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Sabah voters will return to polling stations for the second time in less than two years to elect their government. While economic issues will, no doubt, weigh heavily on their minds as they cast their votes, I hope that they will also take the opportunity to act decisively against the plague of frogs – elected representatives who betray their constituents by crossing to other parties – that have long bedevilled their state. Frogs are a bane to any democracy; in Malaysia they are wreaking havoc on our ability to build a stable and prosperous nation.

Of course, when frogs jump to other parties they always try to justify their actions by claiming they are acting in the best interests of the country or state and their constituents. Nothing can be further from the truth. They can spin it any way they like but at the end of the day there can be no doubt that it’s all about greed and personal ambition.

Election to public office is not carte blanche to do as one pleases. When candidates plead for electoral support, they do so on the basis of their party affiliation. Voters do not generally vote for individuals but for the parties they represent. In GE14, for example, voters were making a conscious choice between UMNO-BN and Pakatan Harapan; candidates won or lost on that basis more than anything else. When elected representatives switch their allegiance to another party after being voted into office, they therefore betray the people’s trust.  There’s no two ways about it.

What is happening in Sabah is not taking place in a vacuum; it is directly related to the on-going power struggle at the federal level. Clearly, powerful people are hoping to undermine Mahathir (and PH) by engineering the downfall of his close allies in Sabah. It’s about power, not principle or public service.

Speculation is always rife when frogs jump from one lily pad to another that money, and lots of it too, is involved. Former prime minister Mahathir says that some of them were bribed. The MACC is investigating; don’t expect any earth-shattering outcomes. This is, after all, not the first time that such allegations have surfaced only to quietly fade away.

Given the deeply entrenched culture of corruption, no one will be surprised if there is some truth to the allegations of bribery. After all, many of these frogs are utterly gutless, rapacious and unprincipled people. They are in politics only for what they can get; the people be damned.

Mahathir says he will be travelling to Sabah soon to seek vengeance upon the frogs who brought down the state administration by betraying Warisan. Of course, the frogs who deserted Warisan deserve to be punished, but before the voters of Sabah do Mahathir’s bidding, they might want to reflect upon the fact that Warisan itself came to power with the help of frogs.

Musa Aman, it may be recalled, was sworn in as chief minister after GE14 but was forced out of office two days later in what was clearly an undemocratic and illegitimate political manoeuvre. I am not a fan of Musa Aman; his administration was just as bad as UMNO-BN. Nevertheless, he was duly elected and sworn in; only the state assembly had the power to remove him through a vote of confidence. His removal was an inauspicious start to whatever hopes we had for Malaysia Baru. What goes around comes around, I suppose.

Mahathir, no stranger to undermining elected state governments, was quite happy to welcome frogs who jumped from Sabah UMNO to PPBM when it suited him; in fact, Sabah PPBM owes its very existence to ‘froggery’ (if I may use such a word). Now of course, he is critical of frogs for doing what frogs are known to do. Perhaps, he believes that frogs who jump to his side of the pond are more noble and principled than others.

My message to Sabah voters is simply this: it’s time to punish these treacherous politicians who trample upon the will of the people. We can’t depend on the authorities to stop money politics or even to pass anti-hopping legislation; it is up to the voters to act by sending a clear warning to them that any betrayal of the voter’s trust will never be forgiven or forgotten. Some mistakes can be forgiven; treachery is an unpardonable sin.

I hope when GE15 comes around that voters across the country will also take a similar stand and punish every last member of parliament or state assemblyperson who switched sides – whatever side and for whatever reasons.

Frogs are destroying our democracy, turning it into a flea market where everything is up for sale. What’s the point of having elections if the losing side can, by deceit and bribery, overthrow the government that the people elect? Some of these frogs have become so good at jumping that they have served as cabinet ministers in three different governments – UMNO-BN, Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional. And all while croaking different tunes to suit the occasion.

Not many know this but frogs can also change the colour of their skin at will. It is not surprising then that in one administration they can be outspoken defenders of human rights and press freedom while cracking down on the media in the next.

If the political situation becomes unstable, they will, no doubt, jump again. Like I said, it’s not about principle but politics, not about policy but position, not about people but power.

The PN government has, of course, taken things to a whole new level. Now they secure the loyalty of frogs by giving them well-paid positions in GLC’s and statutory bodies. It’s all legal; what’s more it is the public who will have to pay their salaries and perks.  So, whether we like it or not, we are all supporters of the new frog culture.

As elections approach in Sabah, many of the same unscrupulous politicians who have pillaged the state for years are now circling like vultures. Don’t expect anything to change if they are re-elected. There has been so much talk about a third force in politics; there has never been a greater need for it both in Sabah and in the rest of the country. Plato warned that, “One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” So, people of Sabah, please act now while you still have time; it’s the only way to get a government that will serve with integrity and commitment.

[Dennis Ignatius |Kuala Lumpur | 7th August 2020]