Political ignorance

April 23, 2013

We often say that rural areas are the heartland of the Umno vote, where the majority have no access to the Internet and glean their information about the world from the mainstream media – Utusan Malaysia or RTM.

We denigrate the rural people because of their lack of knowledge, and excuse their ignorance because of their location. We tar them with the label of being less politically savvy than their cousins in the cities.

Two widows, Amira and Zaharah, live 320km apart, and live on their husbands’ pension, of about RM800 per month. Both are uncertain of their future and struggle to make ends meet. Both were asked for their opinions about GE13.

Amira, who is 66, lives alone in her own home.

Will you vote in GE13?

Amira: I don’t know, yet. It depends if I can get transport to the polling station, but I am more worried about leaving my house unattended. Crime is rampant and even shoes left on the porch go missing.

Nowadays, you can’t trust anyone. There are several foreigners around and the police are too busy to come and investigate. The papers say that crime is down. I don’t know who to believe.

Which party might you vote for, if you do vote?

azlanMy parents and all my relatives have always been Umno supporters. Look at the money the government is giving to the community. They are so generous, the BR1M is a godsend.

Are you aware that this money is funded by you, the rakyat?

I always thought the money came from Umno but then I never gave it much thought. So am I handing money over to the government, for them to give away? I don’t earn enough to pay tax, so that cannot be true.

People who earn enough and pay tax, contribute towards this payment. Some pensioners and low-income earners will be paying tax in other ways. When you buy rice, electricity or petrol, you are paying tax. Would you consider voting for the opposition if they are more responsible in managing your money?

I would never allow the Chinese to overrun and rule this country. They will turn us into another Singapore. If possible, we should send the Chinese packing.

The Chinese are also Malaysians. If your car broke down tomorrow, who would fix it? You once said that you trust only your Chinese mechanic to repair your car.

Perhaps, some Chinese should stay.

Why do you fear the Chinese?

When I meet friends at my weekly religious classes at the mosque, we are told that the Chinese will take over Malaysia and make it a Christian country.

Malaysia cannot become a Christian nation because it is stated in the constitution. Moreover, the Christians only make up 9 percent of the population. You went to a mission school, so did they convert you to Catholicism?

I spent some of my best years in the Convent, together with other Malay girls. None of us became Christians despite going to chapel, attending services, celebrating Christmas at friends’ homes and singing carols.

Do you think the Malays of today are less religious?

azlanI see more people going to religious classes and wearing tudung. There are more halal restaurants. Malays today are possibly more religious but in my time, we were more relaxed and I hardly read things like baby dumping or people dying while escaping the moral police.

Do your clothes define your religious conviction? What about some of our grandmothers who did not wear the tudung?

My mother and her grandmother were very religious people despite not wearing the tudung, but I worry about the behaviour of some Malays today. Some tend to go on the umrah after committing bad deeds. I thought Shahrizat Abdul Jalil was remarkable to go three times in two months, until someone said she had been involved in some scandal.

Do you think the Malays of today are better off than in the 1940s, 50s or 60s?

Yes, I think so. The twin towers are proof that the Malays are successful. More Malays are at university. Look at the Malay involvement in building Putrajaya.

NONEThe twin towers and Putrajaya may be symbols of modernity but they are also symbols of corruption because much money has been siphoned off into politicians’ pockets. Did you know about this?

No, I didn’t know that, but I remember Imam Hoslan Hussein talking about corruption in the mosques. I can’t understand why he was jailed for a year.

Government projects are not always put to open tender. In some cases, a company will have won a closed tender, because they have bribed an official involved in awarding the contract. Usually, the cost of the building spirals out of control. Are you aware that cost-cutting, the use of inferior materials and poor workmanship contribute towards defects that have led to buildings and bridges collapsing?

Is that what happened to the Terengganu stadium? When my son’s tender for a small building contract was unsuccessful, he said that someone else “paid” to get the contract. Now I know why.

Do you think that Malays are better educated than in your schooldays?

I attended school up to the equivalent of Form Five but I think I speak better English than many graduates. There are more Malays with degrees now but they have not used their education properly.

My husband, a civil servant, used to complain that some Malays lack confidence, and hide their insecurities behind a veil of arrogance. I think perhaps, they are lulled into thinking they are excellent, when in truth they could do better by being more humble.

Similar questions were put to the other widow, 74 year-old Zaharah, who lives in a village in central Perak. She was forced to move, because her land was compulsorily purchased for a mining development.

She now lives in a clearing on the outskirts of her former kampong. She has no emotional attachment to this area. She has seen kampong life being strangled and has not noticed any improvements for pensioners.

Zaharah is scornful of attempts to help the young while ignoring the elderly, and so has tried to keep abreast of political developments, with the help of family and friends who visit from the city, or by attending the occasional ceramah. She knows which party to vote for GE13.

Back in Petaling Jaya, Amira is thankful that she and her husband had purchased their semi-detached home 40 years ago.

She copes with retired life in the city because two of her children help with the finances, but her complacency means that she has not bothered to find out why prices are rising, or considered that she and the other taxpayers will eventually have to pay for the largesse of the BN government.

It is clear that it is not just the location or the availability of the Internet or alternative media, that makes a person, politically ignorant.

Amira said: “My son says that Umno Baru is not the Umno that I knew. I must say that I have seen many improvements in PJ in the last five years. So maybe, I should vote for the opposition, this time.”

(Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.


Who is legally responsible?

April 18, 2013

It is interesting that these past weeks The Star, Loyar Burok and the Election Commission have expressed their views on caretaker governance. The NGO Aliran also raised the same issue before the 1999 general election.

The Election Commission most recently spoke on caretaker governance, but not to answer the issues raised.

The primary concern raised in each of these articles was about “legal authority and responsibility” for new administrative initiatives carried out during the absence of an elected government.

This is especially so when the legal or legitimate appointments are non-existent because of the period of transition with the general election being called.

Allow me to repeat some of the legal views and arguments on this subject and then raise my real concerns.

The Star reported:

Constitutional law expert Datuk Dr Cyrus Das said a caretaker government should not make any new policy or enter significant government contracts that can bind any future government.”

Loyar Burok wrote: “So how should a BN caretaker government act in practical terms?

  1. The affairs of the state are still in the hands of the prime minister and his cabinet.
  2. Implementation of executive decisions and the day-to-day administration of government are, in any event, carried out by the one million strong civil service, which is supposed to be independent and neutral with regard to party politics. In that sense, government is run by the bureaucrats who continue to manage, regardless of which political party is temporarily in power.
  3. Foreign affairs and defence matters are managed as if there is no change. Thus, the defence forces should be entrusted to deal with the invasion of Lahad Datu, Sabah. Operational matters come within their discretion.

What the BN caretaker government should not do is to take policy decisions of a long term nature or which would bind the next government.

Likewise, it should not enter into contracts involving taxpayers’ money and the public purse. A new government is perfectly entitled to review such contracts and terminate them if they are not in the public interest.

Finally, a caretaker government certainly cannot give away monies like the BR1M payments from taxpayers’ fund.”

International practices within Commonwealth

Both Australia and New Zealand have their conventions based on the Westminster tradition of governance.

“In Australian political and constitutional terminology, a caretaker government is a government of Australia during a period that starts when the Parliament is dissolved by the Governor-General prior to a general election, and continues for a period after the election, until the next government is appointed.

A caretaker government is expected to conduct itself in accordance with a series of well-defined conventions that are administered by theDepartment of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, although there is no law compelling the caretaker government to do so.”

In New Zealand the Cabinet Manual has some explicit guidelines for compliance:

6.16 On occasion, it may be necessary for a government to remain in office for some period, on an interim basis, when it has lost the confidence of the House, or (after an election) until a government is sworn in following the government formation process. During such periods, the incumbent government is still the lawful executive authority, with all the powers and responsibilities that go with executive office. However, governments in this situation have traditionally constrained their actions until the political situation is resolved, in accordance with what is known as the convention on caretaker government.

6.17 There are two circumstances in which the government would see itself bound by the caretaker convention:

  1. After a general election, one of the two arms of the caretaker convention applies until a new administration is sworn in.
  2. If the government has clearly lost the confidence of the House, the caretaker convention guides the government’s actions until a new administration takes office, following either negotiations between the parties represented in the current Parliament or a general election.
  3. In both situations the government is likely to state explicitly that it is to operate as a caretaker government until the political situation is resolved.”

Whither Malaysia?

While pundits make their predictions about the future governance of Malaysia, my greater concern is: Will what happened in the Selangor and Penang state secretariats after the 12th general election happen in the federal government offices of Putrajaya?

The files and documents in both Selangor and Penang were cleared out and destroyed by perpetrators and this was allowed by the police And other security forces? Why? How did this happen?

If, in the unlikely probability, the federal government is changed by the rakyat, whom do we “hold responsible” if there is no caretaker stewardship of this democratic process of the transfer of power towards forming a new government?

What is the role of the cabinet secretary or the chief secretary to the government, who is the only ex-officio member of the cabinet today? In fact, he is the only cabinet member, and therefore is legally the only executive authority in Malaysia during the caretaker government period.

What then is the role and responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in all of this? The Agong has discretion of authority in the appointment of the prime minister, as already clarified by Tommy Thomas in hisarticle. But the Agong has no executive authority like the chief secretary.

Are the other many national “enforcement” institutions like the police, Attorney-General’s Chambers, Armed Forces, Auditor-General and all others given legal and jurisdictional authority to handle the transition of governments really ready for such a possibility?

Who do we hold as the right people responsible if all the files and records in Putrajaya are carted away, stolen and shredded into oblivion?

May God help us get all the national institutions of democracy ready for all possibilities and permutations.

KJ JOHN was in public service for 29 years. The views expressed here are his personal views and not those of any institution he is involved with.

‘Lynas, show us your waste conversion plan’

December 13, 2012

A coalition of 80 NGOs demanded today that Australian miner Lynas reveals its plan to convert the wastes from its rare earths refinery in Gebeng into commercially safe products that will be exported.

If Lynas fails to publish this plan, together with three other documents, the NGOs said, the International Trade and Industry Ministry should suspend or cancel the company’s temporary operating licence (TOL).

The coalition, named Solidariti Hijau, submitted a memorandum containing its demands to the ministry deputy secretary-general at the office in Kuala Lumpur today.

The documents the coalition wants made public are:

  • The research findings plan for the recycling of the wastes generated;
  • The emergency response plan to control the spread of dust in the air and environment;
  • The plan and location for the permanent disposal facility and waste management plan; and
  • Lynas’ innovative approach proposal to convert the wastes into commercial products that can be used in and out of the country.

At a press conference after the memorandum was submitted, coalition member Green Clean World chairperson Zulkefly Mohamad Omar said, “All these issues raised should be resolved before the TOL was granted, TOL and not after.”

NONEZulkefly (left) said the TOL was granted in haste and without reference to the Basel Convention, which is an international treaty to reduce and prevent the movement of hazardous wastes between countries.

Under the Basel Convention, Lynas is barred from exporting its wastes to other countries.

Abdul Rahman Maidin of the Institute of People and Rights pointed out the confirms that the wastes from the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant are “dangerous” to health.

“If everyone else in this world says ‘please don’t bring this waste to our country because it’s hazardous’, that means the people in this country are facing a hazardous operation.

“It will be irresponsible on the part of the government to allow this thing to continue,” Rahman (below) said, adding that the government should close down the Lynas rare earths refinery.

NONEThe TOL issued to Lynas in September only requires it to submit the plan for a permanent disposal facility plan within 10 months of the licence being issued.

Lynas has claimed that the wastes from its refinery can be completely converted into a commercially safe product called “synthetic aggregate” that it would market internationally. The plant to convert the wastes has been built in the refinery, it said, and it was now ready for operation.

This proposal has received the green light from Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maximus Johnity Ongkili, who said Lynas could even market the converted product in Malaysia if there are local buyers.

The conversion plan has drawn much scepticism, but Lynas is yet to release any detail on this.

Umno’s Ponzi scheme

December 4, 2012

Malaysians need not fear that we will become like Afghanistan because Afghanistan has learnt from us and has become like us.

A New York Times

report headlined ‘Audit says Kabul Bank began as Ponzi scheme’ bears a striking resemblance to the way Umno runs this country.

hamid karzaiInvestigators have claimed that the Kabul Bank has been fraudulently obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars and siphoning it off to a few individuals connected to President Hamid Karzai (left).

The war-torn country is trying to get to grips with the concepts of western democracy and banking, but public trust and confidence in the government has been shattered by the revelations of crony capitalism and corruption on a massive scale.

Governments around the world are shocked at the Kabul Bank scandal but are turning a blind eye to similar events in Malaysia, where institutions routinely siphon off money to Umno and its cronies.

An audit by the Kroll investigative firm has revealed that the Kabul Bank’s financial duplicity was mired in controversy and cover up. There was a political conspiracy involving those at the very top of government to stall the investigations.

This is no different from Malaysia. Recent cases are the political interference concerning Tajuddin Ramli’s involvement in the Malaysia Airlines scandal, the Sabah Umno and Michael Chia fiasco and the National Feedlot Corporation case.

The Kroll report also revealed that official stamps had been issued to fake companies so that forged papers could be made to look legitimate. The bank kept two sets of books to dupe auditors and loans were issued in the names of the owner’s friends, relatives and even domestic servants.

Sherkhan Farnood, the bank’s founder and chairperson, stashed the loot in Dubai. It is also claimed that money was smuggled out of Kabul via an airline belonging to shareholders linked to the bank. Kharzai’s brothers, who were implicated, have claimed innocence and escaped prosecution. No one appears accountable or has taken responsibility for the alleged fraud.

NONELast week, Umno held its 66th general assembly. It was laced with theatrics, its members reduced to tears by a song, and a former premier wielded more influence than the incumbent. All these are signs that the country, not just the party, is in trouble.

The way Umno operates is similar to a Ponzi scheme but instead of making a financial contribution, Malaysians have had to pawn their livelihood and their children’s future, just to keep people at the top of the scheme in power and wealth.

Charles Ponzi, Bernie Madoff, and Kautilya Pruthi, the British equivalent of Madoff, had conned people out of their life savings but were eventually caught and jailed. In what is known as a Ponzi scheme, people were lured into investing their hard-earned cash with con merchants who offered them in the short-term, higher returns than any other investments could provide.

Change from within

Umno’s Ponzi scheme is destined to fail. With the increase in Umno warlords, greater demands are exerted on the kitty, which is financed by the taxpayer. Those who are more senior in Umno want a greater share. The VVIPs and their children have to be appeased. The fickle-minded, untrustworthy party ‘frogs’ also need feeding.

An Umno member would find willing victims to become party members, force them to swear allegiance to be a true member and get them to find fresh recruits.

Like any pyramid scheme, only those at the top of the pyramid reap the benefits. For instance, Umno divisional heads are given incentives to keep them happy. It is alleged that they can demand government projects of a certain fiscal value, to pass on to their cronies and members.

NONEIn some cases, divisional heads are alleged to be given hundreds if not thousands of taxi permits as inducement.

With each taxi driver being obliged to pay about RM30 to the company per day, it is not difficult to work out how many millions of ringgit some people can make per month.

Why does Kuala Lumpur need 35,000 taxi drivers? When there is a glut of drivers, there is depressed income from fares and more drivers sinking into debt.

The Ponzi-type scheme Umno operates also uses religion and affirmative action policies to keep the Malays under control, but Malays need to understand one thing – they do not owe the government a living.

A student on a Mara loan or scholarship should be beholden to the taxpayer for funding his studies. When the government is guilty of corruption or injustice, the student should not keep quiet because he thinks he is beholden to the government for his education. He is not.

azlanSadly, many Malays refrain from criticising the government because they feel indebted to the government when in truth, they should be grateful to the taxpayer. The Malays know that Umno does not represent them, but they have been brainwashed to keep silent, with tiny inducements and the fear of God to keep them in check.

The government should give every Malaysian child a decent standard of education and equal opportunities, but even the privileged are cheated.

The method with which Umno rules the country dwarfs the Kabul Bank Ponzi scheme. The west does not give a damn what happens in Malaysia just as Umno does not care at all what it is doing to Malaysians.

The west wants to please the government so that the Employees Provident Fund can continue to buy up properties abroad, a refugee swap deal can proceed smoothly, Malaysian taxpayers can purchase the latest weaponry or that a rare-earths refining plant can be built.

The rakyat cannot rely on the west for help, so any changes have to come from within Malaysia.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak’, this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

Avoiding a centenary of Umno’s rule

December 3, 2012

It is obvious by now that Umno will never change. Judging from the waves of public protests involving multiracial crowds over the last two years, the determination on the part of a significant segment of Malaysian society to exorcise the ghost of May 13 is unambiguous as well as undisputed.

Still, Umno’s ruling elite, lacking policy imagination and integrity, will do everything to ensure that the country remains haunted by the racial backlash that happened more than four decades ago.

NONEThe choice has become much clearer after Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s scare tactic at the Umno general assembly two days ago: vote Barisan Nasional and see one dignity trampled in perpetuity, or opt for the alternative with a view to overhauling and reshaping Malaysia’s political structure.

None of the speeches by Umno leaders at the assembly has been inspiring. Shahrizat’s shameless reference to the 1969 national tragedy should be condemned by all in no uncertain terms, yet her party colleagues have failed miserably to assure the general public there would be a peaceful transition of power in the event of regime change.

Muhyiddin Yassin’s warning of chaos should Pakatan Rakyat come to power is indicative of the fact that the highest echelons within Umno may not rule out the possibility of resorting to extra-constitutional measures, while rule by decree is not a fantasy. It happened in May 1969 under Najib Abdul Razak’s father, and it can happen again.

And what is so special about Najib’s ‘apology’ over BN’s past mistakes that it has captured the attention of all the propagandists masquerading as ‘senior journalists’, including Tay Tian Yan of Sin Chew Daily?

NONELet’s put Najib’s sincerity under the closest scrutiny, The following is exactly what the apprentice prime minister who has been dodging his political opponents and the rakyat in public debate actually said:

Bumi mana tak ditimpa hujan, laut mana tidak bergelora, bahagian dunia manakah yang wujudnya orang, atau pimpinan, atau persyarikatan atau parti yang tidak pernah tersandung atau tersalah. Di atas segalanya, sebagai kepimpinan parti dan kerajaan, kami menyusun jari nan sepuluh memohon maaf atas kekhilafan.”

The keyword here is ‘kekhilafan’, which means ‘kesilapan’ in colloquial Malay, or ‘omission’ in plain English. One Indonesian dictionary defines it as ‘kesilapan yang tidak disengaja’, or ‘unintentional omission’.

Has Najib shown penance?

Now, can one search one’s own heart and say Najib has indeed shown penance for all the transgressions committed by the BN government over the past few decades?

Or does one honestly think the wanton use of all the draconian laws – ranging from the Internal Security Act, the Sedition Act to the Emergency Ordinance – has been unintentional? Or the series of misuse of public funds and the inability to weed out corruption are merely an ‘omission’?

azlanOr the shocking murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu was simply a negligence on the part of the two ‘accused’, a case in which no motive was found for the killing? Or time and again firing teargas into peaceful crowds was just a ‘mistake’?

Furthermore, when Najib asked ‘in which corner of the world is there a leader or a party which has never made a mistake’, he was practically behaving like Jackie Chan. When Chan’s mistress went public with his extra-marital affair more than ten years ago, the movie star ‘apologised’ by arguing that he had just ‘misbehaved’ as any other man in the world would.

Can one take it as a heartfelt apology?

As Umno’s arrogance and obstinacy are laid bare, the emperor is proven naked again. Portraying Najib as a reformist, as many ‘senior journalists’ have been doing, is a futile attempt, for a real leader must be bold enough to do the impossible, including confronting the conservative forces within the party. Najib has been given more than three years to prove his calibre, but has failed to rise to the challenge at every opportunity.

One may ask: would the alternative be any better given that PAS is bent on implementing its idea of an Islamic state?

azlanThe fact is, Malaysia’s public institutions – be it Parliament, the judiciary, the police force or the public service – have been turned into serving only Umno’s interests. The Malay party could not have maintained its rule for so many years without having first subjugated all these institutions.

The next general election represents a golden opportunity for Malaysians to put the country back on the right track; it is also a chance for us to restore the original spirits of the Malaysian federation by introducing an electoral reform that could ensure no one political party is dominant and also giving powers back to the various federal states, epecially Sabah and Sarawak that have been reduced to nothing more than colonies.

To achieve all these noble goals, one must first and foremost stop whining but be courageous enough to get rid of Umno. Anything short of that would only turn out to be a self-fulfiling prophecy: A centenary of Umno’s rule.

JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

Majestic missteps

August 2, 2012

Even the most hardened BN supporter with half a brain – and I’m sure there are more than a few like that – must be looking at current developments, doing endless ‘facepalms’  and wondering what the blazes is going on.

After all, here is a regime that has been talking about ‘reform’ and, more often, ‘transformation’, and, at least since Ah Jib Gor was made PM, embracing all of us as part of this awfully wholesome ‘1Malaysia’.
But, yet, it appears to be doing the exact opposite virtually all the time.

NONEThe very latest instance, of course, is the arrest of PKR’s Rafizi Ramli (right in photo) yesterday and charging him under the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (Bafia), with allegedly disclosing to a couple of reporters the financial accounts of a number of companies related to the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal.

Now, like it or not, because of his exposes – which, thus far, have not been reasonably refuted – Rafizi, articulate and ever-smiling, has attained at least cult hero status among the many Malaysians who have grown fed up with all this financial chicanery.

Indeed, if memory serves me right, even when he was just breaking the story about the RM275 million Cows, Cars and Condos scandal, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the (then) minister whose family was implicated, perhaps taken by Rafizi’s charm, promised to send him some Wanita Umno apparel.

azlanMore recently, he has continued with his exposes, this time with revelations on the Ampang LRT extension project, which now has been awarded to a consortium led by George Kent (Malaysia) Bhd., the same consortium Rafizi had been critical of.

So, here you have a popular young man, a bumi to boot, clearly analysing and articulating the possible misdeeds that any ‘reform-minded’ person or party would be concerned about, and what do you do to him?

Well, lifting yet another passage out of BN’s basi Book of Awful Drama Scripts and standard operating procedures (SOPs), you decide to send some police personnel to his home in the wee hours of the morning, arrest and handcuff the wayward young man, march him to court… and make a martyr out of him.

Aiya, anybody who’s read Robin Hood, seen any of the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, or studied some of P Ramlee’s movies would surely understand the concept of ‘anti-hero’ or even ‘folk hero’ and could have seen that coming.

Script and timing essential

And could have told these people that script and timing are essential ingredients, even in  a tragicomedy that is, yet again, unfolding in 1Malaysia Bolehland.

These are indeed dramas that are truly tragic for the silly scriptwriters and are hilarious for the many who look on and wonder how much further can these stupid, desperate people go.

Well, evidently it’s a bottomless pit that they are in.

NONEJust a few days before Rafizi was arrested and charged, we had the truly sad spectacle of overzealous politicians (or was it just that one ancient one?) trying to put everything (including the Satu Malaysia kitchen sink) on to this year’s  Merdeka Day logo.

Quick pop quiz: Do any of you remember last year’s Merdeka Day logo? I didn’t think so.

Sure it’s close to election time. But please lah learn that Malaysians now expect some finesse, some sophistication… even from rambling politicians well past their use-by date.

NONEAnd, hello, the stupid song that comes with the logo is not about to arouse and con the kampung folk to whom you constantly condescend.

You can also forget the many thousands of first-time (young) voters who really have no time for the aspirations and downright amateurish attempts of failed propaganda writers.

And, worse, there’s much talk now that the song is a rip-off of an Indonesian Christian gospel song, titled Serukan Namanya, and performed by a band called True Worshippers.

Granted, given their present troubles on the international front, the Malaysian/Petronas Philharmonic Orchestra is not likely to come to the rescue.

But, nonetheless, given all the so-called artists that you claim are now part of your party, surely you can come up with something more ‘happening’ if not raunchy.

Yes, a balada even.

Or, if we are all truly sincere about this ‘1Malaysia’ logo/concept/thingamajig, perhaps, just perhaps, the authorities might consider embracing ‘the other side’s theme of ‘Sebangsa, Senegara, Sejiwa’ (One Nation, One Country, One Soul).

It certainly sounds more halus, more lyrical than the gruff ‘Janji Ditepati’, don’t you think?

After all, one, the former, seemingly celebrates one-ness, unity, a joint vision for the country.

Party political broadcast

The latter, on the other hand, sounds like a top-down, curt party political broadcast that says ‘we have done all this for you’, with the implication that ‘now you must repay us’. And there we were thinking that communism is dead.

Therein again lies yet another majestic misstep. At a time when (idle) boasts are made of the regime being a truly democratic one, in reality, authoritarian language is used, backed by equally authoritarian actions.

And nothing seems to illustrate this better than the ongoing refusal of the regime to come to the table with the Selangor state government to address the issue of water affecting Selangorians.

The latest report that the DPM, Muhyiddin Yassin, ‘has turned down Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim’s invitation to meet and resolve the state’s water issue’ does not illustrate political maturity at all.

Instead, again it appears to demonstrate pettiness and, with it, the willingness to let the people, the voters, suffer. All simply to ‘show’ who is dominant, evidently to fulfil some egotistical need.  Illustrating yet another misstep, yet another missed opportunity to provide true leadership.

And you expect the people to reward you for that?

ROM NAIN is a media analyst and academic who is weary of incompetent, unethical leaders and their apologists and spin doctors in the media who try to get away with murder while professing to rub shoulders with God’s angels.

The war is on

May 27, 2012

For all his boastful confidence, Najib Abdul Razak is acutely aware that Umno’s end could be imminent.

The day after the massive Bersih 3.0 rally – the biggest multi-racial act of civil disobedience in Malaysia’s history – Umno’s bigwigs dismissed it as having no ramifications. But they could not have regretted their words sooner. The impact has been huge, with pictures, video clips and eyewitness accounts of police brutality circulating on the Internet like wildfire.

The Economist, a bastion of neo-liberalism and market economy, sought to play down the effect of the protest by highlighting the “commotion” on the part of the protesters. Najib, a self-congratulatory “reformist”, no doubt delighted in the “even-handed” report. But the otherwise authoritative magazine failed to also inform their readers that Najib could eventually win a propaganda war all thanks to his tight control of the press and the media.

NONEThat the Economist also appears to have missed out the fact that the coverage of both the BBC and Al Jazeera were doctored by Astro also calls into question its professionalism, not to mention that journalists including those from the foreign media, too, came under attack by the Malaysian police.

Judging from the superficial contents of the article, one has ample reason to ask if the Economist had indeed dispatched at least as stringer to gauge the situation on the ground!

By contrast, Bridget Welsh’s excellent piece Road to Malaysia’s Day of Destiny remains the best analysis by far.

That Bersih 3.0 has created immense after-effects – to the detriment of Umno – can be seen from the freakish and capricious reactions of the Najib administration. The government first wanted to gloss over it as a non-event, only to realise the damage had been done.

It was more than obvious that blaming the crowds for breaching the barricades and “exacting bodily harm” on the police had failed to work, while more people were questioning once again why such a gigantic force had been required in response to a peaceful assembly in the first place.

As people were seething with anger, Najib and his cohorts were having a tough time showing their die-hard supporters how the government could save its own face.

Carnival at the taxpayers’ expense

Hence the so-called 100,000 strong mammoth rally at Stadium Bukit Jalil on May 11, 2012, which only turned out to be a carnival with goodies for the attendants plus free transportation, all at the expense of the taxpayer.

Then came the witch-hunt for the ‘suspects’ who had allegedly wounded the police, while the real samseng remain at large, with some gloating smugly over their power right outside Ambiga Sreenevasan’s house.

And finally came the ridiculous charges against Anwar Ibrahim, Azmin Ali and Badrul Hisham Shaharin under the newly-passed ‘How To Frustrate Peaceful Assembly Act’ and the government’s lawsuit against 10 Bersih committee members over “losses”.

If all this symbolises Malaysia’s “moderateness” and efforts to become “the best democracy” under Najib’s (non-)leadership, I would be happy to be sent back to the Stone Age.

I must confess I cannot feel proud of being a citizen of a country where people are investigated for ‘sedition’ simply because they have uttered something unpalatable to the powers-that-be, as is the case with Irene Fernandez. It is as good as warning Malaysians not to report crime or they may find themselves being charged for tarnishing the ‘good name’ of Malaysia.

NONENeither can I turn a blind eye when shameless characters – including former army men who had supposedly discharged their unfailing duty to protect the country – exposed their butts for the whole world to see, in complete violation of Malay custom and Islamic teachings. Umno’s supporters must do some soul-searching and ask if they are willing to bear further indecorum just for the sake of maintaining the delusional ‘Malay supremacy’?

And how can we tolerate a government that is hell-bent on more boondoggle projects that will one day bankrupt our national coffer?

But the most heinous crime of the Najib-led government is its connivance of the threats against Ambiga, some of which clearly verge on sexual harassment.

NONEIf there is a Malaysian of the Decade Award, it has to be granted to Ambiga (left). This brave lady has successfully united Malaysians and her appeals transcend race, gender, religion and creed. It is a success that is beyond everyone’s wildest dream, but she represents a nightmare for Umno nonetheless.

Granted, those who believe in Umno’s racist ideology will not accept her on account of her ethnicity and religion, but they cannot deny she is now a formidable figure to be reckoned with.

I am heartened to see many of my Muslim and Malay friends have put up either Ambiga’s image or left comments on Facebook in support of her, for this is the strongest indication of their acceptance of her moral leadership, the daily demonisation by Utusan Malaysia and TV3 notwithstanding.

‘An attack on Malaysia’s dignity’

Simply put: an attack on Ambiga is an attack on Malaysia’s dignity, and one is obliged to speak up or risk being chastised by our future generations for not having done enough.

And we know why Ambiga is singled out but not Pak Samad. There is always a sinister plan by the reactionary forces within Umno to portray certain individuals as responsible for the Malay divide: Anwar Ibrahim and Nik Aziz Nik Mat being the two most prominent examples, but also non-Malays such as Lim Guan Eng and now Ambiga.

Any non-Umno leadership is dangerous, devious and divisive. Little wonder many were happy to put up with Mahathir Mohamad’s two decades of looting and intimidation!

Still, I am amused to read an FB comment by a Malay friend that goes like this: “If they want to target Ambiga for her religion, I would have no option but to go after Sharizat Abdul Jalil for her mamak origin. So Umno please don’t force me to stoop so low!”

While there is a physical war going on, as evidenced by the incessant violence against civil groups and the opposition, there is also an ideological conflict to be won. The ruffians are out to ensure Umno’s hegemony, but they will only end up humiliating their political masters.

Having said that, it is more important to keep the spirits of Ambiga and Pak Samad alive, because it is people like them who can truly make a difference even if the opposition fails to dislodge the Barisan Nasional.

A new national discourse is on, regardless of whoever makes it to Putrajaya after the next general election. The question is: to what extent are we prepared to fight it out?

JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.