If you have read my articles more than once, you would know that I detest demagogues. Not for personal or aesthetic reasons, but because in the twenty five years that I have covered Sabah politics, I have observed that the political culture demagoguery breeds is to blame for most of our economic and political problems. It has been my humble observation that whenever Sabah was ruled by a supposedly charismatic leader, skilled in the arts of demagoguery, Sabah suffered while the leader continued to look good. This is because demagogues rarely bother to deliver on their grandiose promises to remove poverty and bring development since they are confident that their ‘charisma’ is what brings in the votes and not their work. It is sadly true that they have far too often been proved right by voters.
So, when I saw demagoguery resoundingly trashed in the recent GE13 in Sabah, it lit a small flicker of hope in my cynical old heart. In Sabah, voters had a choice between an array of demagogues and a quiet, little man who allowed the work he had done in the past ten years to speak for him. Well done Sabah for voting for Musa Aman instead of the demagogues and poseurs who came to defeat him with their charisma and their party tricks.
Musa Aman’s main rival was a very skilled demagogue called Lajim Ukin. So skilled that he has shown himself to be undefeatable despite allegations that he made millions from lopsided agreements that the Sabah Local Government had signed away to his cronies when he was Minister of Local Government and Housing, and while he was busy with his slot machines. The local government he was heading went to pieces but Lajim thrived. After moving to a parliamentary seat, he came to Putajaya to become a celebrated federal deputy cabinet minister despite doing as little for the housing as he did for Sabah. He got away with his lack of administrative abilities by being such a brilliant demagogue. His demagoguery even served to conceal the utter lack of any sort of ability that he showed as minister.
The voters of Sabah did well by making sure he failed to defend his incumbency in his Beaufort Parlimentary seat, and in his state seat of Klias Lajim won by a slim majority of 342 votes after obtaining a total of 6,324 votes. They did even better to reject the advances of a another demagogue Anwar Ibrahim. He warned Sabahan voters that they would be making a big mistake if they voted for Musa Aman because he was a chief minister who had squandered the state and allowed centralisation of power.
Musa Aman chose not to respond to the charges flung at him and instead talked of how Sabah had improved in the past ten years and brought more development to Sabah and fought for more de-centralisation and delegation of power back to the state government. At an annual economic growth of 8 per cent in the past five years (compared to 2.5 per cent before), there are visible differences in Sabah that were excellently reported by the Daily Express newspaper’s editor in two articles last month.
From our weakness for demagogues have come the political dynasties that now control most political parties in Malaysia. Whenever this happens, a political party stops being a political party and becomes a family firm whose main purpose is to serve the interests of the family who controls it. Remember Shahrizat’s “lembu” episode? Yes, from this comes the tendency to see politics as business and then inevitably we have one or other member of the family who is projected as a commercial genius who mysteriously makes a lot of money very quickly while his wife or brother or sister goes into politics.
Malaysia has suffered enough from demagogues and dynasties. What we need are many, many more chief ministers like Musa Aman who show that they can win elections by working hard for the people who vote them to power. The voters of Sabah can truly be proud of the results they gave us on May 5th 2013. If this can happen in Sabah, then there really is hope of Malaysia becoming a fully developed country in 2020. But, voters must continue to tell the difference between demagogues and real leaders.