Political frogs cause instability as they make people mistrust and despise politicians. They alter the political equation and neglect to honour the voting public that put them in power. – Mariam Mokhtar, columnist
It’s said that in some cultures, the frog is a symbol of good luck and seen as a sign of fertility, transformation and safe travel.
To some, a frog can be a sign of good weather to come, especially for farmers dependant on rain to provide them with a bountiful harvest.
So, how are frogs viewed in Malaysia?
Well, the actual meaning is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, as “a tailless amphibian with a short squat body, moist smooth skin, and very long hind legs for leaping”.
However, this is not what comes to the mind of Malaysians in the current political climate — except for the ‘leaping’ part. Here, I refer to another species of frogs — the political ones.
Along with the new norms brought in by the Covid-19 pandemic, the new age of politics in Malaysia has also made it the new norm to leap from party to party, with an increasing frequency and tendency to leap back and forth as well.
Many political pundits and reporters, let alone voters and members of the public cannot keep up with the constant leaping of politicians and I for one have mostly given up keeping track.
These frogs need not throw away their previous party uniforms as they might come in handy. At least they will be practising the last three of the 5R (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle) initiatives.
It seems they are certainly not practising the first and second — Refusing or Reducing the alleged inducements to defect.
I did personally wonder if those labelled as frogs considered it defamatory to be labelled as such. However, a court judgement several years ago cleared the air.
It was ruled by a Penang High Court that in the context of Malaysian politics, it is not defamatory to refer to a politician who defects, as a “frog” or “political frog”.
However, recently a social media user came to the defence of frogs — “Frogs have been unfairly treated, castigated and lambasted of late, through no fault of their own! They’ve been given all sorts of horrible names under the sun.”
“Yet, real frogs are actually beautiful. Real frogs have integrity and honour. They care for and guard their little ones. They might makan lalat but they don’t makan rasuah! They croak but are not crooks!”
Based on this, I think if the frogs could sue they might win an action for using their good name in a derogatory manner and most likely succeed. Therefore, for the remainder of this column, I will use the word ‘defectors’.
Do these defectors cause any harm?
They can destabilise our states or country. Look at resource-rich Sabah that has seen constant changes and political dramas and over the last few years some Malayan states as well.
They also cause economic uncertainty leading to instability and hardship for the rakyat.
What is even more frightening is the scenario posed by Mat Sabu when he said “assuming that an allocation to acquire an MP is RM30 million to RM40 million, this is certainly a small sum of money to a foreign billionaire. Just rope in 112 MPs and he’s able to control Malaysia”.
What if the word “billionaire” is substituted by “another country” – shocking outcome and MA63 would become redundant!
There are many other negative impacts such as the ever-widening trust deficit between the people and politicians.
Some attempts were made to introduce rules or laws to prevent this, but have been ruled to be against the constitution.
These attempts should continue and if they really are against the constitution, let us change the constitution to allow for an anti-hopping law.
A viable and cost-effective law could be where the political party that won the seat retains it, even if the elected representative defects.
This would mean the political party could nominate a replacement for their seat. It would also prevent defections, thereby adding to political stability.
In the meantime, while waiting for the anti-hopping laws, the best cause of action would be not to vote for any defectors. Just castrate them, I mean politically, not literally.
Let us wait and see how Sabahans vote in their upcoming state election.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.