Wednesday, May 7, 2008



With stakes reaching above the moon, Umno is now looking like a circus gone upside-down with the weakest man on top and the strongest apparently cowed into submission and seen as vulnerable as he’s being forced down the crest of popular accusations linked to an on-going murder trial that’s been dragging for almost a year.

In the run-up to the party Supreme Council election scheduled for December, some party veterans are screaming like banshees over unfair and undemocratic practices of the party president and his clique.

Bent on scuttling challengers, Pak Lah has once again been abusing democratic rights in Umno as he had done in 2004.

Former party president and Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, who is hoping for the number two to go for number one in December, said his “cowardly” protégé and candidate for the top post in Umno had told him he had to have the president’s permission should he wish to meet with the former Prime Minister.

Mahathir, who had dubbed the Deputy Prime Minister a coward in a recent talk to Malaysian students in Manchester, is now making the man look like a schoolboy of 10 that’s afraid to play truant and meet his former boss to discuss why the party had lost as badly as it did in the 8 March general elections.

The ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, lost five states and for the first time in history, was denied the two-third majority in parliament, making the Prime Minister a lame duck and his authority defied by several Malay rulers who refused to accept his candidates for Mentri Besar (the state’s chief executive).

Pak Lah, is refusing to step down and instead is said to be using his regime-support apparatus to deny his challengers constitutional rights and due democratic process.

It’s a repeat performance many find intolerable, the first being the siege of Tengku Razaleigh he applied in 2004. It left the prince with a single nomination in his attempt to contest for party president.

Party divisions were ordered to deny him the 60 nominations he needed to qualify. He obtained only one nomination, i.e from his own division of Gua Musang.

As Tengku Razaleigh riled about the plot mounted to ruin his bid in his second attempt to contest for president, Mahathir publicly rued about the Umno Deputy President and Deputy Prime Minister’s apparent disability, asking what kind of a political party has Umno become under Pak Lah.

In the given circumstances, the name calling and the diminution of the number two left in its wake a remarkable turn of events that finally thundered with Raja Petra Kamaruddin’s article in his blog, Malaysia Today, implicating the Deputy Prime Minister and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, in the murder of the Mongolian translator.

Raja Petra’s Let’s Send Altantuya’s Murderers To Hell has earned him a charge of sedition. He denied bail and has since been a guest of His Majesty in Sungai Buluh Prison.

Even as Mahathir has been loudly wondering what kind of party Umno has become under his successor, observers were quick to ask why, indeed, did he enhance the set of regime-supportive apparatus that made it possible for the party president to preside as a dictator?

Mahathir may not have set up most of the quasi-political agencies that had made Umno rather of a muscular giant. But he strengthened them, ostensibly in an attempt to “institutionalize Umno”.

The Biro Tatanegara (BTN) in the Prime Minister’s Department is one among several agencies responsible directly to the Prime Minister and empowered to intercept, and has been intercepting, the democratic political processes.

It began employing ex-commandos during Mahathir’s premiership and has been alleged to have been using intimidation and coercion with impunity to keep party members subdued and the opposition endlessly harassed.

With power and big funds, these agencies promptly became abusive.

In the early 90s in preparation for a state by-election in Kuala Nerang, Trengganu, Seranta, another quasi-political agency set up during Mahathir’s regime, sent more than 3,000 members to stay for months within the small constituency to appeal for votes and ensure victory in the Pas’ territory.

Discipline could hardly be sustained among the participants and several of the young women became pregnant while villagers complained of the men troubling village girls. Maybe the idea was to quickly increase the number of voters.

Trouble in these agencies brewed from the early days. In the 80s when Sanusi Junid was Secretary-General of Umno he loudly proclaimed his disgust when he was given a set of blue videos that were made by and featured members of Kemas, yet another quasi-political agency.

The videos were made for sale, leaving Sanusi aghast and spoilt for a decision whether or not to lodge a police report against the instant film-stars and film-producers.

Many who had asked before what kind of a political party was Umno were left unheard.
Belonging to the politically favored agencies, however, must have made these vivaciously talented people highly influential in the party, for very conceivable reasons.

Pak Lah, it is alleged widely, has been excessively using these agencies along with the police. Even many senior journalists were debarred from the main stream media ever since he became PM, a reason why they became effective bloggers.

Abuses like these had obviously been one of the major causes for the massive rejection of the ruling party by members of Umno, a factor that will surely be carried through to the next general elections and will ensure the end of Umno’s unbroken rule since 1955.

These abuses have now been etched in blood when members of the police special squad attached to the Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister were charged for the murder of Altantuya who worked as translator for Najib’s political strategist, Abdul Razak Baginda.

To make matters even worse, Razak’s affidavit stated six persons had been killed and probably also blasted to bits with C4 before Altantuya became victim.

How do we protect ourselves from such powers of the regime’s special apparatus, therefore, becomes the biggest question that’s gaping in the face of the nation, daring each and everyone to ask the questions Raja Petra had voiced on our behalf.

Is it then already time to call an end to Umno and for the members to seek other and more realistic means for regime change rather than continue to wail like beaten banshees over ruined chances to democratically contest in the party?

In the light of all these it is pertinent to ask, is it at all useful for Tengku Razaleigh to keep trying to breach the siege in Umno or would he serve the nation better should he call it a day and join Anwar Ibrahim in Parti Keadilan Rakyat as a faction, or revive his old vehicle, Semangat 46? --- a. ghani ismail, 8 May, 2008

No comments: