Thursday, April 30, 2009

Free or Bebas!

“… there’s only you in my life, the only thing that’s right …”

Hmm, this could be the most belted out lyric by our politicians that they just can’t get away from endless by-elections.Why the heck have so many elections when the general election was held just over a year ago?

When other nations are trying hard to find solutions to the dwindling economy, it seems our politicians are keeping themselves busy finding strategies to remain in power.Sigh, how I wish I could lash out at these politicians for wasting the taxpayers’ money when the fund could be channelled to help those who really need it more than for holding elections.

I was taken aback when the national English daily, The Star, published a front page story last Saturday on the whopping sum wasted on five by-elections. Five by-elections costing RM33.4 million with RM31 million being expenses incurred by the police force while another RM2.4 million by the Election Commission.

We must be wondering why there is a need to spend so much money on the election and if we are talking about transparency and accountability, yeah transparency and accountability - it will be good if the two agencies list out their expenditures for the public to scrutinise. We do not want our hard-earned money to go to waste unnecessarily for sure.

I would not mind if the government disburses cash to all Malaysians to stimulate the economy, just like what is being done in Taiwan and Australia, for this can really spur the economy as a whole rather than using the public coffer to hold elections which only benefit some crooks. And now what? Penanti by-election is in the waiting.

But Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the BN may opt out of the by-election for the reason that it is a waste of public funds, and that focus should be to revive the ailing economy. Well said, Najib, I must acknowledge.

But critics may say BN is fearing defeat for another stretch after a 2-1 defeat to PR with BN only winning the rural heartland of Batang Ai a couple of weeks ago. A friend of mine who is being cynical wrote in his Facebook why there is a need for a walkover when it is the people who decide in the name of democracy.

And then former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is so fired up that BN should contest the Penanti by-election and he even offers to lead the BN team to take on his once protégé and PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Malaysia For Free and Fair Elections or Mafrel said by-elections are a necessary evil, and it is part of democracy that we cannot do away with.

Well, that is the price to pay if we want democracy to prevail - that we got to spend money just to ensure that the election process goes smoothly. But my point here is how that money is being spent must be made known to the public as it is the taxpayers who pay for it - not BN, PR or EC.

We should not let the police or EC spend as they wish without being accountable to the people. RM33.4 million is a whole lot of money which could be well spent on other things such as to eradicate poverty or improve healthcare services.

Do not simply say the amount is needed to spend on paying election workers, staff allowances, printing costs, transportation which includes helicopters and accommodation. We deserve to know more how that money is spent to prevent some opportunists from making a quick buck of it.

A lot of people, including me, have grown tired of the endless by-elections as we have been fed with the same political mud-slinging almost everyday. A quantity surveyor said nowadays he would rather read business news than home news as it makes him sick every time he sees politicians ranting at each other.

This quantity surveyor is so sick and frustrated with the way Malaysian politics is being played that he said he would rather not cast his vote for the BN or PR but for the Independent. Hmmm, good point here I guess if we want to get both parties’ mouth shut. Time for a new party. Let’s just call it BEBAS or FREE, exclusive only for the non-partisan?

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