By Janice Fredah Ti
We have been told of late that politics is a game – power game, number game, game of the elites..….etc etc , well yes to some extent it does look like a game what with rivalling factions sometimes going all out to outdo their opponents. They waste time attacking each other, saying and doing things that don’t benefit the People while important issues get sidelined. But it can only continue if we, the People, allows it to be.
So, if politics should not be a game, then what is politics and how should it be? What should it mean to the man on the street on a day to day basis? What is politics beyond exercising democratic rights at the ballot box every time an election is called?
Let it be clear that politics IS NOT a game. Politics at its core is about people’s lives. The process of an election is not limited to casting a vote. It produces outcomes that affects the People’s lives. How the People controls the outcome goes beyond picking a candidate from a popular party, it certainly goes beyond voting someone out with no consideration for who we are really voting in.
It is time the people of Malaysia comes to the realisation that unless we shift the focus from the politicians to the people, election and election results will always be about the politicians and not the people. Everyone is aware of voting as a right granted to every citizen, but we need conscious efforts to not surrender our rights back to politicians the minute we walk out of polling stations.
Where and how do we even start to do that particularly given our decades old culture of looking up to mainstream politicians? I say we start right here right now in Semenyih, in which a by-election has been called after the death of the incumbent state assemblyman last month. I say we no longer allow politics to be a game.
On the premise that election results will affect the livelihood of the People concerned, how do we then go about choosing our representatives in the state assembly that will bring about the desired results? How do we know their values and what they represent? How do we know they will strive to make our lives better?
A simple way is to look at their background, party (if any) history and their manifesto. A manifesto, unless with intentions to mislead to garner votes, should outline the beliefs, principles, ambition and method of delivery of the party/person that made the pledge. Party history and background will then be a good method to gauge how trustworthy or believable their manifesto is.
A rapidly developing area like Semenyih with approximately 54 000 registered voters and a population of 300 000 requires a detailed plan for true and meaningful progress. Steps need to be put in place to minimise problems associated with any modern development. National type grandiose manifesto may not be good enough to zoom in on specific issues the locals seek to address.
Yes, a state legislative assembly by-election is about the locals and what they need. Semenyih is home ground to Parti Socialis Malaysia (PSM) and their community work over the years. A walkabout in Semenyih town and talking to the locals will tell one that PSM’s presence is greatly felt with many associating PSM with problem solving of big and small issues, among other work. Arulchelvan, central committee member and ex secretary general of PSM is a familiar figure from the market to the coffeeshops to the housing estates, respected for his fearless and tireless representation of all issues involving the People. Though he is not the candidate this time, anyone who remotely understands PSM knows that they have a rule of fielding only candidates who have done at least some years of voluntary/community work in the area concerned.
PSM, for the 4th time is contesting the state seat of Semenyih. Let’s examine their concerns and pledges to the People of Semenyih this time round:
1) Housing for all – affordable housing. PSM is concerned that the property market in Semenyih has shot way above the affordability level of the locals. There are many new unsold houses even after years of completion. PSM clearly distinguishes low cost houses and affordable houses, and hence will campaign for the authorities to bring back low cost houses and for every housing development to have both low cost as well as what is categorised as affordable housing. Further to that, PSM proposes that quota should be imposed not just on low cost or affordable housing but also on luxury properties. This is in view of most unsold properties being in the middle upper affordability category.
2) The 300 000 population in Semenyih is dependable on Hospital Kajang , Hospital Serdang and Hospital Serdang for their medical care resulting in serious congestions in these hospitals that already have their own population to take care of. In the absence of immediate plans to build a big hospital for Semenyih (as announced by the Health Minister this month), and while working towards that, PSM proposes an immediate upgrade on the existing Klinik Kesihatan Semenyih to the status of a hospital with the addition of necessary equipment and facilities such as ambulances to facilitate quick transfers to bigger hospitals in times of emergency.
3) To ease the burden of the B40 population who lives in low cost terrace houses and low cost flats , PSM proposes to streamline property taxes and maintenance fees as the current system is more burdensome to low cost flat dwellers when it is obvious low cost flat dwellers are much more challenged economically than low cost house dwellers.
4) Public transportation. PSM views Semenyih’s transportation issues and traffic congestions from 2 angles. 1) economic 2) time saving and convenience, which ultimately leads to improvement of quality of life.
A huge section of Semenyih population works in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, which means to say almost every person driving out of Semenyih will need to pay highway tolls just to get to work, sometimes more than one. Semenyih is surrounded by the Silk Highway, Lekas Kajang Batu 3 Highway as well as the Plus Putra Mahkota Highway. PSM takes the lead to urge the authorities to abolish at least one these highway tolls to help ease the burden of Semenyih citizens.
At the same time, PSM would work towards the upgrading of bus services to various places after witnessing the decline over the years. This has become much burden to the Semenyih population who needless to say depend on bus services for work and other activities. Even to go to the nearest MRT station which is situated in Kajang, one needs to take 2 buses.
5) PSM proposes localised elections in all housing estates, flats and villages to elect resident leaders. PSM believes this is the best move to directly involve local residents in support of the State Legislative Assembly to address and tackle issues directly affecting residents of the respective areas. This is also in line with PSM’s bottom up (as opposed to top down) democracy approach.
6) PSM is concerned with the mind boggling decision to abolish Form 6 in secondary schools in Semenyih some years back and seeks to bring this back so six formers need not have to travel to nearby towns to attend Form 6 classes.
7) Environment. PSM would like to engage the government in matters of environmental preservation and natural recreation places like hot springs and Bukit Broga, famous among hikers in view of over development activities in the area of late. Promotion of these places as tourist attractions will also bring economic benefits to the locals.
Dear fellow citizens, do we have any quarrel with the above pledges? Do we see other contenders with this level of commitment and attention to details? If you don’t, please treat this as an appeal to spread the message to our fellow citizens who are voting in Semenyih.
It is time sincere, consistent and hardworking people are voted into State Assemblies and Parliament. It is time political hegemony be considered repulsive, abusive and offensive.
Politics is NOT a game, it’s our lives.