By Kee Thuan Chye | Yahoo News
I have a niece who is a government doctor, and recently she asked me a question that was most alarming: “Can we government servants vote against Barisan Nasional (BN)?”
“Of course!” I replied.
Her fear was that if she did not vote for BN, she would be deemed disloyal to the Government. But this is not so.
BN is only the government of the day. It is the officer in charge that takes care of the affairs of the country because they were voted in to do so. They do not represent “the Government” in its eternal sense. Neither do they represent “the country”. BN and the country are not one and the same.
If BN is perceived to be doing a poor job of running the affairs of the country, it can be replaced by another coalition with the hope that the latter can do a better job.
Also, if BN is perceived to have been corrupt and making money for its own officers rather than taking care of the interests of the country, it should be replaced.
There is therefore no such thing as disloyalty to the Government.
In fact, by not voting against a government that is corrupt, the voter shows disloyalty to the country. And that is far, far worse.
To quote the American political activist and author Thomas Paine: “The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from its government.”
We should do this on a daily basis, as part of civil society, if we want to be responsible for ensuring that the administration of our country is properly maintained, and many of us do. And apart from that, once every five years, we get to do it through voting.
In this regard, I would like to address what a Facebook friend has asked me to – the issue of his fellow Indians who are now saying they cannot vote against BN because they have received the BR1M money of RM500. He said they feel they have to remain loyal to the coalition because they have benefitted from its handout.
To this, I have to say that the Indians – and any Malaysians of any race, for that matter – need not feel that way. This is simply because the BR1M money does not come from BN. It comes from the taxes paid by the rakyat. It is the rakyat’s money. The Indian beneficiaries of BR1M, who must also be tax-payers in one form or another, are getting back their own money.
I hope they will not be fooled by BN’s ploy to make it look like the coalition is being generous and helpful and considerate of the less fortunate.
The people who got BR1M must also understand that the money is given out to buy their hearts – and persuade them to vote for BN. It is given with an ulterior purpose, not out of kind consideration for the less fortunate. This is politics, it’s not charity-giving.
I would like to quote what the former Cabinet minister Zaid Ibrahim said to his fellow Malay voters – that the BR1M handouts are bribes. And that it is wrong for the country’s leaders to bribe the voters.
However, he added, it is not wrong for the voters to keep the money and still vote for the leaders or parties of their choice, even if they are from the Opposition Pakatan Rakyat.
Zaid acknowledged that BN has said it would give out more BR1M if it is retained as the government. But, he said, that shouldn’t stop people from still voting for Pakatan in order to bring about at least a stronger Opposition. It is because the Opposition has been strong since 2008 that the BN Government has been giving out BR1M; so the stronger the Opposition is, the more BR1M there will be.
So, going by that logic, it is pretty clear that voting for the Opposition is a win-win proposition for the people. Besides, if they don’t get a new government, they would still get a stronger Opposition that would make the BN government work harder and take better care of the people’s needs.
On the other hand, if they were to vote for BN, and to the extent that BN gets back its two-thirds majority, then the Opposition will be too weak to keep it in check. And BN would then be able to do whatever it wants, without regard for the people’s needs. It would be able to amend the Federal Constitution according to its liking even if the rakyat don’t like the amendments.
It would seem then that if the rakyat voted for BN, they would face a lose-lose situation. And that would not be a smart move at all. If they are still worried about the BR1M issue, Pakatan has already said that if it takes over the government, it will continue giving out cash aids. So there is really no cause for concern there.
The voters hold the power. They must decide to use it in their best interests, not in the best interests of the political leaders. The voters owe no loyalty to anyone except themselves.
Let me end with these two quotes from the 38th Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura: “I love my country, not my government.” And “Voting is voting your heart and voting your conscience …”
I can’t argue with both. I hope we all agree that voting is not to show loyalty for money we received that was actually ours to begin with. I hope we all agree that we should not vote for a government that is corrupt and dishonest.
*This article is the personal opinion of the columnist.
Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the bestselling book No More Bullshit, Please, We’re All Malaysians, and the latest volume, Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More!