I’ve been a registered voter for four elections now and, being the hopeless optimist that I am, have always taken great pride in carrying out my duty and privilege as a citizen with every ballot I cast.
Being a journalist for almost my entire work life may have dulled a little of the romanticism I started out with, but I’ve always still believed that good governance in Malaysia is more than an ideal, and all we need is determination to slowly chip away at the wrongs.
Oh, and did I also mention a whole lot of patience?
Before the opposition pact came into being, Malaysian voters had little other choice than to put up with the antics, corruption and abuse of power that came with a government that had ruled unchallenged for 50 years.
But we were patient, and as we waited, we looked to civil societies, NGOs and the rare few independent-thinking politicians to give voice to our grievances.
And then the 2008 elections happened. While I don’t believe in the infallibility of any politician, there was a time I truly thought that our crop of opposition politicians held great promise as agents of change.
The results of the 2008 and 2013 elections showed I was not the only one who bought into the idea that a cleaner, more efficient and fairer government could be a reality, and the deliverer of that reality was Pakatan Rakyat.
So we celebrated when the newly-empowered opposition came sweeping into parliament in unprecedented numbers.
But then the cracks started appearing. Defections, infighting and power struggles all showed an inability for the alliance members to agree on almost anything, except that they wanted to storm into Putrajaya and take over.
Patient voters, whose imaginations had been captured by the promise of a new era, initially forgave these indiscretions as “teething problems”.
“They’re weeding out the renegades at an early stage”, we said. “They need time to forge a common path”, others reasoned.
“They’re still better than the existing government,” some convinced themselves.
And so the enduring Malaysian voter remained patient, hoping and waiting for the time when the opposition would show signs that they could indeed become a viable alternative to our existing government.
Well, seven years have passed and today, the long-suffering voter is more than just a little fed-up.
Let me be clear that when I say opposition, I’m referring to the Pakatan Rakyat coalition as an entity.
Just like in Barisan Nasional, there are always the few shining Members of Parliament who are deserving of their ‘Yang Berhormat’ titles, but unfortunately, the alliance must be judged by the worst of them.
And by that measure, our opposition has remained as fragmented, directionless and ill-disciplined as the day they came into existence.
The bulldozing of the “hudud” bill by PAS last month without any regard for their coalition partners was not the first time PR politicians were at loggerheads over the issue of Islamic law, but was definitely the most obvious sign of the discord and disrespect they have for each other.
Last week, the Prevention of Terrorism Act was tabled in Parliament and passed. That Barisan Nasional lawmakers all voted for this bill should come as no surprise. Independent thinking is not a culture in our government.
But the real shocker was that 30% of the pposition MPs weren’t even present to cast their votes.
No corruption or cronyism made you skip Parliament. No gerrymandering or excessive use of police force approved a law that endangers every Malaysian’s civil liberties. That’s on you. And because you represent your party and coalition, this is a collective red mark on the entire opposition.
The whole debacle stunk of the same lackadaisical, arrogant attitude that is precisely the reason why many of us voted against Barisan Nasional.
So the question now is, how much longer is it going to take for Pakatan to grow up? When will you be ready to show us you can actually lead the nation, and do a better job at it than the current government?
From the chief minister of my favourite state in Malaysia; to the arrogant PAS lawmakers who don’t even care to give an explanation for their absence, please don’t test our patience anymore.
We voted you in, and we can jolly well vote you out. Now please, get your act together and get back to work.
Julia has been a journalist for too long, but still counts it as her first love in spite of a brief flirtation with lecturing and the corporate world. She has a friend who calls her naïve for believing that Malaysia could one day rise from the ashes. She hopes to one day prove him wrong.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.