We had an interesting discussion with some university students last weekend. It was about governance and leadership of the country.
It was agreed that political leadership is relevant because the people in general require direction for the Nation. There must be a captain who is steering the ship and a capable crew to help the ship move safely and efficiently. The safety of the passengers is paramount. There also must not be pilferage on the ship either by the captain or the crew. More importantly, economic considerations should not override the safety and welfare of the passengers like what happened to the Titanic.
Having agreed that political leadership is necessary, next on the discussion was various matters such as – the function and quality of the leadership. It must be borne in mind that while politicians provide general leadership, the actual work of governance of the Nation is being carried out daily by the civil servants. The civil servants carry out their duties in accordance with the laws, rules and regulations that are passed by politicians in Parliament. Hence, it is the politicians that set the legal framework within which the government functions. Without the slightest of doubt, these laws, rules and regulations affect the daily lives of the ordinary citizen. For example, due to several “unfriendly” regulations concerning setting up businesses, many ordinary citizens are unable to readily feed their family by doing legitimate businesses.
Since the laws that are passed by Parliament (Politicians) affect our everyday lives, it becomes critical that we have not only clever and intelligent politicians but those that can emphatise with the needs of the ordinary Rakyat. It is really pointless having a politician from Oxford or Standford or Harvard if he is unable to emphatise with the needs of the Rakyat, particularly so when his entire family background and growing up environment is detached from the lives of the ordinary Rakyat. Can a person who studied at exclusive schools, mixing around with children of elites, and living a life with an extra ordinary budget ever understand the social and economic challenges of the average citizen? Such a politician will only be manipulative of the Rakyat for his own political ends while serving elitist economic interests.
We agreed that in Malaysia, politics has become a family “property” to be passed on from generation to generation. This need not necessarily be a bad thing but it does behove us to ask several questions. If the Rapera does not ask the relevant question, then we will be guilty of creating an aristocracy and some sort of political feudalism with its attendant problems. If this happens, then there will be a master-slave relationship between the political leader and the ordinary citizen which is an antithesis of true democracy. In a democracy, the government is of the people by the people for the people. In other words, the People are the masters of the destiny of the Nation.
Our discussion identified the important link between the quality of leadership, the laws passed and the welfare of the people. If there are “bad laws” in the sense that it impinges on natural rights of human beings, it reflects badly on the quality of political leadership in the country. If the wealth of the Nation is largely concentrated in the hands of the very few elites and families, then, it also reflects upon the quality (or possibly greed) of the political leadership.
image thanks to here.
This is particularly so when the opportunities for such a wealth was gained largely by political interference. Responsible politicians should not create policies or do acts that deliberately create income inequalities. In our country, an examination of the control of wealth and essential businesses may reveal that it belongs to a very select few. This is an exercise that should be undertaken by a Rapera for the benefit of the general public. This exercise may even reveal the “political and money trail” that binds together the economic and political power in the country in the hands of some who can perpetuate power forever, ceteris paribus. If this is the case, then the ordinary Rakyat is doomed forever – it is just a matter of time.
We also agreed that the search for a “People leader” should continue and it need not be confined to the leaders that have been offered by the respective political parties. In fact, as I have argued before, political parties in our country are unable to allow the best “talents” to rise as leaders. The current political system and culture is so embedded in itself that it cannot evolve into something better without fundamental reforms within the political system, thought and culture. It is also equally challenging for Raperas to evolve because the political environment has engulfed the national environment where only politicians are given prominence in public space, and that too, the mainstream politicians. Alternative views and thoughts that contest the mainstream are either systematically suppressed or ridiculed through control of the mainstream media.
We have yet to develop a culture that each citizen cares for the Nation and has a responsibility and duty towards ensuring its general well being. Over the years, our politics has descended to the level of championing rights to the exclusion of collective responsibility and general empathy to the needs of the other fellow citizens. Our politics have yet to detach itself from the tribal, primitive or jahiliah basis of exclusivity based on ethnicity or religion (yes, religious discrimination included if it is intended to discriminate against fellow human beings). When we are unable to identify humane leaders, how can we have quality political leadership? When we have feeble mortals behaving like God on earth, can we truly believe they serve God? It is all politics at its worse.
We admitted that bringing about a responsible thinking political culture among the citizens is a momentous task and requires long term awakening among the citizens of this Nation. Like Egypt and in all human history, the general citizens only act when they brought to the level of utmost humiliation.
We also recognized that the elitists with their vested interests will try very hard to arrest the Rakyat’s awakening and political maturing. Raperas must take this lead as the ordinary citizens are too busy with their daily lives.
SO, the search for the People’s Leader continues. And we continued to enjoy our teh tarik and roti canai.
(Note: To the Raperas who made time to have teh tarik with me – thanks for educating me further. You all were wonderful and I have hope for the future with the presence of young people like you all)