again, this is not rethoric. Here’s how I propose we go about this effort.

Let’s take PJ Selatan.

We’ve already got 7 on board. I have spoken to all and we have exchanged phone numbers. The 7 have been informed that once the minimum number of 10 has been reached, a ‘thepeoplesparliamentpjselatan’ e-group will be set up with all 10 subscribed. A date and time will be fixed convenient to all so that we can meet over teh tarik/beers/whatever to begin discussions on the issues that this group is concerned about and wants to take to the MP in question. I would like to just pause here and ask you to note 2 very important dynamics.

1.  A group of 10 persons who have probably not known each other before, but live in the same constituency and are concerned about the state of the country has actually physically come together to try to do something about those concerns.

2. The group is to work out their various concerns. In short, this blog has merely facilitated the group coming together to work out for themselves the national issues that they wish to take up with their MP. They have ‘ownership’ over this effort. 

Once the group has formulated those issues, one from amongst them will have to undertake the task of getting in touch with the office of the MP for an appointment. The place of meeting could be at Parliament lobby or at the office of the MP. At the meeting, it is imperative that all 10 try to be present. MPs have this thing about taking greater numbers more seriously.

At the meeting, the MP will also be told that :

  •  the 10 require to be informed of his or her stand on the issues taken up   
  • they will go public on the MP’s stand
  • if the MP requires time to come back with a response, the group will wait out 2 weeks and will call on the MP again for a response
  • a non-response will be treated as an unfavourable response and will be publicly stated as such
  • a favourable response will naturally be met with an expectation that the MP be immediately seen to be ‘walking the talk’.

Would this be the end of the ‘Get to know your MP’ effort? If I have my way, no.

On 7/4/2007, a small group of Malaysians comprising about 50, after a luncheon at the YWCA,KL, agreed to form a ‘League of Voters’. I am part of this group.

I am proposing that from each of the group of 10 that emerges from the ‘Get to know your MP’ effort, one person be nominated to represent the group at this League. I shall be pushing for this league to seek meetings with the leadership of the main component parties in BN to :

  • submit a list of sitting MPs who are unacceptable
  • put them on notice that we expect an improvement in the calibre of candidates put up at the next election and that we expect to be given time to get to know the candidates being offered
  • put them on notice of the various issues of concern worked out by the various ‘groups of 10’ and that we require, not just verbal promises that they are with us on those issues, but we need to see an immediate ‘walk the talk’

This proposed cause of action is not cast in stone. It is only my suggestion. It is for all of us, if we think it is worth pursuing, to further fine-tune it.

If someone will come up with better, let us take it up.

But can we quit griping and start acting, please?