Monday, March 31, 2008




No sooner had he arrived in his home state, Sultan Mizan of Trengganu, who is presently the Malaysian King, was reported to have said Islam [in Malaysia] had become a confusion after Dr. Mahathir had taken power over it [in 1988], and he wanted the power back.

He was obviously referring to Pak Lah’s lovey-dovey hand-on-the-shoulder stunning exhibitionism with James Bond’s woman, Michelle Yeoh. He did it before the camera during the 2007 Monsoon Cup, which would have been as good as unbuttoning his fly in public. He could not be bothered with the local culture, just as he couldn't be bothered with the floods in Johor that took 17 lives in 2006.

The public lovey-dovey display was unacceptable anywhere in the Islamic world, the episode becoming the centre-spread in the Pas’ tabloid, Harakah, during the recent elections.

Michelle isn’t quite the kind of celebrity that would fit into the culture zone of the first Malay state in the peninsular to have received Islam. The religion had reached Trengganu in the 14th century, long before Paremeswara married the Muslim princess of Pasai in 1409. The world’s best Qur’an reader for many years (until she chose to retire) had come from Trengganu.

Pak Lah, having attired himself as the leader of “Civilizational Islam” (Islam Hadhari) which Mahathir launched in 1999, should have known better.

But something vicarious could have been lying hidden in the “Nice Guy”, “Mr. Clean” and the “pious Islamic scholar” people did not know about and had discovered with the Monsoon Cup. To all appearances, he could not keep his hands off her.

It was conduct unbecoming of the Imam of Islam Hadhari, especially after his loyal Menteri Besar, Idris Jusoh, had churned for the state’s slogan, “Trengganu Bestari, Islam Hadhari” (A Knowledge-based Trengganu [and] Civilizational Islam]. It has now become a suicide bid.

The regnant refused to swear-in Idris for a second term and chose instead, Ahmad Said, nearly an unknown but better than the notorious.

Much money from the state’s oil royalty had gone to waste in the Monsoon Cup caper, an annual event that was believed to have been used to siphon off a lot of money from the state’s coffer, the beneficiaries of which were identified personalities closely related to Pak Lah. The people now want them proven corrupt and locked up.

But Sultan Mizan’s remark about the bedlam resulting from Mahathir’s takeover of religious power from the states went further than the Monsoon Cup and the alleged embezzlement.

Mahathir’s infamous knockout of the Lord President and three Supreme Court judges in 1988 gave him greater influence over the Judiciary than any previous Prime Ministers had had. Then in the same year he complemented that with the constitutional amendment now known as 121 (1A).

The amendment virtually sqwarked the nation into two legal and judicial systems and as a result, while Mahathir became a dictator, Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia rued the evil of the near-absolute power he enjoyed.

Many persons were sent directly into detention camps and were wasted for years in them for practicing or teaching ‘deviant Islam’. Religious rehabilitation centers were built and many young persons were thrown into them for years for petty offences like being caught eating in a public place in the month of Ramadhan, or for buying the Digit Lotteries.

Muslims are free to eat and drink in the restaurants and food-stalls in Mecca and Medinah or anywhere else in the world during Ramadhan. This law and many like it occur only in Malaysia.

Mahathir progressed from dictator to ending his career with the great Putrajaya few approved and which plopped the residence of Prime Minister, Seri Perdana, into an obvious feudal setting, in isolation from his ministers and minions cast by a lake he crossed with umpteen bridges people can hardly understand what they were for.

It does seem like he had built for himself his own Camelot where he intended to remain all his blessed life but failed.

It is clear Sultan Mizan had flagged-off in Trengganu the Typhoon Trophy in place of the Monsoon Cup, which has surely come to an end.

In the twists of the unfolding plot Mahathir called for a foreign accountant firm to be hired to audit the spending of Trengganu’s oil revenue. His foes replied they want him scanned for financial traffic of similar sorts when he had been PM.

It’s a setting for carnival time. One or the others may, in fact, run themselves into goal.
Mahathir cannot champion anti-corruption, surely. He is himself popularly known in Malaysia as the Father of Corruption. Never was Malaysia as corrupt as she had been under his 22 years at the helm.

It has apparently become worse under Pak Lah but the rot quite certainly started with Mahathir.

He is proud to have made a few billionaires and several hundred millionaires among Malays. But most of these have merely become rentiers.

He succeeded to industrialize Malaysia, mainly with the help of the Japanese who now number more than 1,600 companies. He also succeeded to provide Malaysia with a broad-based economy that has been able to withstand severe downturns of the world economy. But morally he eroded the social resistance to the degree even the judiciary became corruption-pliant.

Mahathir has disqualified himself as a fighter against corruption and is merely observed as clowning. He has failed to keep the loyalty even of his protegé, Zainuddin Maidin, who he nurtured as a close aide from a newspaper stringer to become editor-in-chief of the leading Malay newspaper, Utusan Melayu, and then to the heights of Minister of Information.

The man swiped him several times since and recently held him also accountable for the BN crash on 8 March in which the former journalist was unseated in Sungai Petani, Kedah.

Tengku Razaleigh, a noble Kelantan prince who had been Malaysia’s Minister of Finance, is in relative terms, whiter than white, and when he lost to Mahathir by 43 votes in 1987, instead of ranting and cursing himself out of breath the man fasted for three months (or more) and prayed to his Lord so much he showed a mark on his forehead from the frequent prostrations.

I asked him then whether he was sure he was not overdoing it.

He told me in reply his mother had taught him when the time comes for him to take the taste of a fall, he must remember he has a Friend in God and ‘ He is your only reliable Friend. Hold fast to Him and perhaps one day what is yours that you seek will find you instead.’

I had been a witness to that good news that had secured him in his worst hours and he should now rely on God again. This time he will probably win.

But the important thing is not about that. Instead it is about what he will do with the acquired power and the distribution of that power. Will he promise us a mature democracy with the cherished freedoms and rights?

Will he promise us on his honor to rid us of all the oppressive laws and provide for us social justice?

What are his promises to us he must quickly say. It takes a first drop to release the forces for an ocean to flood the valleys and the plains. ---- a. ghani ismail, 1 April, 2008

1 comment:

muhajir said...

It really depends on whether Tengku Li can full-heartedly identify himself with the masses or rakyat, whether he reads their aspirations well and whether he can and will make fundamental changes in the country's governance within the shortest time possible. He may be accepted by the rulers for being from the royal family of Kelantan himself and the politicians as he is an UMNO veteran leader but can he come up with some good solutions on the nation's economic woes and very quickly too for the nation is in a very bad state. The financial tsunami that is going to hit Malaysia very soon,coming from the US, Europe and Japan, will not be a storm we could weather through by just fastening and tightening our seat belts and hoping for the best, but it will be so severe so as to cause much unemployment, retrenchments, downsizing of companies and so on that Malaysia has never seen before. What more when we are now net importers of many basic items needed for our daily lives. This calamitous situation is as a result of Malaysia being overdependent on earnings derived from exports to the US, Europe and Japan, with exports to the US alone making up about 30% of our total export earnings. When US goes down we go down too, when Europe and Japan rattle we rattle too. All our major industries have either flopped or flipping over.

Then it is also expected of Tengku Li to be sensitive of the needs of the common folks which are mainly food and clothing at affordable prices,reasonable education
expenses for their children, better and cheaper health facilities, better and affordable housing and of most importance is the security and safety of life for children and women. So dear YM Tengku Li, going for the top post is no big deal now, it is about shouldering immense responsibility and accountability to the nation and the people. It is no more about glamour, money-making and wealth accumulating opportunities like before which BN politicians were very fond of doing in the last 50 years at the expense of the people and the nation.
Grandiose projects and plans undertaken by the BN governments so far have not accurately addressed the said needs of the people, needs that are so simple yet so important for the sustenance of human lives. Meeting these needs form the basis of achieving good quality of life on this planet which all governments should know and should do when they are entrusted by the people to lead and rule.
These are the issues Tengku Li must address and it is not easy for him or anyone else to undo the mistakes made during the period between 1981 to 2003 of Tun Mahathir's leadership of the country and then the mess created or soon o be left behind by Pak Lah and Co.

We all wonder why is the country struggling now fifty years after independence. But we have Petronas and yet most of us do not really know where have all the oil and gas revenues of Petronas gone to. They can’t have all been spent on investments abroad, in faraway countries like Sudan and the Central Asian states. These have been big news and big publicity all these while, but where are the returns on investments that benefit the nation and its rakyat. We need to know.

Tengku Li if he ever gets to the number one position must examine the debacle of rising prices of fuel in the country despite Petronas having 680,000 barrels per day of one of the highest quality of oil in the world for export. He has to investigate what was really going on in Petronas all these while for he was the one who started it up some 35 years ago. I was also sent on Petronas scholarship overseas to do Mining and Petroleum Engineering up to PhD level in the 70s and had contributed to the expansion of Petronas operations downstream to include the Pipelines and Refineries but where has all the money from its revenue gone to. We technocrats or technologists were made to be so busy with engineering design and construction activities but were not given direct access to the financial facts and figures of the petroleum industry maybe because all these are kept under lid and cover by the OSA or is it because many of us, so-called brilliant ones were not and are still not so brilliant after all for having allowed this things to happen, unlike the rakyat who came out brilliantly on March 8, 2008 by giving a clear signal to the BN to stop it or get stuffed. There were lots and lots of fence sitters back then in the 80s and the 90s from the so-called educated elite who “played it safe”, saying always “I only cari makan, can’t do much what, got no power what, what can we do what,… what what!” Of course there were degree holders, masters and even PhD holders including me who went "left-wing",
but there were very very few those days and one can never imagine how our lives and those of our dependents were badly affected for some 20 years as a result of our direct involvement in "left wing politics" when the draconian laws were ruthlessly applied on us to silence us up but to no avail.

Tengku Li has to go deep into is conscience pondering over these records of 30 or 35 years of poor governance of the nation and start anew. He should never never ever repeat these mistakes as a PM, if he gets to that position. As far as I know and I think, the race is neck to neck between Tengku Li and DSAI, each has his own strength and political clout, but DSAI has a slight edge in that he is 10 years younger than Tengku Li and is more preferred by the younger generation although the rulers will be more comfortable with Tengku Li.

A thorough audit of Petronas and the petroleum industry just like all the other industries must be done now and declared to the people and it is not only about whether heads will and must roll or not but it is about the fact that the time has come for the government to establish squarely and transparently the actual state of the nation's wealth or poverty for that matter. Thus far not many of us know what is in store for us in so far as the petroleum industry's prospects is concerned. The nation should be able to reap the greatest advantage from the high and ever increasing oil price in the world market. Countries like the Gulf Cooperation Council states have reaped much benefit from this situation of rising oil prices in that they have started to invest their SWFs(Sovereign Wealth Funds)in the US and Europe which has started to give the economic planners and government leaders there sleepless nights. About the biggest amongt the SWFs is Abu Dhabi with a value touching One Trillion USD, followed by Norway with almost Half Trillion USD, but Malaysia has only Twenty Billion USD. Both Abu Dhabi and Norway are big-time exporters of Oil since 35 years ago, about the same time Malaysia started to produce oil for export.

This is just one example of how badly the nation's coffers were managed.

So what happened to us compared to the other two countries mentioned above?
Perhaps Tengku Li can give an answer, or perhaps DSAI. The people want to know, even you yourself need to know dear Tengku Li. But first you have to get to the number one post.

Contributed by Muhajir