Things are Hotting Up

Being back in Malaysia, there is one, predominant feeling in the national newspapers; that of the tit-for-tat political tennis being played ahead of the up-and-coming elections to be held no later than 27th June this year. BN (Barisan Nasional), the current party in power, are putting up an admirable show of dedication to the Malaysian people and the country’s development in the face of some questionable opposition counter-attacks.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has gained favor with Malaysia’s citizens living in and around the nations capital, Kuala Lumpur, by introducing policies promising better living, albeit with slightly short-term goals. Recently, dominating the front page of the News Straits Times, it was reported that tolls in the areas of Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya and Klang will reduce charges for motorists.

Aimed at ‘easing the people’s burden’ of the constant expense for many traveling into the nation’s capital for work, it is said that approximately 298,000 drivers will allegedly benefit from the reduced toll charges.

Despite the obvious effects this may have on Malaysia’s flawless highways, the move seems just perfectly timed before the general election. Having taken effect on 14th January, Works Minister Datuk Seri Shaziman Abu Mansor was quoted as saying ‘the toll charges will not be raised until 2016.’ As well as lacking the planning to become a sustainable, imbedded policy for the future, it seems like a desperate, obvious ploy to draw in any fence sitters before votes are cast for the elections.

In an act geared towards reflecting more ‘maturity’ in the BN government, PM Najib was congratulated on the newly passed Peaceful Assembly Act. Quoted as saying they were ‘spot on’, Najib was relating to the professionalism of the police forces in the face of the 12th January ‘Kuala Lumper Rally’ organized by the opposition designed to impinge on the BN’s favoritism in the polls and to ‘voice concern over various issues.’ Championing the effectiveness of police on the scene, praise came from the comparison of how protesters were handled remembering the brutality inflicted on demonstrators last year on the 29th April, 2012.

Indeed. What a blessing in disguise. Flapping uncontrollably like a floundered fish, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been criticized for trying to organize these protests as ‘clutching at straws’ in a ‘last-ditch plea’ in the face of an election he is unlikely to win as instigated Prime Minister. With Najib holding his hands up and declaring he does not subscribe to the notion ‘government knows best’ Malaysians are finding a greater foot-hold in BN when other opposition leaders like Anwar are being described as ‘not fit to lead [the] country.’ By critising BN as a government that stifles political freedom, it is obvious that these organized protests last Saturday were designed by Anwar’s opposition to bait the police into displaying the same brutality as last year, thereby cementing their political accusations as fact. But, the only response was to go fish.

Political freedom is not only extolled by Najib’s BN party but also actively pursued. With constant reminders that Malaysia is becoming more politically transparent these infantile accusations (which, unsurprisingly, would be discredited as  base rhetoric in Western political environments) do not aid a country desperate to shake off the label of Less Economically Developed and a back-seat player in the South-East Asian emerging markets.


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