Promises, dashed hopes and U-turns

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.
– Oscar Ameringer, German-American Socialist editor and author

The people voted in Pakatan Harapan (PH) to form the government in GE14.

This is the people’s democratic right and it should be duly respected. This alliance of hope was meant to bring an enlightened form of government to transform the very foundation of Malaysia and with it, an era of new beginnings for all Malaysians.

There was a tremendous outpouring of joy upon the announcement of the GE14 results on May 9, 2018.

So how was this hope sparked off? What made the people undertake this regime change? In short, it could be said the ‘Buku Harapan — Rebuilding Our Nation, Fulfilling Our Hopes’ played an important role.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s opening statement in his foreword is as follows: “This book contains Pakatan Harapan’s promises to the people of Malaysia on the steps we will take when we become the government.”

The promises he refers to were summarised into five pillars, 10 promises in 100 days, 60 promises in five years and five special pledges. The Buku Harapan (Book of Hope) contains very noble aspirations backed up with the promises.

A promise is a commitment by oneself or an organisation to carry out pledges made. In politics especially, a manifesto can be said to be a ‘social contract’ with the rakyat.

Once made, a promise can subsequently be either performed, incomplete or just ignored. For some people, promises are used only as a means to an end and not meant to be kept.

The fourth pillar relating to Sarawak rights has certainly been ignored and not kept. The Harapan Tracker, a non-partisan website (https://harapantracker.polimeter.org/) monitors the promises made.

The current statistics show that to date, five per cent of the promises have been carried out (including replacing GST with SST), 22 per cent are in progress, two per cent cancelled and a whopping 71 per cent not even started. This 71 per cent can effectively be deemed to be broken promises as well.

So what is the chance of PH keeping their fourth pillar promise relating to Sabah and Sarawak rights? Well, based on various statements made by the prime minister, the chance of this promise is about the same as a politician’s promise to build a bridge where there is no river.

Now there is even talk of bringing back GST, meaning another U-turn. Some PH representatives have said they needed a mandate to reintroduce GST. Perhaps the outcome of the upcoming Tanjung Piai by-election and Sarawak elections can be the mandate they need.

The fifth pillar places emphasis on creating a Malaysia that is inclusive, moderate and respected globally. However, we are now being fed a daily diet of racial hatred and religious bigotry. Understanding and tolerance seem to have been thrown out the window.

Unfortunately, our Dr Mahathir has also seen fit to also interfere in the internal affairs of other countries — the latest being opining that the Chief Executive of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, Carrie Lam, should step down. It would be better if the PH leadership focused on solving the multitude of issues back home.

In the second paragraph of his foreword, Dr M invokes the name of God to offer PH “to shoulder the heavy responsibility of saving the country”.

However, subsequently, he is on record saying that Buku Harapan is not a bible effectively retracting the promises made therein. With this, PH has basically sent out a message to Malaysians saying there is no more hope for Malaysia.

In the third paragraph, Dr M states: “With the publication of this book, we also humbly pledge that we are willing to be judged by the people on how far we fulfill our promises when we are in government. If we fail or if we break our promises, by all means, reject us in the next general election.”

The prime minister estimates that 60 per cent of the PH manifesto had been accomplished. To me, this seems like another Trump-like statement.

It seems that the initial outpouring of joy has now fizzled out. An independent survey now puts PH’s popularity at 35 per cent as of August.

I believe that this is the outcome of our nation moving from one internal crisis to the next, one blunder to another and one racially and religiously divisive issue to another with no end in sight.

This is a time to build bridges between the communities, not barriers. We already have enough challenges. PH must not add to them. Only by carrying out the promises can we move forward to revive economic prosperity and social stability.

I’m sure that many Malaysians would by now have concluded that overall the Buku Harapan, although inspirational, is not worth the paper it is written on. In fact, toilet paper has much more value because at least it serves an important hygienic function.

For Sarawakians, let’s hope we stand together and do the right thing at the next election. Do not be swayed by any ‘buku-buku’ with promises that end up as mere empty words.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.