Monday June 11, 2012
Swap the garb and be a saint
ONE MAN'S MEAT
By PHILIP GOLINGAI
Politics in Malaysia has become a take-no-prisoner game and in order not to be subject to political blackmail one needs to be a Mahatma Gandhi.
A SEASONED politician asked would I stand as a candidate? “I’ve got too many skeletons in my closet,” I said, smiling cheekily. “If I’m elected as a Yang Berhormat and my coalition lost in the polls, on the following day I would join the ruling party as my skeletons would waltz out of the closet.”
“Plus,” I joked, “I wouldn’t be able to resist the RM2mil offer.”
Unlike my countrymen in Sabah where almost everyone wants to be a YB, I don’t.
Politics in Malaysia has become a take-no-prisoner game that you need to be Mahatma Gandhi in order not to be subject to political blackmail.
“We all have skeletons,” the politician said.
“It is the skeleton that does not exist that I’m afraid of,” I said.
Nowadays, it is frightening to be a politician. In the age of CCTV politics, I sometimes wonder whether they feel “naked” in their bathroom.
If I were a YB (the influential type who my rivals have to kill politically), there would be a video of someone (who looks like me and sounds like me) with a woman (not my wife) who would be eating ice cream (I’m not talking about Baskin-Robbins) in a bathroom.
Whether that person is me or not, political operatives will be able to find someone who looks like me when he wears The North Face outdoor apparel.
As a politician you must be extra careful with your hand gestures especially when you’re in a crowded place. Your “curious rolling gesture” might inspire your supporters to breach a police barricade.
I must admit that when I was in my teens I did dream of becoming a politician as I wanted to serve the rakyat (see I can even speak like a politician).
Thinking about it, I’m not sure why I wanted to be a politician.
Is it because I grew up in a time when David (Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan’s Parti Bersatu Sabah) took on Goliath (the mighty Berjaya government that ruled Sabah from 1976 to 1985) and won?
In the opposition days of PBS, Pairin, my Kadazandusun huguan siou (paramount leader), was inspirational.
But in my 18 years covering politics as a journalist, I’m glad my political ambition remained a dream.
I really don’t fancy having a group of veteran soldiers performing butt exercises outside my front gate. Or petty traders (with flashy cars) selling beef burger. Or a group of mat rempits causing commotion on a Friday night.
Nor do I fancy having the DNA of my daughter questioned. Or my sister questioning my love for my mother.
Or my mother telling the press that her only Mother’s Day wish is for me to repent and return to the family. Or me having to announce in public that I love my mother and I’ve not betrayed her.
As a career, politics is limiting. At least as a journalist, nobody would call me names if I joined a rival newspaper.
But when a politician hits the (party) glass ceiling or gets stabbed by a party member, he can’t really seek greener pastures in another political party. If he did, he would be called a frog and would have to bring pepper spray to the state assembly.
There are exceptions. For example, MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has pointed out that when a politician crossed over from Barisan Nasional to the other side, he was considered free of sin.
“They just change their outer outfits and become saints overnight,” he told an online news portal.
It is called tukar baju (to change clothes) in Sabah. In my home state, some politicians switch parties like they change their underwear.
In 1994, the PBS government collapsed when Pairin’s assemblymen ditched his party to join or form Barisan component parties. Their betrayal was called tukar baju.
In the 1995 general election and 1999 Sabah election, the voters punished many of those who tukar baju. But some survived. I call them sustainable politicians.
Even now as I type this article there is speculation (no, not started by me) that some politicians who abandoned PBS in 1994 to join Barisan are trying to sustain their political career by joining PKR. Depending on which political divide you are on, if this tukar baju move happens, these characters will be a frog or a saint.
The other reason I’m not interested in becoming a candidate is I don’t have an ego the size of the Petronas Twin Towers.