The surprising benefit of having the wrong government

Bill and Melinda Gates are no strangers to audacious goals. Their foundation’s website states that their mission was “fighting poverty, diseases, and inequity around the world”, arguably the three biggest problems of our time. 

With ample funding, rigorous research, and a well-organisedglobal team, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the best philanthropies the world has ever seen. Of all the big problems they want to tackle, nothing is more solvable in our lifetime than malaria. 

Every year, malaria kills more than a million people in the world, mostly children and almost all from the poorest parts of the world. 

That is why Bill and Melinda asks for us to imagine “a day when no human being has malaria, and no mosquito on earth is carrying it.” And the cheapest and most effective way of solving malaria is to send mosquito nets to every family. 

But, strangely, truckloads of mosquito nets did not go to bedrooms, instead they went to the sea. Poor Africans started using insecticide-treated nets to fish instead. With smaller holes, the mosquito nets caught more than half the daily average a fishing net would. 

The fishes in the sea start to dwindle rapidly, and the water was polluted with toxic waste. Governments had to step in and ban mosquito-net fishing. 

“The use of mosquito nets for fishing may contribute to less food availability, greater poverty and the loss of ecosystem functioning,” concludes Dr Richard Unsworth, a co-author and Lecturer in Marine Biology at Swansea University.

In the end, the incidence of malaria remained high. “The people don’t use the mosquito nets for mosquitoes. They use them to fish,” said Isabel Marques da Silva, a marine biologist at Universidade Lúrio in Mozambique.

This is an example of an unintended consequence. 

Sheraton was the start of the end

Back home, there is an example of an unintended consequence too. But I promise you there is a hopeful outcome. 

It starts with the cursed day at Sheraton Hotel. The unholy and undemocratic coup d’etat created a government that we did not elect. But calling Perikatan Nasional’s government an unelected, illegitimate government is trite. It is more than that: Perikatan Nasional was not a government we could possibly have elected in the first place. 

A primarily Malay-Muslim government could not survive the wrath of the people. The violent bickering among UMNO, BERSATU, and PAS leading up to GE15 is evidence that a Malay-Muslim-only alliance is destined to hit a roadblock and fail. This is because race-based parties rely on the concept of dominance in representing their race. It is difficult to share this power. 

For instance, UMNO could not concede to BERSATU representing some Malay-Muslim voters, PAS another segment of Malay-Muslim voters, and UMNO the remaining some. All three parties would stake the claim that they are the true defenders and the other, the pretender. 

Moreover, in a multiracial country that is moving towards more mixed constituency setup, it is nearly impossible to create a government that consists only of Malay and Muslim representation. 

In other words, the PN government makeup is artificial and forced in realizing the theoretical dream of a Malay-Muslim entity. UMNO and BERSATU have long implied that only they could govern well, and PAS once stated that only a Malay-Muslim could govern the country into success. 

They jealously guarded against the racial-religious rhetoric and with PN, they finally have the opportunity to prove themselves right. 

The most hopeful data about race

But recent data shows that voters are starting to see through their fraud. When asked about whether they think the PN government has advanced Islam through their policies, less than half (45%) of the voters said “yes”. This followed a pattern of continuous decline since 2020, indicating that more and more voters would start to question the race-religion rhetoric by PN. 

The part about PAS is most interesting. When asked whether they think PAS has improved pro-Islam policies, only 38% of voters think so. Voters also do not think that PAS has played a significant role in government. 

If most voters could feel that PAS – the most prominent Islamic party that advocates for Islamisation and the creation of an Islamic State – does not actually help the Islamic cause, that means most voters have seen through the race-religion rhetoric of politicians. 

This same pattern extends to how they view PN as a whole, which are the archetypes of a total Malay-Muslim representation. 

What is the upshot?

Voters everywhere are starting to see through the racial-religious rhetoric deployed by politicians since the earliest founding of our country. Voters are seeing that politicians’ words do not translate into action, and race is not a guarantee to good governance. 

In fact, livelihood issues like cost of living, housing, jobs, education are more important for any government to solve, regardless of their race. It’s not about what you say – it’s about what you do. 

The immovable giant of race that plagued us for centuries could not be defeated easily. It needs to reach a peak of its existence before it could destroy itself. 

The creation of an archetypal total Malay-Muslim government had an unintended consequence of making voters see through race and religion. From now, rhetoric of race and religion would no longer have the power as they had before. They may still possess residual inflammatory effects, but they now have to contend with the wisdom of the masses. 

We did not elect the PN government – we could not possibly have elected them with good conscience.


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