Monday, June 9, 2008


The sage has withered from the lake and no bird sings.

The dust settled quickly after Pak Lah’s kiss of death announcement on 4 June that raised the price of petrol at the stands by more than 40 percent and diesel hiked beyond 63 percent. It was like the sun intended one last rising for the “flip-flop” Prime Minister to sing his swan song. He is still refusing to retire, waiting to be cast out by the count of delegates’ votes in December.

If there’s ever a need for Umno to hold an emergency general meeting to oust the party president, that occasion is certainly here and now. Umno and the BN are defenseless against the people’s woes now that prices will rise once again like the dead, to haunt.

His ingenious “tiered-system” of fuel pricing has only offered a lollipop rebate of RM 652 or about 800 liters of petrol at the rate of the hike - 78 sens per liter. It is for vehicles of 2000 cc and below.

While that rebate works out to merely about 52 Ringgit per month, the rise of gasoline price to 2.70 will issue another general price-rise that will assuredly eat into the household incomes way above the paltry sweetener.

In February 2006 when the price was raised by 30 sens from RM 1.62 to RM1.92, the effect was like the floodgates were opened and in the general price rise that ensued, the consumers were simply helpless watching the prices go up and up like hot-air balloons.

Control isn’t a word of any value in Pak Lah’s regime. Prices o s$ome brands of chilly sauce went up from RM1.25 to RM1.90 within a couple of months, confirming the suspicion some really like it hot.

Why then did Pak Lah decide on RM2.70 and then pay the rebate of RM52 a month (RM 625 a year) when the price could be much lower without the rebate and the floodgates effect could be lessened?

People are unlikely to forget the price of diesel is now RM2.58, up one buck from RM1.58, meaning the prices of everything commercial will rise like Dracula.

If that’s complicated, a simpler way of saying the same thing is why not decide on a lower price of fuel and forget the rebate?

The society is still haunted by the sudden general cost-climb caused by the fuel price-rise of Feb. 2006. It was compounded by the cabinet’s shameless incompetence to manage and control the effects of the price-rise that resulted in what appeared like a scramble for survival among manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers.

Until some brands, especially of the food-link, began to run beyond the reach of consumers, prices kept climbing. Some essential items like floor and cooking oil were soon hoarded to force the government to concede to demands for higher prices.

Petrol will now cost RM 2.70 per liter, from RM1.92 the day before, up 78 sens. Diesel is RM2.58 per liter from 5 June, from RM 1.58 the day before, up RM1 overnight. It used to be only 78 sens until May 2004.

The senseless argument would have to be it’s a malady of the world and Malaysia is not an exception even if we are a net exporter of oil and we are earning more in our exports and we are enjoying a much larger tax take since the tariff reforms.

Malaysians obviously are feeling themselves roped like dopes in a noose that has instantly brought home the point that the government is heartless and is being punitive.

Should Pak Lah call for a snap-election the debris that will be strewn in the aftermath would definitely be the pieces of the trounced BN.

Pak Lah has been observed to have been more and more isolated from the realities of Malaysian society. Now he is altogether lost.

After the February 2006 fuel price decision Pak Lah decided to raise the salaries and living allowances of the government servants as an easy means to keep them happy. That happened against a shower of protests since that would compound the inflationary effects. He did not care and inflation indeed jacked-up more than four percent in the following month.

Now many are saying the Prime Minister is simply being punitive. He is punishing the people for voting the Opposition in five states and in one Federal Territory and denying the BN the two-third majority in parliament for the first time in history.

It is looking like it is either curtain for Pak Lah or it would be unlikely for the BN to stave off regime-change no matter the Malay solidarity movement launched in early May to defy Anwar Ibrahim’s Malay-led supra-ethnic initiative for a multi-racial Malaysia with the Party Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

The Malay intelligentsia is cold toward Anwar’s PKR. They prefer Anwar to find his way back into Umno rather than force a supra-ethnic leading number to rule the country before the Malays are ready for such a change.

But where Malay interests and destiny are concerned, Pak Lah is seen as having worn a mask now assumed to have hidden an intriguing split-personality. He inclined too much to Singapore and discontinued his predecessor’s policies and vision, causing a decided net loss of Malay faith and confidence in him.

In his Monsoon Cup poly-caper in Trengganu it was discovered several billions of Trengganu oil royalty (Wang Ehsan) somehow went missing and the mystery of the missing money now compounds the already squelchy reserve of Pak Lah’s misadventures that had left a stench.

Pak Lah has too big a credibility deficit. His crony from Penang, Patrick Lim, bill-boarded himself beside the premier in the Trengganu Monsoon Cup, while in Perth, his wife’s multi-million dollar mansion has been Pak Lah’s holiday retreat and lair.

This same Patrick Lim is the brain behind the Penang Global City Centre (PGCC), a multi-billion mega city development project now suggestively about to tilt towards ruination. Penang fell to the Pakatan Rakyat in the 8 March elections.

This same man and his company somehow acquired several hundred acres of choice land at Batu Kawan as soon as Pak Lah had become prime minister according to some reports. The chunk of prime land is right beside where the Penang second bridge would begin on the mainland

Pak Lah is self-entrapped, and speedily sinking deeper and deeper into disgrace he cannot halt and overcome.

His brand new cabinet he constructed without bothering to acknowledge the contribution and significance of Sabah, resulting in a couple of resignations, loud protests, threats to cross the floor and much of the premier’s time wasted in the effort to sooth the wounded pride and feelings of a people who deserves much better.

In his encounter with himself the leader has told his party members he wants more time to rehabilitate Umno and to see through the development corridors he planned, the northern chapter of which has since been blemished and bashed by the acquisitions of Patrick Lim while the eastern corridor is stumped by the missing funds belonging to Trengganu.

How can Pak Lah lead an attempt to rehabilitate the party when as a Malay leader he is already assumed as baroque? He is also observed as nepotistic, placing family before society and nation.

He has serially bungled in the Trengganu Cup poly-caper, in the intrusions into Penang Development Plan, in his continued deference to Singapore for whom he had dumped the Crooked Bridge Mahathir had begun to build. Even about Islam Hadhari he bungled.

He has enriched his family members and made worse corruption in the country.

Has he been true to the aspirations of the Malays and of Umno whose elders had asked him to restore democracy after he suspended it in the 2004 party Supreme Council election that frothed with accusations of “money politics”?

And now we have this so-called “tiered fuel pricing system” that raised prices by 78 sens to RM2.70 for gasoline and by RM 1 to RM2.58 for diesel when the prices could be lower if there’s no lollipop rebate.

What kind of alchemy are we dealing with here?

Pak Lah did not even care to wait for improvements in public transport before leaping. The timing in the Klang Valley is quite clearly horrid. Of course the chorus will say it is about the same in most places in Malaysia.

KTM’s Komuter is now running on a schedule of 20 minutes per trip instead of 10 minutes and many areas are neither served by buses nor by taxies, Bangi old town and the surrounding villages and housing estates being merely one example.

This kind of policy blunder cannot be treated as a lark. This can amount to gross negligence of the economy, something that will certainly become overwhelmingly clear in a matter of a few weeks when once again prices of essentials would have breached the ozone layer and the society would be hot, restless and feeling more threatened than ever before. It would lead to anomie.

So, which way is Pak Lah going?

It’s best for him to accept the verdict of the people and decide to go. Adios amigo! -----a. ghani ismail, 6 June 2008

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