norlela ariffinAUGUST 18 ― It is unfortunate that those seeking to be Malaysia’s first ever alternative government do not seem to practise a radically different form of politics compared to Barisan Nasional (BN).

Penanti assemblywoman Dr Norlela Ariffin from PKR was reportedly branded a “culprit” behind Penang executive councilor Phee Boon Poh’s arrest over an illegal factory in her constituency.

She reportedly received so much flak after thanking the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for finally taking action against the 15-year-old factory that she ended up blocking some people on Facebook. She also said she might not contest the next general election.

Reforming democracy in Malaysia requires not just a change of government, but a change in the way people practise politics. Corruption is not the end all and be all.

There is no point in reducing corruption if politicians uphold the same race-based system (with one particular party blatantly replicating Umno’s racial membership criteria) and do not permit dissenting voices within their own party or coalition.

What is the point of electing representatives if they are not even allowed to raise issues that affect their constituents, to do their very job of representing the people?

Speaking out against the policy of a state government that one is a part of should not be seen as betrayal. (It is also rather odd that no “amicable solution” has been found for the illegal factory for over a decade).

In the US, the Republicans failed to pass a Bill in the Senate to partly repeal the Affordable Care Act ― even though the party controls the presidency, the Senate and the House ― because three Republican senators blocked the legislation.

One of them, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), had said most of her constituents wanted her to put them first and to “protect Alaska’s interests.”

American politicians often have to fight to get support from within their own party or from across the aisle for laws they wish to pass. They do not automatically assume support from party members. There is freedom to oppose your own party members’ stands and policies.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn voted against the whip 428 times during his party’s 13 years in government in the UK.

But in Malaysia, no Sarawakian BN MPs (or Opposition, for that matter) voted against or even debated the tourism tax bill when it was passed in the Dewan Rakyat last April. The state government only decided to publicly complain about the bill after its passage.

Sarawakian minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said that MPs from the state were obliged to support BN’s proposed legislation, claiming it was in line with the principle of collective responsibility in the Commonwealth.

And in Penang, a PKR lawmaker is censured just for looking after her constituents that put her at odds with Pakatan Harapan (PH) state policy.

Back in 2015, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng accused five PKR assemblymen of “mutiny“ just because they abstained from voting on a motion moved by a BN lawmaker to halt new land reclamation projects pending environmental studies and to have open hearings for such projects. Two of them were later stripped of their directorships in state-linked agencies.

So when it comes to decentralising decision-making within the party (and government by extension), it appears that both BN and PH are equally reluctant to share power. 

Some young people aren’t just trying to do the “in” thing by declaring their lack of enthusiasm in casting their ballots in the next election and, in particular, voting PH.

If young Malaysians are disillusioned or apathetic, it’s because the Opposition is doing a terrible job at differentiating themselves from BN.

It’s because PH lacks the courage and imagination to craft a radically different Malaysia that is free from racial governance and Leninist-style politics.