Sunday, 14 April 2013

Who is the Leader, Who the Follower?

Who has the better manifesto – the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) or Pakatan Rakyat?
As the build-up to election day on May 5 continues, some voters might want to consider this before they go to the polls while some will not bother because they have already made up their minds anyway.
The main topic of conversation surrounding BN’s manifesto has been its promise of more cash handouts. Critics have been running it down as blatant vote-buying while simple-minded people may be swayed by the offer of more BR1M (Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia) with higher cash values and yearly payout frequency.
To be sure, giving free handouts annually is a negative sign. It is an admission that BN has not been managing the country’s economy well from Independence till now to ensure that a huge proportion of Malaysians are earning enough to be self-sufficient.
It is also sending out a negative message to the people, telling them that they can get money without working for it. This reinforces the culture of dependence emerging from the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP).


If voters fall for the promise of more BR1M, it will show they are willing bribe-takers, that they are people who are prone to being dependent.
AP, Lai Seng SinTo woo Indian voters, BN pledges RM500 million in seed funding towards raising the equity of the Indian community to at least 3 per cent. Pakatan, however, does not pander to any ethnic community, preferring to take a broad multi-racial approach in its plans for the country’s future without favouring any particular race. This augurs well for a better Malaysia and shows up once again BN’s attempt at blatant vote-buying.
On the whole, the BN manifesto is nothing new. As a veteran economist who has served in the civil service notes, it is structurally the same BN manifesto that has been used in past general elections for decades. It is superficial and short-term, particularly in its focus on cash handouts. He would have wanted BN to tackle the key issues of improving education, for instance, and removing the fixation on the NEP and the accompanying idea of Ketuanan Melayu. Both of these are comprehensively addressed in the Pakatan manifesto.
Moreover, BN’s promise of a 20 to 30 per cent gradual reduction in car prices is lifted, ironically enough, from Pakatan’s manifesto. And the increase in taxi permits being granted to individuals is another Pakatan-inspired promise. The difference is, Pakatan offers a better deal – it will abolish the current system of granting permits to selected companies and give these permits directly to all taxi drivers.

There are other ideas borrowed from Pakatan, including the uniformisation of the prices of essential items so that Sabahans and Sarawakians don’t have to pay more for them. This goes to show that Pakatan is the one that is much more the mover while BN is the follower.
Lai Seng SinBN may say that it came up with these ideas on its own, but the fact that Pakatan unveiled its manifesto a few weeks earlier gives the impression that BN copied from the latter. More important to note is the other well-known fact that this is not the first time BN has adopted Pakatan’s ideas.
Even as early as last year, political observers had noted that the BN-led government was carrying out reforms that Pakatan had originally proposed, like the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Sedition Act; the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the issue of illegal immigrants in Sabah; and the review of oil royalties.
Wan Saiful Wan Jan, chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), pointed out in August 2012 that the Government “should be the ones leading” because “copying is not really leadership”.
He added that “it shows that it’s good for a country to have a strong Opposition” because it was Pakatan’s pressuring that made BN copy its ideas, but that it was risky for BN to continue doing so.
“People may start questioning who is the real leader,” he said, and BN might “lose leadership status and become a follower”.
On election day, voters will have to decide whether they want in government a coalition that is the mover or the follower.
Bersih, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, has invited BN Chairman Najib Razak and Pakatan Leader Anwar Ibrahim to take part in a public forum to let the people hear which side has the better vision for the next five years. So far, Anwar has agreed to it, but Najib, as expected, is silent.
On previous occasions, Najib has turned down invitations to engage in public debates, saying that such debates were “not part of our culture”. It’s the same fallacious excuse given for street demonstrations.
Funnily enough, even when it comes to a simple thing as a public forum, Malaysians can see which side is quick to seize the initiative. Anwar is ready, but Najib is hesitant.
Which one is the leader and which one the follower?
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Gift or nightmare for Najib?

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