Danni Rais







Surely we have all been enthralled with the recent developments with regards to Britain’s democratic show to exit the European Union. Popularly termed as ‘Brexit’, the referendum that was held last Thursday provided the Union with an unlikely scenario in their hands, as it was earlier expected that ‘Bremain’ would have pulled through for the win. The results have nonetheless begun a domino effect, which to many observers is akin to a worst case scenario. Ironically, the hangover is now being felt by those who initially had voted Brexit. Immediately, the repercussions were clear; the Pound Sterling experienced it’s lowest point since 1985, GBP128 billion was allegedly pulled out of the country, and the EU insisted that the UK ignite Art 50 of the Convention which provides them a 2 year period prior to officially exiting the EU. On a more micro point, immigration and the freedom of movement of people were curtailed; a benefit that had long been enjoyed by both UK citizens and others. On a more serious note, there could be the possibility of a break up of Britain, in that the United Kingdom may no longer be united if Scotland is to hold another poll on whether to exit United Kingdom or not, in which the first time round the votes were in favour of Scotland remaining. Surely Wales and Ireland are also keeping a keen eye.

Secondly, at the time of writing, it appears that the UK may be desperate to hold another referendum to overturn the decision. While it seems likely that this will happen, including overturning the results, the damage has already been done; Prime Minister Cameron has already announced his resignation, the flaws of true democracy have surfaced, and the United Kingdom’s sudden realisation of her desperate need of the EU for economic purposes has been shown.

Thirdly, the notion of democracy was still upheld. David Cameron ought to be commended for being brave to step down in the wake of the results, as he had campaigned for Bremain. It is certainly good to see that ministerial responsibility is taken very seriously. Ironically, it is believed that he was the culprit that began the whole process, as a show of strength to the country and his party, confident of a win. Conversely, Cameron could be patted on the back for his political tactfulness, as surely the next Prime Minister will have a disastrous beginning in office having to do the necessaries prior to exiting the EU.

Fourthly, that democracy and more importantly, dissent within a political party, still exists and is healthy. Boris Johnson, former Mayor of London, and a firm favourite to become a future leader of the Conservative Party, was clear in his support for Brexit. Although views differed, no action was taken upon him for dissent from the party.

Finally, one of the key takeaways from this exercise is that power to the people might not always bring about the most desired outcome. Knowledge is key and it entails power, however when decision making is left in the hands of those seen as less informed regarding the gravity the issue entails, it could well be the country as a whole that suffers. Democracy believes in the majority winning; democracy does not care about those who didn’t agree.

It’s interesting to point out that a referendum is certainly not binding on a country, however it would be wise for Parliament to honour it. Surely this is only the beginning of more to come.

Certainly a stark contrast to what has been happening on home soil. Recently, our former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Hassin, and former Mentri Besar of Kedah, Dato Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, were expelled from UMNO, while Dato Seri Shafie Apdal’s decision has been kept in limbo as his outcome is to be decided later. Surprisingly, the uproar has not been as boisterous as once expected, if the reaction to them being removed from their respective posts previously was anything to go by. Does this mean that the party as a whole agree to the decision of the party’s Disciplinary board? Or on the flip side, that the members no longer care with what happens?

It is clear to see the reasons for why they were removed from the party. They certainly did not hide their disdain for the party President who is also the Prime Minister, and they unashamedly bashed and questioned the alleged actions of the Prime Minister on an ever increasing list of discrepancies, rather than uphold the Hang Tuah notion that the leader should be upheld at all times. They decided to play Hang Jebat, and as what happened to Hang Jebat in the legend, he died, and it seems, though too early to tell, that the political life of Muhyiddin and Mukhriz has suffered the same fate. Notwithstanding, Muhyiddin has recently defiantly hinted that a new movement may be borne out of this scenario; we wait to see. On the other hand, many question the party’s ability to listen and accept dissent, and handling differing view points from members within. This is vastly different from the Cameron and Johnson issue, in that although the party was divided, they remained true to the party’s cause. It would be wise to note however, that at no point did Johnson attack Cameron’s credibility and ability to lead, or to campaign his alleged discrepancies. In fact, it’s been said that a letter of support for David Cameron was signed by his very own party members who were of the opposing stand, if he were to end up on the losing side. Some lines should not be broken, no matter how blurred.

A reason for the muted response of the party’s actions could also be due to the magnanimous win for Barisan Nasional in the recently concluded by-elections, notably that of Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar, arising from the unfortunate demise of the MP’s in a tragic helicopter crash during the Sarawak campaign period prior to the State election. BN has been enjoying a good run recently, with a convincing win in Sarawak, followed by a landslide victory in both by-elections. Certainly, this has given Prime Minister Najib plenty of wind behind his back to sail towards GE14, with confidence that the ruling coalition still has the country firmly in their grips. On a personal note, I commend the BN election machinery in winning by such big margins as compared to the results in the previous General Election in both areas. It most certainly raised many eyebrows, and drew much intrigue from spectators of politics in Malaysia, which would be safe to say is a majority of the population. It would be interesting to see whether BN shares their winning tactics with the public, as an exercise on changing perception and winning elections. Surely with the ‘turmoil’ and allegations surrounding the current leadership, it was a job well done, and much needed in fact. Or was it more so a by-election not won, but given to them?

In stark contrast, it cannot be denied that the Opposition were an absolute mess during the time leading up to the by-elections. Lack of understanding and cooperation, insistence on a party’s right to fight in an election, not concurring to major issues, just to name a few, definitely became a detriment to the Opposition. This was their chance, after losing Sarawak, to show relevance in Peninsular Malaysia. What more than to compete in areas where the majority during the previous elections was not great. No one expected such a big win, most certainly the Opposition. In a democracy, a strong Opposition is certainly required, to ensure balance in the process. However, if the in-fighting continues while the lack of true leadership does not emerge, the Opposition or whatever ‘pakatan’ they call themselves now, will require deep and long moments of reflecting. It is for the sake of the country that they be seen as credible, and while righteousness is a good trait to have, without unity, nothing is won.

So we have it. The world is full of ironies, but only history is able to tell us that story, always the product of hindsight. That democracy is a wonderful system of allowing each individual a voice, however they are also vainly similar to sheep to the slaughter once the thought process has been over ruled. Dissent has a fine line, nonetheless it is a key aspect of moving forward; it allows for healthy discourse, however immaturity and insecurity may not be able to handle progress. That the results of yesteryear does not determine the outcome of today, and only a drastic change in strategy ensures no binding of indication. Lastly, that the second half of the year will ring in more surprises that the latest Euro16 results.

Danni Rais