Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda: An incomplete list of GE14 political backpedalers

Life can be full of regrets, misplaced bets, and opportunities left unseized. In a post-GE14 Malaysia, many public figures who hedged their bets in favor of the former Barisan Nasional government are now doing their fair share of introspective shoulda, woulda, couldas, and, of course, making them public.

One of the first, and certainly one of the most high-profile, was AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes’s swift mea culpa for having left the public he so cherishes high and dry with his embarrassing BN endorsement.

From the video outlining the wonders the BN had done for business, to the repainting of his red plane BN blue, to the personal concierge service that met former Prime Minister Najib Razak to fly him back to Kuala Lumpur, it was a slap in the face of the masses who had struggled under, and now have thrown out, the former government.

Sure looked like the man of the people (and tarmac), was a man out for himself. When the political tide turned, a seven-minute groveling apology was quickly produced, with Tony reminding the public that he was “just like us” — except with a lot more money, power, and an insanely influential platform. We added that last part, because it’s true.

Too much to handle for some, plenty of epithets have been tossed his way: turncoat, Quisling (us!), a man more obsessed with PR than principles.

We could go on, but we also understand that there is a fair share of pragmatism that goes into running an airline at the mercy of a morally bankrupt government, and the regulators who act as collaborators. And he did stand up for his AirAsia X director (and former parliamentarian) Rafidah Aziz when the big man pressured him to cut her loose, so we’ll leave Tony alone for now.

Backpedaling level: Can planes fly backwards? About there.

Fernandes was certainly not the only public figure to backpedal when the house of cards fell; there were several others, and what would we be here doing if we didn’t round up some of our favorites?

So here, without further ado, a by-no-means-complete list of our favorite closet-revolutionaries, “silent” supporters, and a guy who was just worried about his rice pot not being full. Cari makan, y’all!

Khairy Jamaluddin, former Minister of Youth and Sports, Barisan Nasional Youth-wing leader

Say it ain’t so, KJ, say it ain’t so. We’ve never hidden our affection for the former minister. He seems like a person who intrinsically knows the difference between right and wrong; he had some of the more progressive notions that were espoused by the former ruling government; and this throwback photo of him in his Oxford days makes us want to restart our Sublime cover band.

However, when push came to shove, he proved largely indifferent to the corrupt machine that was making the every day life of his constituents increasingly difficult.

Speaking to Channel News Asia on Tuesday, he told the reporter that BN had gotten carried away. They were delusional, and “got drunk on our own Kool-Aid.” Kool-Aid we assume he’s suggesting he never personally sipped.

It’s a calculated move from a man who still has a chance to be prime minister, though he conveniently stopped short of taking any personal responsibility for the failures of his party beyond “not speaking up.”

Trying to rewrite the narrative from “active cabinet minister” to “passive bystander to shenanigans” is an interesting move. However, being present during the committing of a crime has historically been a bad look.

We know, that’s a tough line to take, but we consider anyone one who played Fancy on Spotify at least somewhat responsible for the existence of Iggy Azalea. (Trust us. That’s a much lighter analogy than our original one, which demanded an in-depth knowledge of the ’90s TV series The West Wing).

Regardless, Khairy is working overtime to distance himself from his ousted mates. Saying “this must not happen again,” Khairy called the mentality of the old guard “feudal” in their desperation to protect the party’s former leader, Najib, and condemned the fact that no concerns were raised after a party purge of anyone who dared question the billions missing from 1MDB.

He’s even gone so far as to muse that perhaps his party, Umno (the United Malays National Organization) should be opened up to everyone, and not just Malays. Bold moves, but no one gets any prizes for wanting to change the rules after they’ve lost.

We’re seeing a lot of retrospection and very little introspection of how so many injustices were allowed to happen on his watch. We’ll just have to see just how committed to change this former minister really is.

Backpedaling level: Olympic heat qualifier, but no medal winner

Harith Iskander, comedian, winner of “Funniest Person in the World 2016” after enough online votes deemed him so

Oh dear. Look, for the record, to all the Stans out there who are preparing to send us letters about how we don’t “get” comedy, or stand-up, or ANYTHING — we have no personal vendetta with this man. Truly. He’s a public figure, and one that openly puts his work into the public domain, and is thus — open to critique and our unbridled opinion. Such is life and democracy: If you want to live by the LOLz, you gotta take the NOLz as well.

In the week leading up to the election, Iskander put out a politically charged video reminding us all to cast our ballots based on “information” and not “sentiment.” It was a line often uttered by the former prime minister and his cohorts, hoping to quell the insatiable anger that was bubbling over from a public that had seen enough corruption to last them a lifetime.

You know the drill: When your agency is robbed from you, when you’re not even allowed to speak freely for fear of retribution, and when you’ve been told that the only news that is real news is coming from the same people who have a vested interest in hiding facts, you get bloody angry.

The gist of Iskander’s clip is that you should listen to “information.” Much like the anti-“fake news” law, there’s no real clarification on whose facts bear more credence, or who decides what truth is.

Here, watch! As with all drivel-ish content, we at Coconuts KL will always warn you that watching will result in the loss of nearly eight minutes of your life you’ll never get back:

Harith — wearing a shade of blue roughly one Pantone to the right of Barisan Nasional blue — is here to tell you how you should vote. What qualifies him? We’re not quite sure, but in this day and age, all you need is a YouTube channel and a dream, amirite?!

Offensive characters aside (why is it that everyone here is stupid, and instead of providing genuine debate, serves as stereotypes of the type of populace that needs to be told how to democracy), the message is worrying. Iskander warns of a “re-branded” product, telling that it is new and improved — but lo and behold — it’s the same old, same old.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that he’s taking a swipe at a certain 93-year-old, who has jokingly referred to himself as “the dictator,” which is only funny because it used to be true (actual comedy). Add to that Najib’s rhetoric throughout the election to not change a horse midstream for the unknown, his wife’s declaration to not vote with emotion and you get the idea of what the video’s intention was.

None of this worked, and on May 9 the will of the people put Mahathir back in power, and demanded justice, accountability, equality and unmitigated honesty in their information.

Would you have guessed this was Iskander’s dream, too? Just like Tony, his dream is “our” dream — to have a Malaysia that was free and equal for all. He just didn’t say it when it mattered.

 

Saying that you can’t wait to tell your kids about the day that Malaysia stood up for itself, and that you’re excited about this new direction is a bit strange considering you spent the week before warning people to not buy into new labels on old bottles.

Look, we’re happy that you’re on board with a Malaysia for all (AFTER the election), without boxes to tick that separate us into categories created by our colonizers. This new hope was brought to you by the same fed-up populace you warned not to vote with their sentiments in mind. Well, at least you have some new fodder for your next Netflix special!

Backpedaling level: Rewinding your VHS tape before you take it back to Blockbuster

Wak Doyok, mustachioed ‘celebrity’ of indiscernible talent, but we’re open to suggestions

Some are just out here to remind the public that they supported the opposition even when BN was the ruling coalition. Only, you see — artists need to do this quietly, in the dark, where no one can see them, or even hear them think, lest their rice pot not be filled that day.

Wak Doyok is one of these guys. And yes, he dragged out a group picture of him with his good good buddy Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. For those that don’t read Bahasa, he used the post to explain how some good-hearted (closeted) opposition supporters like himself just had to publicly support BN if they wanted to keep that rice bowl full, ya’ll.

It must be tough out there for a man known primarily for a waxed mustache to wonder where his next meal is coming from. Can you imagine being so uncertain about your own talent and relevance to the world that you depend on keeping the sitting government happy with your insipidness? On the bright side, maybe it’s just a lack of integrity!

 

In the (paraphrased) words of our favorite radio personality, Umapagan Ampikaipakan: You can still have a career and do the right thing, buddy.

Backpeddling level: Insta story rewind to your bot followers

 

Che Ta, actress, rumored singer and fearless defender of former closeted Mahathir-supporting artistes

Another day, another actor/actress/musician/mustache out there saying that they’ve been pro-opposition (now government) all along. Rozita Che Wan, aka Che Ta, is just that, but has been taking it one step further and trying to explain on behalf of all the other poor poor pseudo-celebs who were in her position as well.

It’s not that she’s being insincere with her sudden posting of not one, not two, not three, but SEVEN photos expressing her sudden delight that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was re-elected prime minister in the 14th General Election.

Seven is quite a bit considering up until this point, she had zero photos indicating her political inclinations. Lol.

Wait, jaded reader! She has an explanation. It’s because the “powers-that-be” might disturb any political posts by the actress. Oh, wait — you mean like they disturb the rice pots?

Che Ta has said that she is delighted to see her fellow Kedahan (the northern state where both were born) in power, and told naysayers that it’s not like she was “asking for money from Che Det” (Mahathir’s nickname), k? Class in a glass, Che Ta, class in a glass.

But not everyone’s buying the idea that toeing the line is worth success as a performer. One popular entertainer, Sarimah Ibrahim, went on record to express her own thoughts on ideological integrity, saying that discussing her refusal to play into the any party’s agenda had resulted in “warnings” and job losses. First, girl, please elaborate, and second — turns out there is a way to stay true to yourself and do your job. Good to know. Fellow artistes, take note:

Backpedaling level: Walking out of a room backwards that you just did a nasty fart in.

Marion Caunter, celebrity and Instagram lover, wife of SM Nasarudin SM Nasimuddin, Barisan Nasional bestie

Poor Marion, she can’t win, can she? Look, she’s clearly benefited from having a husband so closely aligned with the former government, but that’s not really for us to judge. Or is it?

Caunter, Malaysian of mixed ancestry, has had her share of nasty social media bullying, among the harshest being a 2014 birthday post that resulted in trolls telling her that she was not “Muslim enough” after converting to marry her husband.

After having uploaded a post-election “hope” shot of she and her children gazing up at the Petronas Towers, she received a fair share of social media rancor from followers who weren’t particularly impressed with her sudden public happiness for “new days” in Malaysian politics.

Let’s be clear: her message was in no way for or against any party, it was literally a summary of what the results were, and wishing all of us a unified future. Some, however, weren’t so forgiving in their assessment:

As much as we love a persnickety response, this feels maybe a bit over the top. Not all of us feel the need to be political, and that’s OK. Not all of us need to support the currently elected government, and that’s OK too. Granted, she’s been enjoying the good life on the back of her husband’s BN-powered career, but maybe we’re just a soft touch for a lady who’s been through the ringer.

Carmela Soprano, enjoying Tony’s ill-gotten gains through “construction,” or Narcissus, so occupied with their own reflection in the water that they failed to notice they fell in, and drowned? You decide!

Backpedaling level: Debating between wearing dress A or dress B for an event, and then going with dress C.

And there you have it. We’re sure we’ve missed countless people on this list, but it was never meant to be definitive. The serious question that we asked ourselves was why some former pro-BN figures felt the need to suddenly re-align themselves with a party or that party’s rhetoric.

There’s nothing wrong with having supported the previous government, or supporting PAS, or any of the other independents that contested in GE14. Democracy is about choice, and about being free of any kind of retribution for those choices.

The previous government may have been rife with corruption, but within the party were fine individuals as well. More than anyone, we now depend on these democratically elected individuals to be a formidable opposition, and to keep the ruling party in check.

No need to have the pendulum swing completely in the other direction, and let’s all remember the common enemies: the anti “fake”-news law, and Jho “I’m the victim” Low.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this claimed that we had invented the new term “retrospection.” As it turns out, it’s been in use for quite awhile, and widely accepted by dictionaries the world over. Our bad.

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