Friday April 27, 2012
Reps must think like statesmen
By H. R. Dipendra
Members of Parliament and Assemblymen can no longer be tribal in their views, and should display the values of duty, utility, and eudemonia.
THE 13th general election is almost upon us. Flags have been hoisted, noises made, slogans exhorted, goodies promised and battle lines drawn.
I am reminded of what George Eliot wrote about elections in her book Felix Holt: “An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.”
A lot is at stake and voters are being asked to make the right decision, as a wrong choice of leaders may have disastrous consequences for the state of the nation and Malaysia’s well-being. Or so it seems.
The fact remains that Malaysians get very excited every five years or so. On the eve of every general election, incumbents and challengers do their best to convince voters that they are the right choice to lead them.
I have lamented many a time that many Members of Parliament (MPs) and state assemblymen go missing after being elected.
For example, in the constituency where I vote, my MP has probably not visited my local area since 2008 and the assemblyman is, quite frankly, in my view, somewhat bigoted.
The point I am trying to make is that as voters, should we not expect more from our MPs and assemblymen?
Should we be content in only dealing with them once every five years or should we demand that they engage us (and the community) at regular intervals, even if they do not agree with our politics?
It should not just be about cutting ribbons, launching some project here and there or attending a parent-teacher function.
It is more than that. It is about getting the consensus and thinking of the voters for important issues affecting the country.
For example, how many MPs actually take the trouble to ask their constituents how they should go about replacing the Internal Security Act, or the new raft of legislation that were passed in record time recently?
How many are people-friendly, representative of the minority and all interests or asked their constituents what they felt about the Budget and how it could benefit their constituency, and how decision-making between the voters and the Government could be improved?
I do not think that it is difficult preparing a simple questionnaire detailing these important issues, circulating them among the constituents, collating them and explaining at Parliament and to the party whip that this is the wish list of the constituency.
We no longer live in an age where we can afford to fully depend on our MPs and assemblymen. We need to constantly monitor and check on them every now and then.
We must demand more from them and remind them that they represent our views when dealing with matters affecting the nation.
MPs and assemblymen must accept the fact that they cannot act or behave in isolation or hold only the view of a select few.
Which brings me to my next question: What should we expect from our MPs and assemblymen?
The vast majority of politicians today cannot claim to be guided by the Merdeka or Independence socio-political movement. This country has moved and forged well ahead. The fact that we keep on reflecting too much on history can be unhealthy as the future to me holds more importance.
The next generation of MPs and assemblymen can no longer be tribal in their views and must not subscribe to strong racial or religious views.
Candidates should display the values of duty, utility, and eudemonia (state of happiness governed by reason) as paramount features of their candidacy.
Those who can transcend all barriers to ensure that Malaysians as a whole are looked after and are happy ought to be voted in.
I want to see MPs and assemblymen who are smart, articulate, and can hold themselves well on issues. I am selfish in demanding that my MP and assemblyman must be able to think well ahead.
This is extremely important because Parliament requires intelligent MPs who can debate complex and critical pieces of legislation.
We should do away with chest-thumping politicians who champion (often nefariously) a very small minority.
More importantly, I would like to see MPs and assemblymen break through racial, cultural and political divides and show dedication to the community at large.
MPs and assemblymen must inculcate a sense of nationalism among Malaysians, and that as Malaysians we all belong to this country. We must never be merely a necessary contemplation every five years.
Malaysians, too, must play their part. They must hold their MPs and assemblymen to a higher threshold.
While some MPs and assemblymen regularly engage the community at large through Twitter and Facebook (commendable indeed), more effort should be put into engaging all segments of society.
And if I can make one personal demand, it is that all MPs and assemblymen demonstrate empathy for animal protection and treatment.
I am confident that with all these considerations in place, we as a nation will prosper, mature and hold ourselves out well internationally.
James Freeman Clarke once said that “a politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation”.
We should demand that our MPs and assemblymen act and think like statesmen. And yes, let us all choose wisely come the 13th general election.
> The writer is a young lawyer. Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column – a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society.
For more information about the young lawyers, visit www.malaysianbar.org.my.