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.
That 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.
Neither 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.
If 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.