Letter to Malaysiakini 13 September 2012, re: “neutrality”

Sir,

I read with interest the two opposing views on the topic of “political neutrality”, respectively by Josh Hong and Cmdr (R) S. Thayaparan RMN.

I wish to ask Mr Hong to explain if he has arrived at the conclusion that anyone demanding social movements to be free from party political partisanship should necessarily be following the “BN script”, making them “plain stupid, or shrouded in his or her own elitist bigotry.”

It is unclear to me if he means that there are at least some “neutral” people who do not follow the Barisan Nasional script but if, as he recommends, one must “be cautious enough to not condemn blind loyalty to the opposition to the extent that existing abuses, transgressions and excesses by the powers-that-be are overlooked or made to seem as secondary”, then we must be fair and also apply this standard of caution uniformly to any consideration of public importance; and this will have to include the Barisan Nasional as well as the many political, social, environmental, gender, religious and rights-based initiatives that we have the privilege of enjoying today.

I should have thought it our duty as citizens to condemn outright and without reservation blind loyalty (or hatred) of any kind to any cause, however just, precisely because it is blind. That existing abuses should be overlooked is also, I should have thought, a result of the same blindness. I believe we are obliged to hold both the Barisan Nasional and the Pakatan Rakyat accountable for their actions past and present, as well as for their future intentions, but we can do neither if we will not first hold ourselves accountable as citizens.

In this, I believe Cmdr Thayaparan asks rightly that we should make our decisions with our eyes open and that the alternative media (for example) “has become one big echo chamber dealing mostly in the confirmation of bias, which is fine, but the problem is that any dissent or opposing voice is silenced when what the Umno years have demonstrated is that blind and selfish unquestioning allegiance to a political party is what got us into this mess in the first place.”

To support the Pakatan Rakyat to the extent of deliberately overlooking its faults, whatever they may be—in Mr Hong’s words, “PAS’ theocratic agenda or Anwar Ibrahim’s chameleon character [or] the way Lim Guan Eng conducts himself”—is to commit the same error that has kept this country in the thrall of political cults for so long.

If a politician wants my loyalty, he or she will have to earn it. To demand it merely because the other side offers a worse prospect for myself is to reduce the practice of our so-called democracy to the level of the kindergarten playground: give me your pocket money because the other fellow will take your money and beat you senseless whereas you don’t know me and I am obviously asking nicely. This is not, to be clear, what I suggest the Pakatan Rakyat is doing. It is, however, the kind of servile complaisance I believe Mr Hong demands of us.

I must also disagree with both Mr Hong and Cmdr Thayaparan in the way they define political neutrality, which they seem to equate with political apathy. Cmdr Thayaparan puts a shot across the bow of any who would advocate remaining “neutral on a moving train”, but what of the poor fool who demands that both the Barisan Nasional and the Pakatan Rakyat account for themselves and, finding both wanting, decides actively against supporting either?

There is nothing neutral in this action. It is certainly the position I have chosen for myself and, while I admit to being an elitist bigot, this has been the position I have abided by consistently to my own professional detriment regardless of whether a Pakatan politician or a known Mahathirist has played a part in my downfall.

Yours faithfully,

U-En Ng

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