My corruption-fatigued country

Posted on March 12, 2008



By Helen Ang



As lawyer and key member of Bersih, do you figure the continued push for clean elections can incorporate mechanisms to deter party hopping?  

In my post ‘Kelana Jaya: Yes, the man matters’, I took exception to Jeffrey Kitingan whose desertion once scuppered his brother Joseph Pairin’s chances of forming state government. His act was an unforgivable betrayal of Sabahans’ trust by renegades who had earlier ridden the PBS ticket to victory. 

Last week, People’s Parliament had obtained an assurance from Loh Gwo-Burne that he was not Anwar Ibrahim’s proxy and seatwarmer, meaning his candidacy in Kelana Jaya is genuine. Loh’s nomination was controversial and he inadvertently crossed our line of sight after this forum discussed the church-shophouses issue miring his opponent Lee Hwa Beng. Subsequently, the PKR rookie became our case study in a prolonged debate on democratic processes.  

This week, an independent candidate is having his 5 minutes of fame. Ho Yip Kap who won a state seat in Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands is all set to rejoin MCA. Ho is reported in party mouthpiece The Star as saying: “I know some voters will be angry with me but there will be many happy ones, too.” 

Can we infer from Ho’s admission that it was not made known to the electorate before polling day that he’d already harboured the idea of crossover? If he planned beforehand to return to the BN fold, then deciding to take Tanah Rata with him now is unethical because his intent was hidden from his constituents. 

We also have V. Arumugam, the independent candidate who captured Bukit Selambau, Kedah. He has joined PKR and been picked to be a state executive councillor in the PAS-led government. According to him, it was PKR that made the approach, and apparently met his terms.  

If it rankled when Opposition state assemblyman-elects are solicited and enticed to switch their allegiance to BN, then it should likewise be unpalatable when turn-coating is encouraged or occurs in the reverse direction. 

As a person who is chary of institutional constraints, I’m example of someone who would be willing to throw my support behind a tenable independent. This decision equates my vote is my trust given to my representative to be civil society’s voice.  

But the cynical dealmaking and other shenanigans like candidates failing to show up on nomination day is a damper to the fledging notion that we, the people, are stakeholders. As much as I’d like to believe we can create our own options rather than frustratingly accepting the surrender implicit in “what other choice do we have”, these demonstrations of human frailty are a letdown.  

People’s Parliament initiated ‘Know Your MP’ and “Get an MP’ – c.f. how Singapore headhunts her incorruptible, reluctant politicians – because integrity is the foundation stone of reform. Or so I thought.   

National service (not self-service) starts with: Who is the man asking you to elect him to high public office and what does he stand for? Does he know his own mind and will he follow the dictates of his conscience?  

Some PKR and party supporters who commented in the People’s Parliament Kelana Jaya threads insist an MCA nominee will invariably kowtow to Umno. I’ve no quarrel with this assumption.  

However, they fail to realise the same fatal flaw mirrored in their argument that Gwo Burne’s inexperience – when GB himself posted in this forum, he admitted that he was only 4 days old in politics – is immaterial. They advise that as a novice he need simply go along with his senior party colleagues in the House. 

This ‘rationalisation’ of double standards makes me wonder what values we are affirming and sets me to thinking we surely deserve the double-dealing politicians we get.