Thursday, March 20, 2008




What will it take to get Pak Lah to quit

In the wake of Pak Lah’s new trimmed cabinet is the making of pandemonium. It is clearly because he could not cope and he did not care enough. But he can remain on top because the party system has been left with no means to evict him mid-stream, causing more and more people in Umno to break rank and begin a parade of aggression.

What will it take to get him to quit?

Matters in the nation and the party have been progressively going from bad to worse. Straight out of the Mad Hatter’s undoing in Alice’s Wonderland is a new cabinet that’s frothing with woes.

Sabah and Sarawak are bemoaning the fact they are under-represented in the new cabinet and yet we are told 14 members of the smaller-than-before cabinet are from Johor state.

Of Perlis, both members of his previous cabinet he dumped. Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, who happened to be the party’s secretary-general, has since resigned from all party posts he held, his positions taken over by former Minister of Tourism, Tengku Adnan Mansor, who was a great success as a minister, but not quite tested yet as a party man.

He was replaced in the cabinet by Azalina Othman, who is neither representing the Wanita Umno nor the Puteri she headed before.

Meanwhile, Shahidan Kassim, the former Menteri Besar of Perlis Pak Lah wanted to retain has been side-tracked by the Raja of Perlis, who has sworn-in someone else.

Pak Lah dropped Umno Wanita chief, Rafidah Aziz, even after her deputy, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, lost in the election against Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter and so she was left out of the cabinet.

After discovering the Wanita Umno was not represented in the cabinet he seemed to have inadvertently appointed Shahrizat as his special adviser with the status of minister on matters that was her portfolio before, Women, Family and Social Development.

But he had made Wanita MCA chief, Ng Yen Yen, the minister of that and so there is now a minister of the ministry and there’s a special adviser to the PM on the same functions.

Shahrizat, Pak Lah was reported to have said later, will have to consult Ng Yen Yen for whatever she shall advise him, making her job quite redundant since ministers are to advise the PM who is finally responsible for his government.

According to reports, Pak Lah’s cabinet-caper flung Shahrizat into direct conflict with Rafidah, her boss in the party. As a result the Wanita Umno was driven into a flurry to secure the movement from sundering with the chief alleging that her deputy had stabbed her in the back.

Wanita Umno, whose members account for 52 percent of the party members, is not to be trifled with, of course. It is now unrepresented in the cabinet for the first time in history.

Rafidah earlier thundered about resigning from all party posts and vacating her parliamentary constituency as well, which will mean the Alternative Front shall add one more to the 82 they had won if she does that.

If that is not enough, Pak Lah’s favored Menteri Besar, Idris Jusuh of Trengganu (and of the Monsoon Cup infamy), is still trapped in a limbo because the Sultan has refused to swear him into his job. A palace source was reported to have said he did not work for the people’s interest.

Until about 100 years ago a remark like that from a Malay sovereign can cripple a minister, on the spot, by a magical force called tulah. Idris Jusuh may be immune to it, but we will have to wait and see.

Then, two deputy ministers Pak Lah kindly retained in his cabinet preferred to resign rather than continue as deputy ministers for yet another term.

MP for Jerantut, Tengku Azlan Abu Bakar, and MP for Kimanis, Anifah Aman, have both been deputy ministers for two consecutive terms. Second lieutenants must aspire to become captains after one or two terms and deputy ministers cannot be too different about climbing up one rung of the ladder.

Stuck on the same rung probably because of the leader’s oversight, the duo chose to bailout, “without raising their voices” according to a news report. They may have secret intentions.

It is clear the Prime Minister had not spent enough time on the cabinet reshuffle and he trimmed it, even eliminating all parliamentary secretaries, meaning ministers and deputy ministers must now spend time to work out their replies to parliament on their own, when the opposition now sits 82, from seven before.

People in Umno and the BN simply cannot understand why he had done that. The parliamentary secretaries would be needed more now than ever before. What, in fact, has Pak Lah in mind? Who is behind the moves he made?

The environment has come right for the rank-and-file to rebel. On cue was the old warrior from the Fox’s Lair (Gua Musang), Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. After he chaired his divisional meeting on March 19 he told reporters, “Now I am old but [I am] still fearless.”

The Umno divisional meeting he held on March 19 was to demand the party hold an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss reasons for the colossal failure in the election and about how to rehabilitate the mass organization. He offered himself to contest for Umno president.

Tengku Razaleigh is only 71. He was jesting about being old, surely. But fearless he is. Pak Lah does not compare at all with Tengku Li.

Meanwhile, the younger aggressor, Mukhriz Mahathir, who opted to tell Pak Lah to resign after he had won the Jerlun parliamentary seat in Kedah, was rumored to have started to study the battle strategies of Genghiz Khan, his look alike.

His father, the former Prime Minister and party president, studied Sun-Tzu’s Art of War, and his mother, I had heard, avidly read several times Vo Nguyen Giap’s, Guerrilla Warfare.

Mischief is definitely afoot in Umno, and it could be worse than the rebellion of Lucifer in heaven when Adam, merely of mud, was made God’s pontiff on earth, now polluted.

Mukhriz Pak Lah had sorted to the Pemuda Umno for disciplinary action. But the Pemuda Umno chief, Hishamuddin Hussein, turned Mukhriz back to Pak Lah to do the dirty job himself.

It is payback time for Pak Lah. The sooner he retires the easier it would be for him and for most of us, the exceptions to that rule applying only to the whims that had sauntered into politics and rose by vigorously bowing before the boss.

People are saying he tossed out some people from his cabinet to cast the blame on them. But he must know the causes of the tsunamic slap on the face is mainly him, his son-in-law, Hairy, his cronies, his incapacity to keep his word, his inability to moderate the inflation, his Singapore romansa, and his happy-happy days with the rich-and-famous.

He has delivered nothing in terms of tangible development.

When in politics a party loses as remarkably as Umno and the BN had in the recent elections, the party president must, as a moral and ethical obligation, take the blame and bow out. The party, as a collective, will have to mean more than any individual, or family, in the organization.

It is really left to the party president to become an example of that moral and ethical principle and not make excuses or cast the blame on a set of others. Pak Lah, alas, is a president of a different sort. The obligation, quite apparently, he does not acknowledge. He must be pressured to go. --- a. ghani Ismail, 21 March, 2008

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