Imagine picking up the telephone on a Tuesday afternoon while you are doing your laundry. And the person on the other side of the phone telling you that they are calling from the Merdeka Centre and ask you on what you think of the prime minister. They prod on, they ask you if you think he is going to survive the next three months.
Tell me, how many of us will tell the truth?
In Malaysia, the truth is a dangerous thing, and people, lay persons on the street don’t think they will be shot for telling what they think, but they do think it is silly to speak your mind publicly if you are going to speak against the government.
My mother hushes me when I start my tirade against the prime minister, and other mothers are likely to follow suit, so how can we trust any survey conducted under these conditions?
I am sure as time passes and the absoluteness of BN’s 50 year rule erodes in bits and probably nasty pieces, people are going to be more and more forthcoming about their true feelings.
And neither am I saying that political polls are bad and the Merdeka Centre is not doing a good job. It would be perfidious to think as such.
The point is, for now any feedback from the public to anonymous callers will be one of caution.
You could call bankers, bakery attendants, chefs, sprinters in the national team and high school janitors and they will all quickly clam up when it is a complete stranger asks them what they think about the country. You never know what they will catch you for.
And don’t they catch you for dissent in Malaysia?
The fact people feel like this is indicative of the deep fear that has been built over decades by a ruthless political party bent on removing any morsel of courage in its populace.
So much so, Malaysians never dared think of a change of government. Opposition parties did not want to sell change of government. Change of government to the lay person was mutiny, fire and brimstone, a charge at the Bastille and guaranteed violence.
DAP always saying how they wanted to provide check and balance to the system, and maybe form government in Penang. PAS would say they were zoning in to a win, but even they knew they could not broach the self-enforced Islamic divide.
Nay. We all never dared unseating Umno until Anwar got kicked out of Umno, and decided to fight from the word go.
I was a polling agent in the general elections, and although the count in the room showed a complete annihilation of the BN candidate, the many who walked into the room endeavoured to not show their possible support for the opposition. A large percentage walked in with BN printed registration details.
70% of the people who came in to vote, voted opposition. Go figure.
But this year unlike 2004, they did not take down the number of everyone’s voting slip. This time I had a polling chief and assistants who were willing to listen and cooperate with both candidates agents, not just the BN side.
But I digress.
The salient bit in all of this is, if you are doing a poll by phone or in person, ask a Malaysian about what he or she thinks of their government, be sceptical of the answer you receive. We are very paranoid here.
Would you blame us?