Will PH be a one season wonder?

Today Leslie Lau, the managing editor of Malay Mail wrote a piece entitled “Pakatan is finding out that winning GE14 was really the easy part”. It was, to me, a depressing read.

His key points are that Malaysians are disillusioned with the new government, Najib on the other hand is basking in new-found popularity, and the perception is that this is a U-turn government that has failed to deliver its promises.

The economy is still in the doldrums while PH’s efforts seem to be about plastics and smoking (not to mention black shoes).

But despite the issues he listed, which he admits will take time to be redressed but unfortunately voters are now past the mindset that led to GE14 and have returned to bread and butter concerns, he points to the need for PH leaders to be more vocal and to keep PH honest, the context being that PH must not become BN.

I found myself agreeing with much of what he said, except that I sincerely do not think that winning GE14 was the easy part. But I take his point, that PH leaders (specifically, I would think, PKR and DAP who have struggled over decades) might not be prepared for the hard work and hard thinking necessary in taking the reins of government. That much is true.

What got me was his tone and the question he posed at the end, whether PH is going to be a one-season wonder and he contrasted that with “staying power”.

And “staying power” is the point I wish to pick up.

Unless they shoot themselves in the head, PH has 5 years in government. Roughly 10 months into their term is no time to be disillusioned or panicked. It is certainly not the time to wonder if PH will be a one-season wonder. PH has not gone for quick fixes and I think that is the right strategy. Lay the right foundations and hopefully in the last 2 years of their term they will reap the benefits.

Najib may score brownie points now with some good media strategies. But honestly once you have nothing to lose it is easy to take potshots at those who have everything to lose. The reality is that Najib, if convicted, will be in jail for a long, long time. The important thing is to make sure that he is convicted.

The narrative (or the perception) is a little harder to handle, mostly because civil society and the media have the silly notion that the new government must be subjected to the most stringent criticism from the get go. They are all convinced that PH leaders, especially those who are, in Lau’s words, honest, are going to be compromised along the way and then PH will be BN.

Let me be clear here: for me “honest” means not corrupt and works in the interest of the country. I will not hold it against politicians if they play political games, unless these games damage the country.

I think not undermining the integrity of a fellow leader even though one disagrees is good politics. I don’t care about Azmin-Rafizi, Mahathir-Anwar, Sabah/Sarawak v Semenanjung, though of course I care about the outcome. Much less the issues that are dominating the media today: paper qualifications of PH leaders.

All this leads to my point that staying power is not about winning the battle as much as winning the war. And winning the war ultimately will be doing a good job, whatever job you are tasked to do. Ultimately substance will overcome perception unless the media and others who have a megaphone in this country, amplify lies and diminish truths.

I return to the point I made in my earlier article about the Malaysian narrative and the pivotal role the media plays:

It is a truth that good news do not sell newspapers. But perhaps those in the Fourth Estate should take a long hard look at what their role in society and nation building should be… are we shaped by and do we reinforce the prejudices of our readers, or do we inform, educate, transform and reinforce the good and condemn the bad?

Lau himself admits that much of the challenges PH faces are long term. He admits much of what voters want from PH smacks of hypocrisy. He agrees that the actions taken on plastics and smoking are good for the country. He calls the narrative that PH is a “U-turn government that has failed to deliver its promises” a false narrative. Fake news.

But what has the Malay Mail done to challenge these issues and help the government to succeed in its quest to do good and to gain credit for what they have done in a short time? Even the very article where he wrote these things conclude that this government is in danger of being rejected at the next election.

He calls on PH to be honest, and to have staying power, so that they will not be a one season wonder. Obviously he wants PH to succeed. Why else would he write such an article. What does he see his own role, as managing editor of Malay Mail, in this?

Abdar Rahman Koya, the editor in chief of Free Malaysia Today, wrote this article about the “fake degree” controversy and explained why the website had not given it much coverage:

It is because the media too are bound by the saying that great minds discuss ideas and small minds discuss people.

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