One of my visitor-commentators raises the issue of the rakyat as the Third Force. But I ask: who’s the rakyat?
We cannot marginalize anyone, say, an UMNO member or supporter (and vice versa), from being a member of the rakyat – nay, far from it in a democracy, shaky as this political structure in Malaysia may be.
Therefore, talks about the rakyat rising up to form a 3rd Force gives the impression the entire Malaysian public is battling two foreign political forces, the 1st and 2nd Forces, from maybe Mars and Orion respectively?
No, my dear friend, in a democracy the (voting) rakyat is the one deciding who shall/should be the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or umpteenth Force – there can be no other political force without the backing of the rakyat, or at least a segment of it.
As an example, note the political demise of the PPP*, once a powerful force in the Ipoh-Perak region.
* note: prior to its last breath in March 2008, the moribund PPP was only represented in the BN by a back door senator who, after being disowned by the PPP, became a MIC member, and only because he was personally sponsored by his godfather, Najib.
Another example of the rakyat deciding who would be or not be a political force has been the sad turn of fortune for the Gerakan. Once touted as the alternative ruling party, the Gerakan today lies mortally wounded because the rakyat decided so. That’s people’s power!
Thus, political parties exist as political forces but only for the express purpose of representing the rakyat. The politicians are the representatives of the rakyat, and only exist on our sufferance.
Of course in a non-democracy it’s a different story.
Having said that, unfortunately in Malaysia, many politicians, once elected, forget those who elected them, believing they are, by their own birth rights, maharajas lording over their personal kingdoms. This delusion is not exclusively those of UMNO or BN politicians. Try and think who would not walk with the hoi polloi, but would 'arrive majestically' in a limousine only after his 'subjects' have been nicely positioned to await his magnificent entrance?
The other side of the Malaysian coin is that many of our voters (especially those who voted BN) think they’re the subjects of these pseudo-maharajas, willing captives of the latters' delusions.
A simple example of this feudalistic relationship shows in the way supporters present our political leaders on visits with giant leis and corsages, apparently the bigger the more respectful, some so monstrously humongous that all the creatures of the Garden of Eden could easily exist within.
Some leaders have their hands and feet kissed (and like it too), when such Malaysian-style respectful adulations should really be for our parents, grandparents or usually aged elders* and of course rulers.
* yes, kids do kiss the hand s of older adults out of respect but we aren’t talking about kids here.
So in Malaysia, democracy and its practices only appears before each election but disappears soon after (perhaps eclipsed by the brilliance of the maharajas), reappearing only before the next election. It’s in our feudalistic culture, where the majority of our rakyat really don't quite understand their rights, believing every menteri or ketua this or that deserves due obedience and homage, at the risk of incurring those leaders' wrath.
Democracy is theoretically about people’s power! But then, what to do if the people don’t have any idea of democratic concepts and embrace those they elected as maharajas and tengku bendahara’s?
In the end, it's for some worthy NGOs and righteous political parties to explain to the rakyat that in a democracy the rakyat, the voters decide who represents them, and that every citizen has an equal vote.
Nonetheless, let’s be clear as to who decides which shall be a political force in a democracy, and that is the voters. So, don’t go talking the rakyat as a 3rd Force – it’s ridiculous on several counts.