Friday, September 19, 2008

Goodbye Pak Lah



Critical questions rise like morning mists as Pak Lah agonizes about how he shall make his exit after five years of weird leadership. At the Umno Supreme Council meeting on Thursday he was told he would not get enough nominations should he choose to contest the party election in December.

His day is done. He should leave before Oct. 9 when the party divisions begin to nominate the contestants for the Supreme Council.

With Pak Lah assumed crippled and out, members have now to decide about how to rehabilitate party and nation.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Pak Lah) will be remembered for suspending democratic elections for all numbers one and two positions in Umno in the first party election he presided.

It was his means to ensure he will not be contested. Consequently the 2004 Umno Supreme Council elections became a market for votes.

More than 50 Umno veterans appealed to him to restore democracy in the party immediately after. It did not bother him.

He instead postponed the next Umno election by more than a year on the pretext he intended to call the general elections in 2007, which he did not, resulting in the 8 March 2008 general elections being his doomsday.

In the run-up to the upcoming Umno Supreme Council election reports of corrupt practices abound and one Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) has opted not to contest in protest of the rampant vote buying.

Five Years Destruction

The five years of Pak Lah at the helm of the party and government have been destructive. He not only refused to continue with the purpose and vision of his predecessor but he instead dismantled piece by piece what Dr. Mahathir had done, including selling Proton’s holdings of Augusta for Euro One which was later sold for about USD300 million.

Dr. M, soured to his gallbladder over his choice of successor, remarked Pak Lah has said nothing about the global financial crisis. The Ringgit began to weaken against the USD after gaining some ground, prompting Dr.M to suggest pegging it once more.

But even when the Lehman Brothers collapse caused Asian bourses to yoyo in panic The Premier still said nothing.

In his Family First leadership the son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, in his wish to become prime minister before he turns 40, already has several of his men appointed ministers and deputy ministers.

In scrap-yards in Sungai Chua and Serendah are a couple of thousand Rapid KL buses left to rust when the country is in dire need of an efficient public transport system. In many cases, bus services have been terminated since the sudden fuel-price hike in June.

There is no more bus plying the route from Kuala Kubu Bharu to the Fraser’s Hill resort for instance.

The Komuter (train) that ran every 10 minutes is now running once in 20 minutes and the trip from Rawang to Kuala Kubu Bharu which ran every half hour now runs once an hour. Some people say these problems of dysfunction are linked to the son’s companies.

Baroque Leadership

It has been somewhat of a baroque leadership these five long years, the sufferance of which prompted Dr. M to conclude there’s a Level Four in the Prime Minister’s office that makes the decisions and does the interventions, Level Five, where the premier sits, merely acting out the roles that utters and mutters.

After the doctor’s diagnosis gained wide currency, the questions that must now arise immediately address how Umno and the Barisan Nasional can best be rehabilitated and quickly return the country on course to Vision 2020.

In the recent Permatang Pauh by-election Umno members accounted for more than 20,000 of the voters but the party candidate was returned with much less than that, showing the same ills that paraded in the 8 March general elections that floored the BN in five states in West Malaysia plus a Federal Territory.

The BN lost the two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time.
Then three rulers refused to accept the Prime Minister’s choices of Menteri Besar.

The Premier was interceded in Perlis, Trengganu and Johor, causing a large question to loom concerning state-federal relationship and whether or not the rulers will form an intervening power in the structure of government.

How shall the irrationalities and the ills be overcome? How can Umno and the BN survive the next general elections?

Presidential Council

Now, after Pak Lah’s insistence that he will stay as party president and premier until 2010 has been rebuffed, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah will be free to contest for party president against Najib Tun Razak in December, should he get the required number of nominations.

But after the new president is decided, will the party be run as it used to be or will it opt for a presidential council?

Pragmatism and Mineral Water

From 22 years of his leadership, Dr. M was a strongman for 14, though hard hit in the final four. He could have run the country solely on pragmatism and mineral water when he was the big boss.

He did not need to articulate an ideology, though he looked for one.

What the country needs to know is how can Malaysia be run smoothly and efficiently without an ideology when there’s no strongman, especially in a global financial crisis with a hot geopolitical landscape to boot?

We have no stable and meaningful ideology, like what Tun Abdul Razak had attempted to introduce when he was Prime Minister and Umno president.

As a result Umno failed to produce a cadre system.

Dr. M was an early warrior, having started in his school days to aggress against the environment, and therefore, had in his head a clear vision that he did not care to articulate in words but did by his deeds.

Yet, in five years of the baroque twist in leadership almost everything he had painstakingly built was eroded and dismantled in a deliberate pursuit of obsessive destruction.

To dispel the fact the structure allowed one such as Pak Lah to succeed him and to undo what he had done would be the height of impudence towards history.

Something is structurally weak, or even wrong. Could it be located merely in the fact the Malays have apparently no wish to become a civil society and therefore, is mute and hapless within the Umno patron-client overdrive?

Has it been only an irregularity particular to Pak Lah? What? Even the striking hubris and the overwhelming materialism and the colossal corruption that hasn’t the civility and humor to spare the party even?

Is everything dependent on who exits and who enters in Umno?

Morale in the party is rather low. The members and people need to know what will be done. ----a. ghani ismail, 20 September, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Teresa Kok On The Rocks Over Azan Issue



Teresa Kok isn’t the face that could have launched a thousand ships but she would have rocked the Pakatan boat strong enough to capsize it for good if allegations against her are founded.

Protests against using the loudspeaker for the Azan (Islam’s call to prayer) especially for Subuh (dawn prayer) by some Chinese residents of Kota Damansara, Sri Serdang and Puchong Jaya point towards a third hand using the event as a ploy to win over more Chinese even if the society and country are destabilized – a game of desperados meters away from power.

Teresa denied the allegation, but another matter with ethnic overtones and clamoring to champion the Chinese slipped into the frontline tension – a demand to add to road-signs Chinese characters while dropping the Malay Jawi script.

Teresa was said to have made a road-sign of her own for Bukit Bintang in that fashion, an art not so skillful in the given tensile climate of change in Malaysia.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) suffered its worst setback in the March 8 general elections under the absentminded leadership of Pak Lah, The Premier.

Teresa was appointed a senior executive councilor of Selangor, an exposure to power and to political maneuverings the DAP big-wig could not be naïve enough to become victim so soon.

The allegations are about a double-barrel ambush in an already charged atmosphere involving an extensive Hate-Malay Hate-Islam campaign worse than what transpired in the run-up to the May 13 1969 blood-let.

The question to ask is who gains should Malaysia lose ethnic harmony once again.

As for Teresa, Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Ahmad Ismail (who was punished before anyone verified what he had actually uttered), they merely serve as facts or fictions in the making of the historical event one or some powers are pursuing.

If Teresa has nothing to do with the twin-attack as she wants us to believe, she should have been smart enough to positively reject the demand rather than allow herself to be trapped by the devises of her opponents, or her sponsors.

This is what the police probably want her to do – appear on TV explaining the entire development and make the spectacular condemnation of the two protests to defuse the situation.

Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley residents live with the hustle and bustle of grown metropolitans, in some cases with screeching LRTs and the rumble of the Komuter trains beginning 6.00 in the morning, for now.

The protests against the Azan having surfaced several times before, the police read into it what it actually says – to tempt the devil and take the lead role in becoming champions of the Chinese.

It’s popularly seen as yet another political samsu trip of the DAP, the first a lash-out against the Perak Royalty that earned the party three Molotov-cocktails bouncing off the signboard at the party’s HQ in Ipoh weeks after winning in the state.

But something more ominous appeared to have loomed in the plural society and country.

An Umno divisional leader in Penang was suspended for three years on the basis of a solitary report in a Chinese newspaper that he had said something nasty against the Chinese in Malaysia. He apparently called the Chinese pendatang (migrants).

Only after the suspension of Datuk Ahmad Ismail following protestations and pressure from the Gerakan and MCA was an effort made by the police to question the reporter.

The editor responsible for publishing the three paragraph report in the Sin Chew Jit Poh was reported to have fled, leaving little for the accusation to stand upon and a lot to wonder at the Chinese sensitivity and paranoia.

Then came the Teresa Kok adventure, the event causing some people of the mosques in the country to call her Porky The Pig (Babi) and spreading the largesse to include Raja Petra Kamaruddin for his volume of bad remarks on the Malays and on Islam in the blog, Malaysia Today.

Some ask, is he married to a European or to a Chinese?

Fact is, Raja Petra was formerly into the Flower People (a hippie) and quite scantily religious. But the trouble with the man may have less to do with whatever he was rather than what could have become after the rude intrusion of Narcissus.

The upshot is a certain rejection of the Pakatan, now obviously a Hate-Malay Hate-Islam elephantastic dance the wildly-charismatic Anwar Ibrahim is leading from where-to-nowhere in particular.

Anwar is finally the loser in this Hate-Malay Hate-Islam caper the DAP is seen to be leading with his school-mate, Raja Petra, as the thumb sucker.

In many mosques all over the country Malays who once prayed for his release from prison now read Sodom and Gomorrah in the Holy Qur’an, showing certain distaste for Anwar, his strange-bedfellows and his type of politick.

His, they say, is a mission to become premier at any cost and by any means.

Unless Teresa was out-maneuvered, whatever it is she had done merely makes her a political kookaburra, laughing alone by the billabong and having little else to do by the limitation of her own nature, and stature.

Now it is Anwar and the Pakatan a lot of the Malays want out, a quick change of mind perceiving him as a leader who will be at the mercy of the DAP.

The Pas too is in trouble again. Whatever is the party doing sleeping in bed with the DAP?

That obviously must have been the reason for the Pas’s Kota Raja MP, Dr. Mariah Mahmud, to quickly lodge a police report against former Selangor Menteri Besar, Khir Toyo.

To counter the effects of his remarks against Teresa it was feeble and wishful, making Mariah a willful nut-cracker attempting to remake what has already become a trap and placing Teresa limp upon the rocks. A slip will equate with her drowning.

After the Pas is known to have been discussing informally with Umno to avoid a Pakatan takeover that cannot be undone, it is difficult to conceive the three strange bedfellows can concur and conclude the marriage of convenience with an unabashed, neat and fruitful ménage et trio.

Teresa Kok may or may not have willfully taken the country closer to ethnic combustion than had anyone else in this season of economic and political depression.

But it is rather apparent Teresa did nothing to dissuade the remarkably coincidental protests among some Chinese in Selangor to aggravate the already tense situation.

It is clear there’s not going to be a let-up. Many are waiting for the Selangor Menteri Besar, Datuk Khalid Ibrahim, to open his mouth and reveal his position concerning his Senior Executive Councilor’s conduct in view of Islamic ritual propriety and Chinese letters on all road-signs, sans the Jawi script.

Will he continue to keep her in his state government? Will he be consulting the new Opposition Leader, Anwar Ibrahim, and leave it to Anwar, who is PKR’s Adviser, to decide the fate of the sassy damsel in self-distress?

This is Ramadhan and it has been eventful for millions of Malays and Muslims who convene nightly for the special Tarawih prayers, then adjourn to the corridors of the mosques for tea and talk.

Perceptions built in this way are difficult to change and once the idea is fixed the truth does not anymore matter.

I am told in Kota Damansara the mosque first complied, then minds changed and tempers build instead, which was probably why the police acted in a hurry.

One way or another, the months that follow this September ought to make for a time to remember. --- a. ghani ismail, 15 September, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dark Clouds Over Malaysia?




The punishment meted on the Umno Bukit Bendera chief, Datuk Ahmad Ismail, generally perceived as too drastic, has made the Umno president and premier, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Pak Lah), too much a caricature of power to be redeemable.

Now, two days after, we are suddenly told Malaysia Today Blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin was arrested under the ISA and three newspapers were asked to show cause, meaning the security situation is under some threat.

Are the events inter-related and the threat is coming from tensions that have been rising since the March general elections and the June fuel price hike? We are not given enough to even guess intelligently.

To make matters worse, Singapore issued unfriendly restrictions affecting Malaysian travel, causing security to loom more important than it could actually be.

On Wednesday the Umno Supreme Council, under pressure from Gerakan and MCA, sentenced Ahmad Ismail by a split-decision to three years suspension for what cannot be anymore than name calling of Malaysian Chinese as “Asian Jews” and as “squatters” (setinggan?).

With all 13 Umno divisions in Penang (including his) giving Pak Lah the butt over the issue the Gerakan raised, the prime minister and party president should have known better than to push as hard as he did to punish the party divisional leader.

The Umno leader was suspended for three years and relinquished of all his political and social positions by the Umno Supreme Council on Wednesday.

But what did Ahmad actually say during the Permatang Pauh by-election campaign which seemed to have extremely offended Gerakan nobody cared enough to inform the people.

All that’s known is the fact a vernacular newspaper had dedicated three paragraphs to what Ahmad was alleged to have said.

Now, as a result of the three para report, Gerakan, which was mauled in the 2008 general elections, wanted Ahmad detained without trial for saying ‘the Chinese in Malaysia are squatters and cannot expect equality vis-à-vis the Malays and Bumiputras’, or words to that effect.

The Umno Deputy President, Datuk Seri Najib Razak was asked to apologize on Umno’s behalf and Pak Lah came in strongly against Ahmad, only to have the 13 Umno divisions in Penang firmly backing the divisional head.

The result was the party president appearing more baroque than Charles Chaplin could have been to parody political leadership on the screen.

Ahmad Ismail was called to appear before the Umno Supreme Council and punished while the army and police were asked to warn the people against fueling the tensed situation. But what was it all about?

To the observer it was quite apparently a political skit issuing from the tantrums of a party and coalition that lost miserably in the recent general elections. Someone has to be the source of a ruckus.

But how terrible were the things Ahmad could have uttered has become a question that’s gaping like the Batu Caves, causing Professor Dr. Adnan Nawang from the UPSI to conclude we are dealing with Bebalism (tantrum).

Well-known intellectual, Professor Dr. Shamsul Amri of UKM, suggested it could be that the Barisan Nasional may have to lose power first, like it had been with the Congress in India and LDP in Japan before it can regain the stature and the sobriety it has lost.

The two reactions simply say people are at a lost. The conflict is between members of BN components in Penang and not with the Opposition.

It could not have been anything more than name calling, the semantics of which is uncertain since we do not know what had, in fact, been said and meant.

Everyone knows most of the Chinese in Malaysia are citizens and there really isn’t any movement in Umno or in any other Malay political organization that’s wishing away the rights the non-Malay citizens enjoy.

In any case you would need a two-third majority in parliament to try such a stunning constitutional reform, the same as what it would take to remove the Malay Special Rights clauses in the Constitution.

How could it be that the Gerakan found the name calling as offensive apparently defeats some of the best brains in Malaysia.

Is there, indeed, such a state of paranoia for some Chinese in Gerakan to believe Umno will, for the heck of it, curtail the rights of non-Malay citizens and employ apartheid?

Hence, either it is Bebalism we are facing or some cunning maverick is trying hard to find a reason to shut the doors to the alarming possibility some BN MPs may crossover to the Pakatan Rakyat.

A third possibility is that the components in the state that lost badly cannot any longer hold together and its time for the fireworks display before leadership change ensues.

The people in the skit are otherwise good persons. Neither Koh Tsu Khoon, nor Ong Kah Ting or Ahmad Ismail is the ogre-type.

But it must be tough to be losing jobs, money and power in a single go like the sun suddenly refused to rise after March 2008.

Golf mates leave you, neighbors let their dogs out on you and your wife wears her le masque in bed. Husbands take to the hookah, oozing smoke like they are on fire and hence, Gerakan Women’s Wing wanted Ahmad locked up under the ISA. Who’s bad?

Ahmad was reported to have said Umno (meaning his division and/or Penang Umno) is happy to work with the MCA and that the Gerakan can quit the BN if that is what it wants to do.

What communitarian impulse and output could that ever be? What “racism” do we have in Ahmad and the Malays when the term racist must assume race superiority, like Nazism, or White Superiority that called the Niggers and colored the sons of Sam.

Have you heard any Malay who thinks the Malays are genetically or racially superior? Have you? Have you met any Chinese who thinks and believes he belongs to a superior race?

Unless it is Tsu Khoon’s and Ahmad’s joint idea of humor to rock the boat and cause Pak Lah to slip overboard, I have to agree with Dr. Adnan Nawang, that Gerakan is looking like a poor loser.

It was a split decision in the Umno Supreme Council and the end of the story may not have yet been told.

In the meantime many in Umno are happy with the way Muhyiddin Yassin is speaking up for the members and the people.

An Umno divisional leader called me to say he hopes more and more in Umno will do as Muhyiddin is doing.

But what will be happening in the country now that the ISA is back and several newspapers have been asked to show cause or get clamped? ---a. ghani ismail, 12 Sept. 2008

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

In The Path Of Mahathir's Return



Dr. Mahathir is coming back into Umno by the back door. Disgusted with Pak Lah’s ineffectiveness and lack of direction, some Umno warlords are preparing for a resolution from a party division to restore Dr. M as a member, leaving the party’s Supreme Council to decide whether or not he can be readmitted.

Nobody threw him out. He relinquished his membership in dismay.

But the chips are down and with problems appearing unresolved, a triumvirate could be the solution to return a direction to the party and nation.

Warlords opposed to Pak Lah are trying to put together Tengku Razaleigh, Muhyiddin Yassin and Dr. Mahathir, in a last ditch effort to remove Pak Lah.

It will depend a lot on whether or not Umno delegates to the Supreme Council election in December believe the party and the BN are systematically being crippled and the country will be in a bloody mess should Pak Lah continue as number one.

But with Najib Razak staying with Pak Lah, the triumvirate can only count on a slim chance to win, the party still steeped in a patron-client culture and will want to follow the incumbent leaders.

Expected is a showing strong enough to further weaken Pak Lah, making it untenable for him to stay on until 2010 before letting Najib takeover, the couple of years some described will drag like a thousand years.

Since Pak Lah is expected not to care and will deny he was even challenged, observers are reading it is the end of the BN rule come the next general elections. Some say Umno and the BN are both asking for it.

Tension is high. With the initial demand for meritocracy successfully worked into a hate-Malay and hate-Islam campaign worse than it was in 1969, the face-off in Penang where all 13 Umno divisions has given the party president and BN chairman the butt now teeters like a rock that can anytime roll into an avalanche.

The Tengku Li, Muhiyuddin and Dr. M grouping will need the avalanche to upset Pak Lah and Najib together.

DAP has always stood for meritocracy and for equality, a path the Singapore PAP had taken when Malaysia was formed in 1963, leading to the expulsion of the island republic in 1965 and snowballing into racial emotions that finally combusted on May 13, 1969.

This time around the recall of meritocracy was initially given a wrapper for integration, meaningfully devised by the Barisan Nasional (BN) into a step-by-step move, with the Vision Schools (Sekolah Wawasan) at the base in a clear attempt to bring together the children of all communities.

About 95 percent of Chinese parents send their off-springs to Chinese primary schools. With Chinese education rising from primary to tertiary in Malaysia, the shared life-space in the old system of colonial education was gone.

Now that China and India are speedily growing into big powers and economic giants infecting a new swing of ethnic nationalism in Malaysia, while Islam is under and returning fire in more than half of the Islamic world, unless integration is taken seriously the chances of Malaysia avoiding ethnic strife in the next 15 years would be thin.

The Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Pak Lah), unprepared for premiership when he replaced Dr. Mahathir in 2003, hugged Singapore in vicarious embrace,

He abruptly dumped The Bridge, a move Mahathir had made on the request of the Sultan of Johore to remove the Causeway and return the use of the Tebrau Straits to Malaysian shipping.

The Singapore-Sling inebriated Pak Lah. He was prepared to allow the Singapore Air-Force to use Malaysian air-space, prepared to sell Singapore 2 billion tons of sand from Johore, and then he made Singapore the anchor for the Iskandar Malaysia.

When his leadership was roundly raped by the Opposition in the 2008 general elections and the BN was left clinging to power by a margin of only 29 bodies in parliament, the flood-gates were lifted and vocal non-Malays with a minimum of education and altogether lacking taste mucked the Malays and Islam like the country was already theirs to ruin.

Pak Lah could not decide who he should first represent - the Malays as Umno president, the Malaysians as BN chairman, or those non-Malays who are Singapore’s boon.

The nation Mahathir had built in 22 years is dying. The Vision Schools are history and even the Smart Schools Pak Lah shunted out. Who, indeed, is killing Cock-Robin?

To a lot of people the premier and party president is a dysfunction. He flip-flops, he dismantled and he confounds, leaving hardly any confidence to enable him to resolve the Penang face-off and the many difficulties the country is facing.

In Penang the Bukit Bendera Umno chief, Ahmad Ismail, up to the gills with the incessant complaints and demands for equality, said the non-Malays are migrants and cannot be equal in all respects with the Bumiputra, a statement a lot of Malays are happy someone finally uttered.

Gerakan president, Koh Tsu Koon, demanded stern action or he wanted out, his party routed in the recent general elections leaving only two in parliament.

Pak Lah cast a strong warning on Ahmad Ismail whereupon all 13 Umno divisions in Penang (including his own) stood firmly behind Ahmad, goring Pak Lah in the butt like a Spanish bull.

The Wanita Gerakan has made itself silly for demanding the Bukit Bendera Umno chief to be sacked from the party and locked under the ISA.

There could be riots on the streets if Pak Lah were to do that. A hearing will do. Malays are being made to feel they are guilty of ethnic-cleansing even and nobody cares how they feel. For how long do these people believe they will keep cool?

Malays, Islam and Malaysia have been pilloried without Pak Lah showing the least will to take control of the situation, him acting only against the Hindraf Five who had taken matters to an extreme of extremes.

It is apparent Pak Lah hasn’t even a whiff of a solution to the current confusion, what with the sudden hike of fuel prices that lifted the Consumer Price Index (CPI) obviously higher than any kite he has flown as premier or before.

The result is a simple compound of emotional stress, tension and rebuff Dr. Mahathir had clearly foreseen and cleverly kept to his own brand of deliberated process of change, modernization, development and integration.

He is comfortably saddled on the Malay resistance. What’s left to be seen is whether or not the resistance will pick up a sustained pace long enough to bring the required alterations and resolve the problems before hell instates.

It’s almost like the Spielberg thriller, Dr. Jones and the Temple of Doom. ----a. ghani ismail