Times of change
Writer: Fahmi Fadzil
Published: Fri, 03 Jun 2011
Of late, we’ve been inundated with talk about withdrawal of subsidies and subsequently the change in the price of sugar, RON95, gas, electricity, etc – some of which has happened, and some of which (for whatever economic or political reason) has not.
And of course, all this talk has helped fuel the rakyat’s imagination that something big is rolling our way, in the form of the ever-looming 13th General Election.
Again, much about the date of 13GE is speculative, something which only Datuk Seri Najib Razak is privy to – or at least, that’s what we’ve been made to understand. Yet it seems impossible to talk about changes happening around us right now without recalling the days, weeks, and months preceding the 12th General Election, and the resultant mood or climate surrounding public sentiment.
I still remember the heated talk of “ubah gaya hidup” back then – particularly vivid is my recollection of this YouTube video done by Youth4Change which parodied the BN administration’s sentiment that when the going gets tough, the rakyat gets changing (if petrol prices skyrocket, just change from a car to a motorbike, to a bicycle, to...??).
This time round, the BN administration has been a bit more savvy in laying the ground for potential change in basic goods. For instance, when it came to sugar, they floated the “healthy lifestyle” and “anti-diabetes” campaign. Very smart, which kind of reveals that there are sharp public relations operators walking the hallways of Putrajaya these days, and obviously sharper (or more sensitive) than during the times of the previous tenants of the fourth floor.
But what about the petrol and gas prices? Well, the “performance” of Umno Youth in fighting to stay the price of RON95 should suffice to lower any temporary negative public sentiments. “At least someone spoke up for us” might be the perceived public’s response.
In any case, there are no changes in these prices for now at least, even if the total amount spent on subsidies balloons to somewhere closer towards the RM20 billion mark. The Najib administration is literally biting the bullet.
And so, going forward, are we going to expect no change at all? Of course not. These are sensitive times. The 13GE is near, so there shouldn’t be too much rocking of the rakyat’s boat. But would this discussion be different post-13GE? Maybe. But that’s speculative, and it all depends on who sits in Putrajaya then!
But an observation: any government operating in these “post-Arab spring” times are becoming more sensitive to rumblings of the populace. Perhaps, within the Malaysian context, the days of being quiet and just accepting orders from above are over.
Perhaps the popular mandate is not so obviously within reach of any particular group, and thus all who vie for it must appeal more exhaustively for the rakyat’s ears.
Perhaps these days, the people are more easily roused, organised, galvanised, becoming a somewhat not-too-silent threat hanging by the bedsides of those who sleep with power.
Whatever the case may be, the days leading up to the 13GE will be very exciting indeed. We can already see the ratcheting-up of sentiments by all sides, which is a double-edged sword that must never be allowed to be raised above our heads.
In fact, we must do what we can to allay such negative sentiments and work together to maintain peace and calm in the country.
Come 13GE, no matter what kind of change takes place, no matter who walks the hallways in Putrajaya, we can only hope and pray that change happens democratically, under peaceful circumstances, and with our national dignity, sanctity, and sanity intact.