Saturday, July 11, 2015

Five Ways How Malaysian Politics Is Like A Game Of Thrones

Season after season, HBO's 'Games Of Thrones' (GoT) never fails to shock. Political intrigue at its highest, moral standards at its lowest. Just when we thought people couldn't behave any worse, they do. Just when we thought that the good guys (or rather, the guys with the least badness) would prevail, they don't.

Maybe the show is meant to make us feel lucky and glad that the days of medieval depravity is behind us. But sadly, there is little respite when Malaysians turn on the local news channel. Shades of similarities with the GoT universe are all over. King's Landing Kuala Lumpur (KL) and its surrounding territories are in a bad shape.

* * * Warning: GoT Season 5 spoilers ahead! * * *

1. Sudden Deaths

GoT: Sudden deaths of major characters are the norm, and cause all kinds of turmoil. Jamie Lannister's backstabbing of the Mad King sealed victory for the rebellious House Baratheon. King Robert Baratheon lost his place as the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms not long after, due to a hunting accident. And all the 'good guys' from House Stark are lining up to die.

Malaysia: Within a space of a year, the Opposition coalition of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have tragically lost two legendary leaders - Karpal Singh of the liberal DAP and Nik Abdul Aziz of the Islamic PAS - admired for their nobility. Such leaders are believed by many to be the glue that holds the shaky coalition together. True enough, months after Nik Aziz's death, PAS announced its split from PR. It's sad enough to lose good leaders; it's sadder still that they leave behind a giant vacuum that no one else can fill.

"I think we underpaid the wedding ang-pow, Mom."

2. Dynastic Houses

GoT: All lands are divided and ruled between the powerful families: Baratheon, Lannister, Stark, Greyjoy, Bolton, Martel, Tyrell, etc. Years fly, kings die - yet, the Houses endure. It's a never-ending battle of supremacy between the elite few at the top. Rise and fall - yet, the Houses endure. They're like cockroaches in our houses - you think you've snuffed them all, but they just keep coming back.

Malaysia: There's democracy, in theory. People vote representatives into Parliament. But in practice, it's always the same familiar faces at the top. Ruling UMNO are the Razak, Hussein Onn and Mahathir bloodlines. For the Opposition, Anwar Ibrahim prefers passing the baton to his wife and daughter, whilst Gobind Deo Singh valiantly keeps his late father Karpal's torch afire. Every now and then, the Johor Sultanate likes to holler out empty platitudes, as if to remind people that there are still real kings in the country. New young blood struggle to stamp their mark. It's as if the Malaysian public is resigned to accepting the devil they know.

3. Endless Betrayals

GoT: People double-cross and triple-cross each other all the time. The Lannisters turned against the Baratheons and Starks. The Barantheons and Starks fought each other. The Boltons betrayed everyone. The watch word is "trust no one". No, not even your own father, as poor Tyrion Lannister realised. No, not even your wedding host, as the Starks found out - too late.

Malaysia: Betrayals are commonplace. PR thought they had captured Perak in 2009, only for three of its members to hop over the fence and swing the state to the government's side. PAS has now ditched PR, and grown warmer and closer in step with the ruling UMNO. Some of the older folks will not forget that Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was once a Deputy Prime Minister in the government, and in his college days, a fiery leader of Islamic youth movements. Political allegiances are as shifting as the monsoon winds. Friends today, enemies tomorrow, friends again next week.

"Too late, should've bought me a Ferrari Spider when you had the chance last Christmas, Dad."
4. Terrible Tyrants

GoT: Despite all the cunningness of powerful lords and ladies, the bloke sitting on the Iron Throne is always a few sandwiches short of a picnic. The Mad King - as his name suggests - went mad towards the end of his reign. King Robert left the running of important state affairs to his council advisers. King Joffrey's a bastard (literally and metaphorically) kept on a creaking leash by her scheming mother and Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister.

Malaysia: The current generation of Prime Ministers leaves much to be desired. In his twilight years, Mahathir Mohamad increasingly shows signs of senility - proclaimed his resignation, withdrew his resignation, effected his resignation, and now says and does things as if he has never resigned at all. His successor Ahmad Badawi was weak, scorned by Mahathir, eventually toppled and faded into obscurity ever since. Right now, Najib Razak is just as ineffective, seemingly held under sway by a woman - his shopaholic wife Rosmah. No wonder everyone's staking claim to the throne, which seems unoccupied all but in name for some time.

5. Religious Extremism

GoT: Season 5 saw the emergence of the Sparrows and Faith Militant - religious movements determined to purify the lands from despicable sins such as incest and homosexuality. They've gained so much influence in a short span of time, that they've succeeded in sending Queen Margaery to jail and Cersei down the walk of shame. They're relentless. They can't be reason with.

Malaysia: Oh boy, where to start? Chopping off hands for theft, strict dress codes at public offices (no showing off knees and arms, please), confiscation of translated Bibles containing the word 'Allah', and most famous of all, the multiple prosecutions against Anwar for sodomy. And with PAS going solo once more, expect more witch-hunting to come.

"Yeah, it was a tough scene to shoot, but at least it wasn't Sia directing."

Game Of Shame

So, there you have it. What's good about GoT, what's bad about Malaysia.

It's quite depressing, watching events unfold from the crumbling heights of KL. Inside my head, the same sound runs over and over again...




*ding ding*

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