Friday, April 11, 2008

Umno In Ballet


Squeezed into a narrow spider hole over two days of deft moves in Umno, deputy premier, Najib Tun Razak, must now make up his mind either to aggress for number one or be sacked along with Pak Lah in or before the party Supreme Council election scheduled for December.

The April 10 meeting of divisional leaders from Kedah and Penang with Najib issued him an ultimatum he cannot evade. They said they will vote for Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Muhyiddin Yassin for number one and two if he does not stand up and fight. They want Pak Lah out, pronto.

The following day in Johor, Pak Lah, in a meeting with state party leaders, could not offer a succession plan he was asked for.

A date for his exit was then suggested - 2010, when in the state’s Umno liaisons committee meeting on Saturday April 5, Pak Lah’s immediate departure was discussed, a consensus not reached merely because of Sharir Samad’s gratitude for being resurrected from the dead by Pak Lah who appointed him a minister.

Johor Umno was clearly saying on April 11 Pak Lah has no wish to retire, meaning Najib must quickly make his decision known.

There’s a problem in the party about Tengku Razaleigh’s intention to drag Umno into a “supra-ethnic” mode, impressed as he had said he was with the PKR’s success in his April 4 speech at Gua Musang.

Umno in West Malaysia would prefer to remain predominantly a Malay party.

But while Najib is the best man to conserve the image and the policy of the Malay nationalist party, the person himself will have to be bold enough to take the risk of having Pak Lah order a police and ACA probe into the affairs related to the murder of the Mongolian beauty, Altantuya Sharibu, some believe is connected to a grand kickback.

Prometheus, it would seem, is still chained to a rock for teaching humans how to play with fire.

Umno, after being sucked by the patron-client capture for decades and subjected to Mahathir’s sit-and-sunder dictatorial misconduct for many years, is now profoundly short of presidential quality, while the overwhelming materialism that had disused the party’s √©lan and ethos had made many rich Umno leaders bastardized either into images of calypso sugar-daddies whose minions do the dirty jobs for them or into outright cowards without the daring to even squash a bug with their naked krisses.

The party, still shell-shocked after more than a month since the March 8 routing at the polls, is floundering for a certain direction. Truth is, she has outlived her corporate lifespan without reinvention. Umno is already 38 years old from the time it was reborn after the Emergency of 1969.

The members, used to looting from after the success of the industrial and commercial transition can hardly imagine what nationalism and the national struggle is about, the job of winning at the elections mostly done by professional “Gurkhas” employed by the Prime Minster’s Department since Mahathir became premier in 1981, and dictator in 1989.

In the 1999 general elections Mahathir loudly muttered his displeasure at Umno members who will not move even to put up the party’s posters and banners unless their palms were laced with hard currency.

The members have become mercenaries. But as someone remarked, why shouldn’t they? Why should anyone work for free to keep multi-millionaires and billionaires afloat when most members can hardly afford to repair the kitchen of their houses without having to borrow from loan-sharks?

Umno simply does not make much sense any longer, dominated, as it were, by a fabulously wealthy and corrupt elite.

The party Supreme Council Mahathir had made all-powerful. Divisions can be frozen for the slightest dissent, the leaders and their families harassed for years, something people in the upper crust of the party know.

There’s a clear clash of cultures between the heavily gold-laden Umno patrons and the poor nationalist-dreamer having to crawl up the party ladder by dint of hard-work to be overtaken by overnight-enriched contractors of the Ali-Baba ilk, or by son-in-laws of the mighty who push-envelopes for colossal sums of gratuitous graft.

What sense is there left in Umno, especially after she has been reduced to a scum-size by the infant supra-ethnic PKR and her hardy bedfellows, one of an Islamic State origin and the other, a yellow-top taxi spreading Malaysian Malaysia since 1965 that has finally paid-off?

Even as Tengku Razaleigh is observably quiet after his shout for an Extraordinary General Meeting to scuttle Pak Lah he made on April 4, he ought to be remembered for calling on the party to purge herself from the corrupt, the oppressive and the deadwoods.

In short, Umno is in an ideological, leadership and vision-muddle, dwarfed in only four years of Pak Lah’s blunders after Mahathir had successfully spun a vision that somehow came to be respected by the people while it (the vision) was least understood in Umno herself.

The result is ludicrous – the former premier regretting publicly his choice for successor, and since ruing every person he placed in his and Pak Lah’s cabinet, including the current number two.

Mahathir made the rules in Umno that required candidates for president to be nominated by at least 30 percent of the divisions he now wants undone. Pak Lah wants it to stay.

Each nomination also carries 10 “bonus points”, making it possible for a candidate to win by an aggregate of those points, before the party delegates may cast their votes.

In 1993 Anwar Ibrahim challenged Ghafar Baba for position number two and won by the aggregate of “bonus point”, i.e. before the delegates cast their votes. Then Mahathir threw Anwar into jail in 1998 and the party has yet to recover from the aftershocks of that.

Now, with the “nomination quota” and the “bonus points” intact, and with Tengku Razaleigh’s inclination towards a “supra-ethnic Umno” not well-received by a large segment of the members, it is quite believable 34 Umno Members of Parliament from West Malaysia are now ready to cross court and jump in with Anwar in the PKR supra-ethnic push for Civil Society and a people-friendly government and political culture.

With 34 the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) would become the ruling coalition enjoying a majority of five in Parliament and governing five states, which effectively turns the table around but which would still need the inclusion of at least Sabah and Sarawak to bring the comforts needed for stable government.

That comfort zone can come later. Fact is, Umno and the BN can be spun around into becoming the underdog at any time and as the underdog, it is becoming harder and harder to believe Umno has the energy and the coherence to fight and to get back to the top.

The blow impacted on March 8 is appearing fatal. What will Najib do?

Several more questions gape for an answer. Can there actually be a reawakening of Malay nationalism in the party? Would not some of the wealthy in Umno employ voodoo artistes from Haiti to do the job for them and the reawakened nationalist become a ballet of zombies in Precinct Three, Putrajaya, where the Palace of Justice is often seen as a Casino de Jure? --- a. ghani ismail, 12 April, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008



Clearly showing in Malaysia are investors’ jitters and the blues of the industrial and commercial community. On April 2 when the Asian markets pulled a whopping bonanza with several up above four percent, the KLSE went down. It’s a sure sign Malaysia is already dislodged from the Asian money-movements and trends.

The Malaysian bourse had been drifting for months. In the SME sectors workers have been retrenched while the remaining have to do with lower pay.

Malaysian graduates have had to wait years before getting jobs and some work for less than what typists are paid. In some private colleges filling the dream of the Asian educational hub in the Klang Valley and its surroundings, some young graduates are being paid RM1,100 with annual increments of RM75 to RM100, good for the early 1980s.

The Prime Minister, Pak Lah, has done hardly a thing to arrest the skid. He has lost control and in losing control he shunted the country into a police state, making him appear more and more like a sea captain insisting the ship must sink with him.

The police department is now posing itself as the greatest threat the country is facing. It has been revealed policemen were involved in the macabre murder of the Mongolian beauty, Altantuya Sharibu. Police used live bullets in Trengganu on 8 September 2007 to disperse a peaceful assembly of 500 meaning to appeal for free and fair elections, injuring two, one of whom shot in the chest at point blank.

On 2 April Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, was reported to have told presspersons he was ready to be detained or go to prison once again in reaction to intimidating remarks the police made about something he said concerning the New Economic Policy (NEP).

But that’s screaming, something the former bank senior accountant should avoid doing even after we know a demonstration of 3,000 had welcomed him in his first few days in office and a bus company has refused to ply to Komtar where he is nested as chief minister.

The police have since explained they merely wanted to know what he had said about the NEP to journalists from two Chinese vernacular newspapers. That’s within their line of duty, though the police will have to be fair about crowd control if the department is to be useful in stabilizing what is already a veritable circus of errors.

Police, equipped with electronics and satellite connections that can shut down car engines and control vehicle operations have been heard to have threatened members of the opposition, and even bloggers, with “accidents” on the roads, a manner of homicide that would be hard to prove in court.

It should be remembered there are others in the world that are endowed with even more sophisticated electronic arsenals. The Malaysian police could be made to look like clowns if they abuse the facilities they are entrusted with.

Former high officials in the corridors of power have said the police were also equipped with low-frequency radio-wave devices that can wirelessly be used to apply excruciating pain on their victims. A bit about these low-frequency weapons are featured on the web.

A check with neuroscientists in the universities confirmed this can be done, the pain inflicted by such low-frequency sound-waves are indeed quite bad. Hit in the brains the victim can be made to lose the sense of balance and suffer vertigo, or worse. It would be fatal while driving at high speed.

The solution suggested to the writer as a means to protect oneself against such low-frequency weapons was either to use a device to scatter the waves or some method they term as “brain over mind”. A neuroscientist consulted had said, ‘there is such a thing as brain over mind.’

It does not appear possible for “the brain over mind” thing to work against the level of pain that can be inflicted. You’d need to be an accomplished yogi. Perhaps the ‘brain over mind’ method may work if the appliances are used to input thoughts or suggestions, but not when it is simple electronically inflicted pain or vertigo, or in a game of virtual reality.

With or without these sophisticated devices, if police dump professionalism the breakdown of civil authority would quite certainly become a collapse of civil government, which would be a very high price to pay for sustaining an ineffective Prime Minister.

Lalang and Sand

The police, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok has told us, had entered into a rental agreement for 43 helicopters recently, when in the Ninth Malaysia Plan the department asked for less than 10.

The message behind Teresa’s issuance may be a warning against a possible Emergency, akin to the Operation Lalang we had to bear under Mahathir’s wicked rule on 27 October 1987, when 106 or more persons were detained and 16 lingered for many years in the Kamunting detention camp.

Some people close to the powers in Putrajaya had been talking about that possibility from months before the 8 March election. Some say Pak Lah’s family may have accumulated more than RM6 billion in the four years he has been in power and he has no other means to avoid the payback. The country is under duress.

A dark cloud was spreading over Malaysia when on 8 March the elections wrought the kind of damage on Pak Lah and the BN making it more secure for all of us in Malaysia. The BN has been denied the two-third majority and we may safely believe we have a King who will not accept Pak Lah’s prayer to apply an Emergency as a means out of woes he made himself.

A crackdown under the ISA or under the Police Act he can do and Pak Lah has cleverly turned over Internal Security to Syed Hamid Albar with the new cabinet, just when many had voiced the worry the heat would be brought to the height of a senseless crackdown after the “tsunami” the people unleashed on the BN in the elections.

Syed Hamid had been implicated in the attempt to sell about two billion cubic meters of sand to Singapore in the early days of Pak Lah’s premiership which was refused by the Johor state government. It was rumored his brother had obtained the required permits for the transaction. He denied the rumors.

Police Professionalism

The police must be quickly reminded of the dire need for professionalism or the only recourse the people have against a police state is to apply peaceful non-cooperation.

The means of active non-cooperation the people had used against Idi Amin “Dada” of Uganda should also be brought to mind.

Pak Lah should consider the fact the Pakatan Rakyat took more than 49 percent of the popular vote while it only takes three percent of the population to actively apply non-cooperation for the central authority to breakdown and bedlam ensues.

That three percent is now certainly there. He should not even think of trying. A country cannot be staked in a gamble such as that. The chips are down and he will have to go. We are feeling the heat of that.

Meanwhile, in the contest for Umno president, Tengku Razaleigh’s division in Gua Musang passed a resolution on 3 April to demand the party hold an Emergency General Meeting to consider the options open to rehabilitate Umno after the colossal loss in the 8 March elections.

Party sources say Tengku Razaleigh can already count more than 36 divisions (bahagian) on his side. If he is stumped this time as they did to him in 2004, Tengku Li can still become Prime Minister if he is able to withdraw from the BN 35 MPs and he joins the Pakatan Rakyat.

Mahathir, I am told, has gathered to himself one party division (Cheras) and more than 60 branches (cawangan). But he can talk. [To be continued. Stay in touch.] --- a. ghani ismail, 3 April, 2008