Onus is on ruling party lawmakers to hold their leader accountable at all times

by Han Lang

Following the recent electoral result across the causeway, many observers have listed the key points we can learn. A recent commentary in our national newspaper listed five takeaways for Singapore – including the question of how ready our institutions are for change. I wonder what is her suggestion for us to find out the answer to the question.

Truth be told, we need not prepare a thesis or literature research to determine the number of learning points.

In fact, the only one lesson Singapore should learn comes from the words of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said: “What happened was we became delusional; we got drunk on our own Kool-Aid and we got carried away … We didn’t want to bell the cat. Nobody, after Muhyiddin was purged, after Shafie was purged … Nobody wanted to acknowledge we have a problem. That was a terrible mistake on our part.”

Those lawmakers who were aware of the alleged violations of certain laws in Malaysia but chose to keep silent are now paying the price.

The sequence of events leading to UMNO’s defeat on 9 May are not new in this region.

The 2006 military coup in Thailand; the people power revolt which forced the then-president of Philippines (Joseph Estrada) out of office in 2001; the impeachment of then South Korean president Park Geun-Hye.

These are just some of the cases where allegations or signs of misdeeds were apparent but the ruling party’s lawmakers refused to acknowledge reality.

Examples of ruling heads of governments implementing measures to consolidate their power base, such as gerrymandering, are not unheard of in this region.

The proverbial saying ‘power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is one which we need to be concerned with.

At some stage, citizens need to ask themselves if their leaders have accumulated so much power that they believe they are ‘untouchable’ even if they are aware of their own misdeeds.

Citizens may not be able to do much in such a situation, and the onus is then on the elected lawmakers to ensure accountability from the top leader and his small but core group of “confidantes”.

Political parties which have governed for decades, including Indonesia’s Golkar and Taiwan’s Kuomintang – and now UMNO – have since learnt the lesson of losing.

Unless the political system is one under which there are no elections, such as in China and North Korea, no one can claim to have indefinite power or right to govern.

There’s always a limit to citizens’ patience and the day another long-governing political party loses an election for the first time due to alleged misdeeds – be it real or perceived, that is the day the lawmakers should ask themselves: Could we have prevented today’s results had we been bold and courageous to demand accountability from our top leader? Were there incidents where the top leader was deemed to have abused the system but yet the ruling party’s lawmakers kept silent for fear of being dropped at the next election?

That, to me, is the lesson we need to learn.