Published in The Malay Mail Online
I am a political layman, and I for one am tired of being told that I cannot possibly understand politicians because I am not in politics myself.
I first heard about Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s plan to contest the Kajang state assembly seat before boarding a plane from Kota Kinabalu, after almost a week of holiday and deliberately ignoring political news.
My first thought upon hearing the news was an obvious “Oh snap Anwar, you din’t.”
Part of me did find it absurd that he, of all people, would contest the seat himself. Why did it have to be him? Did PKR not have any other credible candidate for a state seat?
Of course, after previously listening to the tiff between Selangor PKR’s Khalid Ibrahim and Azmin Ali, it was not hard to put two and two together.
Despite that, over the course of the next few days, I kept hearing that I got it all wrong. We, the public, have all got it wrong.
On Wednesday, I remembered reading a tweet from a PKR member who said that the real situation is out of the grasp of the laymen who are not in politics, and he himself only understood it after the party itself explained it to him.
On Thursday night, I covered a forum on Anwar’s contest, and political activist Hishamuddin Rais kept telling the audience that there is more in the Kajang Move than meets the eye.
Those who do not know the goings on behind the scene would not get it, he insisted. To the surprise of few, Hishamuddin supported the move, but he claimed only because he knew the real reason behind it.
As the forum ended, it seemed that only die-hard PKR members and Anwar supporters who might have probably drunk the Kool-Aid themselves were convinced that the move was really for the benefit of the public.
If a decision by a politician is too hard to explain to the lay public, then at what point does he cease to serve the public and move to serve himself instead?
PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli insisted in the same forum — to the verge of tears — that PKR is not the same as Umno, and the move was because PKR thought it was their best decision rather than it thinking it knew best.
Rafizi’s warning also had been clear this week: that the move was engineered to face an alleged political onslaught by Barisan Nasional in the future, to the point that the ruling coalition will use every racial and religious cards they have.
How long though, until this PKR’s threat of a racial and religious storm will turn similar like the supremacist’s oft-repeated threat of a racial riot of May 13’s proportion in the future, should Malays and Muslims keep being insulted?
There is also this possibility that the situation had become so hard to explain to the public because PKR had waited this long to clear it up.
It is also possible that PKR is just digging a deeper hole for themselves by trying to explain this situation away instead of just coming clean.
What are the chances that the public could have stayed calm and disposed with speculations if PKR or Anwar just admitted that they think it is time for Khalid to step down from the mentri besar post?
To segue from this issue, it is becoming too common for Malaysian personalities to dismiss their detractors, claiming they are not part of a certain section that has a say on the issues.
Case in point, producer and director Ahmad Idham — he of Adnan Sempit and Apa Celop Toqq’s fame — had yesterday mocked and dismissed criticism towards the local film industry coming from the Twitter account @twt_filem.
@twt_filem is one of the many subject-specific Twitter accounts, maintained by a rotation of film-loving Malaysians: from filmmakers, actors, writers, to students.
Faced with criticism, Ahmad Idham claimed that none of the account’s criticisms were valid since the curators lack any “real” experience in the film industry.
Does a paying film viewer then need to be a film director himself to be able to tell Ahmad Idham how horrible Apa Celop Toqq was?
By dismissing detractors as not being in the right privileged group — usually the group being criticised — the accused could simply trivialise the criticism.
For example: You have to be an economist to comment on Malaysia’s economy. You have to be a cleric to comment on Islam. You have to be a writer to comment on my column (no, you do not).
And as in PKR’s case, it seems you have to be a PKR politician too before you can comment on PKR’s politics.
I admit, those not in the know might have less insight on the subject or even none at all, but that does not make their comments any less valid.
There are many perspectives about an issue — with the layman’s point of view being one of them — and they are all valid and worthy of attention.
To dismiss criticism with a lousy excuse questioning the professional credibility of the questioner is just that: a lousy excuse to shut off criticism.
I wish Anwar well for Kajang, and if he does turn out to be Selangor’s new mentri besar, I sincerely hope he can put a muzzle on the rabid state religious authorities.