Sunday, April 11, 2021

Time to be honest about crossing the aisle

Elected representatives should be held to the same standards when it comes to party-hopping, regardless of political affiliation.

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Over the weekend, we saw two PKR MPs switching sides. Larry Sng from Julau and Steven Choong from Tebrau have pledged their support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Earlier Sabah’s Sebatik assemblyman Hassan Amir Gani from Warisan pledged support for the ruling Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) coalition. These developments have sparked anger among the people.

Many feel that these lawmakers who jumped ship had abandoned their principles for the sake of political expediency. The fact is that most Malaysians vote according to party line and MPs defecting had betrayed the trust placed by their voters.

There are no right or wrong answers to this. Neither is it my intention to dwell on the merits of party-hopping or the proposed laws that ban such practices.

But there appears to be double standards by some when it comes to party-hopping. For these people, the practice is wrong if it doesn’t fit their political viewpoint and acceptable if it does.

Many ignore the fact that both sides are equally guilty of this. Let’s not forget that opposition head Anwar Ibrahim was the first one to resort to this on a large scale with the express purpose of triggering a change in government.

In his infamous “September 16” caper in 2008, he went to town promising Malaysians that the then ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) would topple come that date. The date came and went, and BN fell only a good 10 years and two general elections later with Anwar himself in prison for sodomy then.

More recently, as Pakatan Harapan attempted to seize back Putrajaya, it too attempted to woo Perikatan Nasional (PN) MPs, especially those from Umno. This time, Anwar was not alone in the attempt. Other PH leaders too were party to the move which they had criticised in the past, whether actively wooing the MPs or giving their tacit approval by not speaking up.

In particular, Umno thought nothing of joining forces with DAP to wrest back Putrajaya despite both parties’ long chequered past. What difference does it make whether PN was wooing PH or the other way round? The very people who spoke up against political frogs should hold all political amphibians by the same standards – not just when it works in their favour.

By the same token, ex-Sabah chief minister Shafie Apdal should not be hypocritical when he criticised the Sebatik assemblyman who defected to GRS.

Shafie himself became Sabah chief minister in 2018 after a series of defections from BN assemblymen, particularly those from Upko. Shafie has no moral ground to criticise his ex-party colleague Hassan Amir who switched allegiance to GRS.

Let’s not be hypocrites. We should hold all YBs to the same standards when it comes to party-hopping. Not just when it suits us.

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