Hornbill Unleashed

February 28, 2010

Politics: the art of the passable lie?

By Maximus Kho

Time flies. We are already at the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations, and into the third month of 2010.

There is hardly a moment to waste: a flurry of Court decisions equally balanced between the ruling coalition and the opposition have rattled the status quo. The Judiciary has started to show that it values its independence and may still fulfill its role as the third limb in the Doctrine of Separation of Powers.

Detractors might differ on this point, depending on which decision they examine and which political party they are from. But from an objective view, you might gather that the decisions are largely based on common sense and are mostly apolitical.

We remain ever hopeful that such use of common sense will prevail in future.

This cautious optimism in the Judiciary is more than can be said for our politicians, though. As usual, they seem to be talking from the back ends, as far as common sense is concerned.

Political squabbles in PBB

Take for example the tempest in a tea cup that was the battle for the PBB leadership. The Party forms the backbone of the Barisan Nasional (BN) Coalition in Sarawak with 36 state seats.

Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah threw down the gauntlet to challenge for the PBB Youth head position. He did so confidently, announcing that he was moved to do so by the party “grassroots”. The challenge fizzled out almost as soon as it was announced.

The Brave Challenger withdrew, citing advice from “senior party leaders”. In the same breath, he had unwittingly announced that the “grassroots” were inconsequential to the “leadership”, following the logic of his earlier announcement.

I for one had always thought it was the other way around, in any democracy, but that is not the point. Everyone would have understood, and even sympathised, if he had simply said, “White Hair ordered me to pull out”!

Away from home, we remember the now-famous quote from Bill Clinton, who said “I did not have sex with that woman”. He declared it on public television, looking straight at the cameras with those unblinking blue eyes. I was utterly convinced that it was a Republican conspiracy initially, but we now know that he “did” Monica Lewinsky, although whether he actually had “conventional” sex with her appears to be an open-ended question. The fact remains that he denied it blatantly on international TV, with no reservations whatsoever.

The British inquiry into the Iraq War provides another prime example of politicians lying through their teeth. In his disposition, Tony Blair maintained that he had “no regrets” about the invasion of Iraq and he truly believed it was right that the world was rid of a tyrant – his excuse for the brutal occupation.

I still can recall images of Saddam Hussein, emerging from a dusty hole that was once a well, with hair unkempt, beard unshaven, and no doubt teeth unbrushed. It is hard to imagine he was the man who had the thumb on the button that was going to annihilate the world, as the invaders believed. Tony still believes this, though, to the disappointment of reasonable, right-thinking members of society.

Our local “tall stories”

Back on the local front, we now have the “group of five” from SDPP (or is it SPDP?). Anyway, I am sure you know what I am talking about, the splinter group from PBDS, who are going to splinter further.

Freedom of association is guaranteed by the Malaysian Constitution, but the covert, fearful way the “group of five” went about it, you would have thought that they were trafficking drugs. When the news first broke that there was dissent in the ranks, one of them claimed that she did not “walk out” of the meeting, but merely “left” as she had to catch a flight to somewhere else.

And then there is Wong Judat, who apparently is caught smack in the middle of the conflict. At the onset of the controversy, he was among the ones who reportedly “walked out” or “left the meeting earlier” and appeared very much to be with the “group of five”.

A few days later, Mr Wong then did a complete turnaround by “clarifying” that he was all for the merger, but it must be done through the proper channels (a la William Mawan). I am not saying that you cannot have a change of heart. Everyone is entitled to change their minds, but this bloke is changing it so fast that he might have a new paradigm shift even as you are reading this sentence.

How this fiasco is finally going to pan out if anyone’s guess. Nonetheless, one thing that is certain is that the beneficiaries will not be the rakyat, but again that is not the point.

Why can’t these politicians simply admit to us: yes, there are problems, and how we are going to solve them remains to be seen.

The point is, by and large, the public has always been suspicious of politicians. We have a tendency to mistrust them, because of the politicians’ curious ability to adapt to “where the wind is blowing”. They can fall into the proverbial drain and come out smelling like roses (or at least claim to!). They can always find the words that suit their purposes even though they know that you know.

The situation is further complicated by the innuendos that our restricted brethren in the press have to resort to.

In this time and age, given the flux of information that we have access to, it is no longer easy to keep things under the covers. Neither is it viable to hope the public stays ignorant on whatever you are hiding.

So why not call a spade a spade? Be honest and let the public judge you for all you are worth. You will be surprised that the public might be more forgiving than you think.

Therefore if I have one wish this year, it is that the press would be freer and that politicians would be more forthcoming (that’s two wishes, but who’s counting?)!



  1. That was the challenge posed by Aristotle when he talks about the Philosopher King. The art of true learning is the discovery of the impossible. A philosopher is tasked with the search of truth or what approximates it. A politician is tasked with the search of solutions or whatever that works, even if it takes a lie to get the job done. What voters should do is to weigh the balance of truth and lies, and decide which lies can be accepted without destroying the truth, because it will ultimately be the truth that will protect them from the Leviathan.

    Comment by Fabian Ngui — March 1, 2010 @ 11:14 AM | Reply

  2. All Malaysian professions have been tarnished in Malaysia’s grinding decline in the quality of our public life and national institutions. Politics, the law, medicine, engineering, the police, teaching, university academia, have all grown twisted and deformed. They shame our nation and its previous generations.

    The rot started from the top. Najib’s father, Abdul Razak the Lout, condemned our nation to 40 years of corruption and racial bigotry, beginning with Umno’s Young (and Bloodthirsty) Turks seizing power in 1969.

    Now the question is, why should we, the rakyat feel superior to those crooked, inept and deceitful politicians running most of the major parties? After all, politicians can be likened to trees growing from the soil of our society.

    If our society can nourish brave and selfless politicians like Baru Bian or Chee How from PKR, and Husam Musa or Khalid Samad from PAS, then we can still harbour hope that our political culture will improve.

    If, on the other hand, we, the rakyat, are selfish and ignorant ourselves, then our politicians will continue to grow distorted, ugly and barren too.

    Comment by Pak Bui — February 28, 2010 @ 11:25 PM | Reply

  3. […] deafening silence which echoed through the FOUR WALLS OF PRS HEADQUARTERS” has woken up the TIGER OF SPDP. We have this copied from Bernama news through Sarawak update […]

    Pingback by “STUMBLING BLOCK..Who is it….?? « Audie61’s Weblog — February 28, 2010 @ 1:28 AM | Reply

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