Sunday, July 21

Wither all the political sloganeering?

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IN 1991, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was still in power, shouted the Vision 2020 slogan.

At that time, on a small island opposite the Straits of Johor, Lee Kuan Yew had just resigned as Prime Minister and assumed the office of Senior Minister. Back then, the economic and social development disparities between Malaysia and Singapore were already evident in the latter’s favour, but Malaysians still believed in Dr Mahathir’s dream — that Malaysia will one day stand tall and mighty.

The Vision 2020 catchphrase, just like Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s 1Malaysia, quickly caught on — spread by the media and embedded in our minds. At that time, Vision 2020 had not only become the standard topic for politicians but also a model topic for primary and secondary school essay competitions.

But the visionary tide receded when the 1997 Asian financial crisis hit. Vision 2020 and the dreams behind it slipped into the backburner — and sounded like an outdated slogan almost overnight.

In 2015, Lee Kuan Yew passed on. Dr Mahathir, when talking about his once opposite number, still showed a high measure of respect but he was also frank in views of Singapore’s founding father.

However, when it comes to his dream blueprint — Vision 2020 — as well as the controversial Hudud law, the former premier has adroitly articulated that Malaysia is a non-Islamic country. He believes the Islamic criminal law is a political tool of PAS albeit Umno, unfortunately, also got involved, apparently in an effort aimed at recouping lost ground among the conservatives.

The year 2020 arrives in a mere four years. Singapore has long realised its dream of becoming an advanced country while the dream of an advanced Malaysia remains pretty much a dream with still a considerable way to go to full realisation.

Malaysians, distracted and worried over GST, Hudud and the plummeting Ringgit, no longer have the mood or the time to dream about Vision 2020.

Dr Mahathir admitted: “By the year 2020, Malaysia will still lack features an advanced country should have. As an advanced country, we must have talents and intelligence. The people should be well-educated and capable of not only producing sophisticated technology but also contributing towards the needs of the world.”

What he meant was the people of an advanced country should be progressive, productive and prosperous in terms of intellectual and economic advancement and betterment. For example, the US gave the world Google and the iPhone. In a similar vein, what has Malaysia to offer?

Late last year, during a round of golf between Najib and US President Barack Obama, world and family affairs were discussed. But the Islamic criminal law (Hudud) was apparently left out of the green.

And while still on the subject of slogans, those thought up by Najib’s predecessor Tun Abdullah Badawi appear to have fallen into oblivion. In fact, almost everyone has forgotten about his rallying cries.

As for Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, had he abdicated the PAS presidency, the Hudud agenda might not have been pushed as an integral part of the Islamic Party’s sloganeering with such deliberateness and urgency. Even if the Islamic criminal law were to be arbitrarily enforced, it would have to be repackaged.

But based on the events so far, it seems Hudud may well follow in the footsteps of earlier vote-fishing slogans whose initial verve dissipated over time because of their unsuitableness and impracticality in a multi-racial and multi-religious society like ours, not forgetting the imposition of Hudud impinges on the constitutional rights of the other communities.

The Islamic criminal law is not Dr Mahathir’s “show” to begin with. Yes, he also had a dream of an advanced and developed Malaysia but used a different route to achieve it – through Vision 2020.

Will his successor(s) be capable enough to fulfil the vision he started with four years to go? For now, this seems a matter of conjecture. There will be other slogans and, indeed, the post-Vision-2020 jingle has already taken the form of another that advances the 1Malaysia concept.

How will all the political sloganeering pan out eventually remains to be seen. The outcome will be interesting and keenly awaited, to say the least. (From Oriental Daily).