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

Friday, March 28, 2008



It’s now a struggle of life and death in Umno. Eight days after Pak Lah announced his new and trim cabinet, a third deputy minister resigned, the second from Sabah Umno. It is causing people to ask which way the monsoon is blowing. To all and sundry, the rival multi-ethnic Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is, in fact, merely like an extension of Umno Sabah.

Pak Lah has lost confidence and the central power is collapsing. But in the party he is chief, a position of necessary deference in the patron-client culture Umno now entails.

But something must be done to secure the party from ruin and Tengku Razaleigh, once before a contender for party number one, is now leading the pack to contest Pak Lah as Umno president, with the former premier’s son, Mukhriz Mahathir, as flag-bearer in the mutiny for the bounty.

Meanwhile, in Trengganu where a stalemate resulted after the regnant refused to accept Idris Jusoh as Menteri Besar, Pak Lah’s resistance in the conflict with the ruler crumbled on 26 March, the former Menteri Besar falling victim. He has since announced the BN fully supports Ahmad Said as MB.

A specter is haunting Umno, casting a shadow the likes of the Angel of Death. Even as the party is becoming progressively a tragic comedy, some want the lame leader and his deputy to remain at the helm for yet another year before allowing for the party’s Supreme Council election.

It would be like putting the party into deep freeze, the DNA recoverable to revive it like in Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, but of a pygmy.

The party elections should have been held last year. It was postponed by Pak Lah with the backing of his deputy, Najib Tun Razak, and the party’s Supreme Council.

While Umno is still the largest single winner in the recent elections, the BN it leads, having lost the two-third majority in parliament, is looking like Humpty Dumpy and waiting for the great fall.

In one terrible sweep of the People’s temper the BN lost four states in the recent elections, while in Kelantan the Islamic Pas strengthened itself beyond belief.

From a majority of one in the state assembly the Pas rose to the heights of 38 in a field of 45, leaving Umno and the BN cast in crystalline despondence with only 6 seats, the remaining one given to the PKR.

The leader’s head must roll, but with Najib Tun Razak having to take cover behind the number one from the mob in the wake of the Altantuya-Razak Baginda murder trial, it would take a general rebellion in the dazed party to oust the duo from the helm.

A challenge against the two top posts will damage party unity to a degree, whatever will be the outcome.

Can the behemoth regain cohesion after the battle for control is the big question. It is however foregone. The battle is on if Pak Lah refuses to quit.

The BN did not simply lose power. The central authority is in a shamble. Pak Lah was successfully challenged by two Malay rulers of the federation who rejected the Prime Minister’s decision to retain Shahidan Kassim in Perlis, and Idris Jusoh in Trengganu, as Menteri Besar.

The events crystallized the resolve of the minority in Umno to contest and unseat both the number one and the number two in the party.

Party insiders say 12 Umno divisions in the Razaleigh-Mukhriz pact shall move to demand for an Emergency General Meeting to be held on May 11 and for the party elections to be held later this year.

The Umno Supreme Council has decided on 27 March the party election will be held in December, a move some see as buying time. Nothing was said about the Emergency General Meeting Razaleigh had asked the party divisions to demand.

The party divisions are moving as Razaleigh intended. The first of these, the Cheras Umno division, has done it. Unconfirmed reports say the Puchong Umno division will soon do the same.

The plan is to contest against Pak Lah and Najib in the party. The hope is for the 12 in the pact to snowball and strike home the message for the party members to chew and digest that this time the party must either change the leadership or ignominiously die like a drowned sewer rat in the next general election.

Some party bigwigs not only want the elections delayed but are again wishing away the right of members to contest against the top two. That was done in 2004.

Pak Lah and Najib suspended democracy in Umno, denying members the right to contest the number one and number two positions in the party Supreme Council and in the Wings. Tengku Razaleigh hobbled on merely a single nomination for president as a result.

As the melodrama unfolds and the deputy transport minister, Ghapur Salleh, tendered his resignation, political watchers gravely ponder on the possibility in Trengganu of a walkout by a dirty dozen from Umno to form the new government with the Pas eight, which gives the 20 a clear majority in the field of 32.

Pak Lah has kneeled before the constitutional monarch to save his skin, but not before slurring the sovereign. He had said the regnant had made an illegal move.

Then the Umno state liaisons secretary, Wahid Rosol, was reported to have said the remaining 23 Umno state assemblymen were directed by Pak Lah to boycott the swearing-in ceremony at the palace that had been scheduled on 23 March.

The dye could have been cast. The new Menteri Besar, Ahmad Said, is already installed and he can cast the required spell to dissolve the state assembly and force another state election, no matter the change of mood Pak Lah has announced. The Pas will make a clean sweep of Trengganu should that happen, giving six states to the Alternative Front.

It is the king who will call the shots. Pak Lah must now beg for the sovereign’s mercy to keep Trengganu with the BN.

What will Umno decide? Will most members still want to sink and swim with Pak Lah and Najib?

How will Najib decide? Will he do as he did in 1987 when the party was split in the middle and he was with the ‘B Team’ until the arithmetic favored him?

At the last moment he swung to ‘Team A’. With 26 delegates’ votes he had in his grip he tilted the scales conclusively in favor of the ‘A Team’, led by Mahathir, the incumbent president.

Najib was very calculative. Mahathir won against Tengku Razaleigh by 43 votes in 1987. The party lay dead on the judge’s bench in court in the following year, but regained life as Umno (Baru).

It is a matter of life and death for Umno once again. It’s a simple decision to either go for change at the top or to conserve the lame.

A seer is required to peer into the crystal-ball to see and tell Pak Lah what lies in the near future for him and his silenced son-in-law, Hairy.

For Najib, the job is that of a magician the likes of David Copperfield. He should decide to come out loud behind Razaleigh or find the means to vanish before the mob that’s waiting to clobber him as soon as the Altantuya-Razak Baginda trial is done.

But it is now about how Umno will behave that is the focus of attention, the party being quite uncertain about what it should do in the uncharted waters. It has begun to show split-resolve and looking at the way the opposition to Pak Lah and to Najib is shaping, an effective mutiny is clearly being brewed.

Umno must either resolve as a whole to remove Pak Lah (and Najib unless he joins the rebellion) or the party will bleed to death, members crossing over to the parties in the Alternative. This is a do-or-die resolve that Tengku Razaleigh and Mukhriz are leading, insiders talking about “a circle” having formed months before around the elder duo, Tengku Razaleigh and Mahathir.

They concluded they have to aggress now to save the party or Umno will surely be damaged beyond repair.

But it is looking like Umno must be ready to sustain some injury one way or the other, seeing there is little cohesion other than what arises from the patron-client grip. Without any clear moral function, coherence can only edge on the ethnic temper. What is the winning remedy the duo proposed?

Why can’t Umno begin to think in terms of opening the party to the PKR like it is an extension of Umno Sabah and for Anwar Ibrahim to be reinstalled where he belongs in Umno?

Many questions need to be asked. Until the Umno Supreme Council agree to the Extraordinary General Meeting to be held on May 11, the pressure from the divisions, it is believed, will continue to crush Pak Lah. --- a. ghani ismail, 26 March, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008



Breakdown of the central authority is something Malaysia has not been prepared for. If this happened in Indonesia, Thailand or in the Philippines, the army would have taken over and possibly return power to a civil government a few months after applying the remedy. In Malaysia rulers are the Colonel-in-Chiefs and theoretically may takeover and perform the required therapy. But it has never happened before and in a first time the medicine can cause more complications than the disease itself.

Prime Minister, Pak Lah, is obviously lame, confidence in him plunging below zero after the colossal loss at the polls and a next-to-nothing cabinet he pulled from a disused hat.
Failing to perform from the start, he was a PM that never should have been. He is remaining number one merely because of a very loyal number two who is himself losing his worth.

In Perlis the ruler sidestepped the former Menteri Besar Pak Lah wanted to retain and in Trengganu the regent installed the palace’s choice as Menteri Besar who, alas, failed to divide the BN’s assemblypersons, even by a count of two. They have since sacked him from Umno.

But the job is done. The new Menteri Besar can perform his duties and according to legal experts, he may appoint members of the opposition Pas as his Exco and even dissolve the assembly to call for fresh state election.

Outside the circle of BN diehards, the people are grateful to the palace for what it has done. The Anti-Corruption Agency should be immediately moved once reports are lodged to enable action.

On Pulau Man off Kuala Trengganu, Idris Jusoh, the former Menteri Besar, built an assortment of mosques to attract tourists, one of which he dubbed the “Crystal Mosque”. Built of glass, it now serves to remind him never to undress inside it or visible in the view from the palace would be a help of rubbish.


Umno was and remains the Barisan Nasional’s backbone. While inside the party an attempt to change the leadership and to rehabilitate the party is being made by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, in the ganglions of the beaten nervous system arise some who still want to deny due democratic process to the contenders as it had happened before.

Pak Lah and his deputy, Najib Tun Razak, suspended democracy in Umno during the 2004 Supreme Council election, denying the members the right to contest any of the number one and number two positions in the party.

More than fifty party elders appealed to Pak Lah to restore and to safeguard democracy in Umno after the election was done. The effects of the deed were severe.

That the Kelantan prince was able to get merely one nomination was one result of the upbeat game of the powers in Umno. The other was wholesale corruption.

Many candidates for number three downwards openly paid delegates thousands of Ringgits each for their votes, making the Umno election and Umno divisional behavior pliant because of simple corruptibility. How can such a party secure the national interests?

The late Ghafar Baba, formerly party deputy president and Deputy Prime Minister, was moved to suggest the positions of party president and prime minister should best be auctioned at the next Umno Supreme Council election, which is scheduled to sit at any time this year.

In Kuala Muda at the border of Penang and Kedah, fishermen sell their catches by the tradisional Bisik (whisper) method. Buyers whisper into the ears of the fishermen the price they are willing to pay for a given basket of catch, which is possibly the best means of auctioning the Umno presidency.

Led by Pak Lah Umno had become larger and larger a farce. To make matters worse, Pak Lah had declared openly his willingness to entertain all of Singapore’s demands, meaning he would dump the half-built Scenic Bridge and forever deny Malaysia her right to use the Tebrau Straits for shipping.

He declared he was willing to let Singapore Air-Force to use Malaysian air-space, and he would sell Singapore about two billion tons of sand to further the island-republic’s land-reclamation programs.

Umno had stood firmly against the sell-off and the beginning of the end of the Prime Minister’s as a wholesale outlet had begun. But four years later Umno is feared morally loose and compromising, suggesting the rot that had eaten into the party had been spreading fast.

He then cast his glance to Kuala Trengganu and there his son-in-law, Hairy, was said to have presided over the big splashes we know as the Monsoon Cup, costing RM 550 million at least for the first two seasons. The monies came from the states oil royalty.

The rest we already know. His friend, Patrick Lim of Penang, after becoming richer quickly in Trengganu was set to become the developer of the richest land he harvested in Penang, now assumed jeopardized after the DAP-PKR landslide in the island.

Umno had been neither vigilant nor aggressive to protect the national and state’s interests in what had transpired. It continued to have a strong voice in Johor but in Trengganu it slumped before the Monsoon Cup "pirates". That was the essential message of the Trengganu regent.

It is clear a lot of people are together with the palace and hence, what should be inside the rehabilitation package Tengku Razalegh is offering would be ultimately critical in deciding the outcome of his venture.

Dr. Mahathir

Dr. Mahathir has since endorsed Tengku Razaleigh’s mission, but should Mahathir at all be involved seeing he was single-handedly responsible for the gross corruption that overwhelmed Malaysia? He is believed to have even suffered the highest in the judiciary to corruption.

Malaysia had become steeped in corruption beginning with Dr. Mahathir’s regime. It was only a matter of time before the “progress” rubbed into Umno. It hit an all-time high in the 2004 Umno Supreme Council election.

Once the party succumbed to that level and style of materialism, it was time for the rot to bring the whole house down. What happened at the polls on 8 March was, indeed, Le Fall.

Tengku Li’s bid may be considerably weakened by Mahathir’s backing. There are not many in and outside the party who wants Mahathir. Since his retirement, he won popular attention solely because he was useful to rid the country of Pak Lah.

Now that it is assumed accomplished, Mahathir has begun once again to rise as a sore thumb whose prints are showing in the Royal Commission’s enquiry into the misconduct at the highest levels of the judiciary.

It was Mahathir who ruined the Malaysian judiciary.

Everywhere I went people, and especially the younger sets, do not want any part of Mahathir. Even the Scenic Bridge they reject, saying he wanted it built because he had a pocketful of the proceeds.

The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones. So let it be with Mahathir.

Umno and the BN will have to take cognizant of the change in attitudes that swept them like a tsunami. Next time it will be predictably the Mother of all Storms that will knock them down flat on their backs, once and for all.

It is looking that simple. Recovery and rehabilitation is inconceivable without reinvention, and a certain moral purpose. The exercise must have the energy to cleanse the party of corruption and the residing arrogance.

The party has lost its moral function and without a sense of moral purpose, it will never gain the trust it would need to recover. It is as simple as that.

Burying the head under the ground like the ostrich is funny to children, surely, but fatal to voters who now know what they can inflict upon the rich and mighty by the collective strength of that simple People’s Cross they make on the ballot paper.

The People have spoken. Malaysians clearly want a leadership with a moral function and able to uphold the Principles of State that are unique and necessarily so because of the nations plurality.
Malaysia was built upon a commitment to a Social Contract that was based on simple trust and on the assumption the contract shall be applied for the betterment of every community and of every individual citizen, no matter his/her ethnicity.

The BN, especially under Pak Lah, has veered from this and as a result, the coalition had become more and more a weird oligarchy of families enjoying the pleasures of power at the expense not only of the people, but of the nation as well.

Umno needs to be reinvented. But people do not want Mahathir. His son is something else. He cannot be his father’s keeper and he has a substantial number of well-wishers.

Tengku Razaleigh, on the other hand, is a bright number, a man that has seen both, good and bad times.

The other bright number is Anwar Ibrahim, made of steel, albeit now reinforced in an America foundry, but furnishing an answer and a certain direction in the geopolitical and economic “Great Shift” - the extensive historical exercise that is turning Europe into the greatest military oligarchy history has ever known.

With the Lisbon Treaty of December 2003 the EU will be an imperial giant if nothing is done to withdraw it from the commitments it has made. Through it Pak Lah was secure in somnolence. We cannot do that even if we wish for such a special talent.

We need a leadership and a party that are conscious of the gigantic changes that are happening in the world and we want persons who can make us all aware of the implications the events will impact us with.

We need a leadership that can lead us through the processes of change, of modernization, of development and of integration, a leader who has a clear view of the future.

It is certain about half of Malaysians and of the Malays have agreed we do not need to be looking back at the horrors of rampant corruption and of power abuses. We want to be a mature democratic society and for that we need our liberties.

Who are you to say “No!”? You are centrally a broken individual. You now need the cooperation of the Alternative or you cannot even dream of amending the least substantial law in parliament. ----a. ghani ismail, 24 March, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008




What will it take to get Pak Lah to quit

In the wake of Pak Lah’s new trimmed cabinet is the making of pandemonium. It is clearly because he could not cope and he did not care enough. But he can remain on top because the party system has been left with no means to evict him mid-stream, causing more and more people in Umno to break rank and begin a parade of aggression.

What will it take to get him to quit?

Matters in the nation and the party have been progressively going from bad to worse. Straight out of the Mad Hatter’s undoing in Alice’s Wonderland is a new cabinet that’s frothing with woes.

Sabah and Sarawak are bemoaning the fact they are under-represented in the new cabinet and yet we are told 14 members of the smaller-than-before cabinet are from Johor state.

Of Perlis, both members of his previous cabinet he dumped. Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, who happened to be the party’s secretary-general, has since resigned from all party posts he held, his positions taken over by former Minister of Tourism, Tengku Adnan Mansor, who was a great success as a minister, but not quite tested yet as a party man.

He was replaced in the cabinet by Azalina Othman, who is neither representing the Wanita Umno nor the Puteri she headed before.

Meanwhile, Shahidan Kassim, the former Menteri Besar of Perlis Pak Lah wanted to retain has been side-tracked by the Raja of Perlis, who has sworn-in someone else.

Pak Lah dropped Umno Wanita chief, Rafidah Aziz, even after her deputy, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, lost in the election against Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter and so she was left out of the cabinet.

After discovering the Wanita Umno was not represented in the cabinet he seemed to have inadvertently appointed Shahrizat as his special adviser with the status of minister on matters that was her portfolio before, Women, Family and Social Development.

But he had made Wanita MCA chief, Ng Yen Yen, the minister of that and so there is now a minister of the ministry and there’s a special adviser to the PM on the same functions.

Shahrizat, Pak Lah was reported to have said later, will have to consult Ng Yen Yen for whatever she shall advise him, making her job quite redundant since ministers are to advise the PM who is finally responsible for his government.

According to reports, Pak Lah’s cabinet-caper flung Shahrizat into direct conflict with Rafidah, her boss in the party. As a result the Wanita Umno was driven into a flurry to secure the movement from sundering with the chief alleging that her deputy had stabbed her in the back.

Wanita Umno, whose members account for 52 percent of the party members, is not to be trifled with, of course. It is now unrepresented in the cabinet for the first time in history.

Rafidah earlier thundered about resigning from all party posts and vacating her parliamentary constituency as well, which will mean the Alternative Front shall add one more to the 82 they had won if she does that.

If that is not enough, Pak Lah’s favored Menteri Besar, Idris Jusuh of Trengganu (and of the Monsoon Cup infamy), is still trapped in a limbo because the Sultan has refused to swear him into his job. A palace source was reported to have said he did not work for the people’s interest.

Until about 100 years ago a remark like that from a Malay sovereign can cripple a minister, on the spot, by a magical force called tulah. Idris Jusuh may be immune to it, but we will have to wait and see.

Then, two deputy ministers Pak Lah kindly retained in his cabinet preferred to resign rather than continue as deputy ministers for yet another term.

MP for Jerantut, Tengku Azlan Abu Bakar, and MP for Kimanis, Anifah Aman, have both been deputy ministers for two consecutive terms. Second lieutenants must aspire to become captains after one or two terms and deputy ministers cannot be too different about climbing up one rung of the ladder.

Stuck on the same rung probably because of the leader’s oversight, the duo chose to bailout, “without raising their voices” according to a news report. They may have secret intentions.

It is clear the Prime Minister had not spent enough time on the cabinet reshuffle and he trimmed it, even eliminating all parliamentary secretaries, meaning ministers and deputy ministers must now spend time to work out their replies to parliament on their own, when the opposition now sits 82, from seven before.

People in Umno and the BN simply cannot understand why he had done that. The parliamentary secretaries would be needed more now than ever before. What, in fact, has Pak Lah in mind? Who is behind the moves he made?

The environment has come right for the rank-and-file to rebel. On cue was the old warrior from the Fox’s Lair (Gua Musang), Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. After he chaired his divisional meeting on March 19 he told reporters, “Now I am old but [I am] still fearless.”

The Umno divisional meeting he held on March 19 was to demand the party hold an Extraordinary General Meeting to discuss reasons for the colossal failure in the election and about how to rehabilitate the mass organization. He offered himself to contest for Umno president.

Tengku Razaleigh is only 71. He was jesting about being old, surely. But fearless he is. Pak Lah does not compare at all with Tengku Li.

Meanwhile, the younger aggressor, Mukhriz Mahathir, who opted to tell Pak Lah to resign after he had won the Jerlun parliamentary seat in Kedah, was rumored to have started to study the battle strategies of Genghiz Khan, his look alike.

His father, the former Prime Minister and party president, studied Sun-Tzu’s Art of War, and his mother, I had heard, avidly read several times Vo Nguyen Giap’s, Guerrilla Warfare.

Mischief is definitely afoot in Umno, and it could be worse than the rebellion of Lucifer in heaven when Adam, merely of mud, was made God’s pontiff on earth, now polluted.

Mukhriz Pak Lah had sorted to the Pemuda Umno for disciplinary action. But the Pemuda Umno chief, Hishamuddin Hussein, turned Mukhriz back to Pak Lah to do the dirty job himself.

It is payback time for Pak Lah. The sooner he retires the easier it would be for him and for most of us, the exceptions to that rule applying only to the whims that had sauntered into politics and rose by vigorously bowing before the boss.

People are saying he tossed out some people from his cabinet to cast the blame on them. But he must know the causes of the tsunamic slap on the face is mainly him, his son-in-law, Hairy, his cronies, his incapacity to keep his word, his inability to moderate the inflation, his Singapore romansa, and his happy-happy days with the rich-and-famous.

He has delivered nothing in terms of tangible development.

When in politics a party loses as remarkably as Umno and the BN had in the recent elections, the party president must, as a moral and ethical obligation, take the blame and bow out. The party, as a collective, will have to mean more than any individual, or family, in the organization.

It is really left to the party president to become an example of that moral and ethical principle and not make excuses or cast the blame on a set of others. Pak Lah, alas, is a president of a different sort. The obligation, quite apparently, he does not acknowledge. He must be pressured to go. --- a. ghani Ismail, 21 March, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008



When a political party loses astoundingly in an election, the party president must take the blame, and as a responsible leader, resign. If a loss of that sort was not enough for Pak Lah to bow out as Umno president, then we need to tell him as Prime Minister his new cabinet does not have anyone, or a sum of personalities, that can inspire a comeback from the slough of desponds into which both the party and nation have fallen.

In the aftermath of a colossal lost of faith such as this, when after a record win four years ago, the party fell face first losing a record 82 seats in parliament, forfeiting the two-third majority for the first time in history.

The leader’s head must roll or it is the party that will have to pay very dearly for the failure of a bad leader to come to his senses.

The new cabinet the Prime Minister announced today (18 March) will not leave any positive impact either on the party or the people. There’s nobody in it with a stature large enough to provide the confidence and to secure Umno and the BN for a recovery. Who is there in the cabinet that can inspire the needed confidence?

The country too is in need for someone that can lead her out of the tiredness after the circus of high profile corruption, of large companies gobbled by little ones, and of prize lands given to cronies. That’s saying nothing of essential items repeatedly running short and their prices being hiked because of the failure to manage and moderate the inflation.

In Perlis the Prime Minister’s letter of authority for Shahidan Kassim to continue as Menteri Besar was ignored by the Raja who appointed his choice instead, after consulting the remaining members of the state assembly.

In Trengganu the Menteri Besar has still not been appointed since the election on 8 March, a record of sorts. The Sultan does not favor the former Menteri Besar, Idris Jusoh, who is Pak Lah’s choice. He agreed to the spending on the Monsoon Cup said to be RM550 million for two short events and splashed hundreds of millions more on tourists’ attractions the state could have done without.

The leadership has suffered the worst loss of confidence in Malaysian history and Pak Lah announced, in the aftershock of the 12th general elections, a cabinet that lacks required luster.

Notable is merely the absence of his son-in-law, Hairy Jamaluddin, who a lot of people were waiting to boo should he indeed become a minister. It is, alas, a right act of omission of a Prime Minister who, in popular view, has stayed for four years and delivered nothing that is the result of a tangible act of creative development.

People want the likes of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Malaysia needs people with the guts of Mukhriz Mahathir, who dumped his soul into a stream of consciousness rebels with larger causes would shy from. He won in Jerlun, Kedah and with Tengku Li, he made one of two winners from Umno who have asked Pak Lah to quit, or be voted out in the next Umno Supreme Council election to be held later this year.

Pak Lah clearly kept laboring in the belief he could and would be a better leader than Dr. Mahathir had been. Truth is, to all and sundry, the former Prime Minister, even if he had disregarded popular conscience in crushing his rival, Anwar Ibrahim, and he fathered high-profile corruption in Malaysia, he did succeed to amply develop Malaysia into an industrial country. Under Mahathir, even the judiciary had quite apparently succumbed to corruption.

Pak Lah, instead, is unrivalled as a Prime Minister who bothered little about the nation. He did not care to return home from his holiday in Perth when Johor was flooded in 2006, and uncaringly sailed with his rich and famous friends in their yacht in Perth while in Johor 17 persons died in the floods.

He promised the country a package of liberties from the draconian laws Mahathir had employed to rule by fear. But Pak Lah instead applied an unrivalled police state.

He does not at all compare. Mahathir was always first to arrive at his office and last to leave. Pak Lah dozed in meetings. Mahathir worked to secure Malaysia and the region from being overwhelmed by the American machine in Asia Pacific and successfully drew an agenda for the EAC.

He instituted the Langkawi Dialogue, brought about LIMA, reached into South America and Central Asia where one country named her five-year development plan after him. What has Pak Lah done? What happened to the “mega development banks” he announced he would initiate in EAC and OIC?

You’d need to send the best of intelligence agents to recover enough traces of those mega-projects to know if their tissues are still recoverable. But try the glaciers.
Pak Lah talked a lot and did hardly anything.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah

Tengku Li also falls into the category of ‘no compare’. He, among a few others, had been in the forefront of the exercises that brought home to Kuala Lumpur the Boards of MNCs that were rightly Malaysian, such as London Tin, Sime Darby, Guthries, Harrison and Crossfield, Kuala Lumpur-Kepong and several more companies that owned substantial land holdings in Malaysia.

They were colonial entities, some with cross-shareholdings with Chinese companies in Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong, making the exercises into a tidy act of astute banking, extraordinary financial management and market dawn-raids that could have fitted into an exciting novel.

Mahathir was also a member of the financially astute nationalist outfit that did the job in the early 1970s. Tengku Li was the natural leader.

What was Pak Lah doing at that time? What has he to recall in this season of embattlement when we have all to risk everything to settle for a conclusion about whether Umno and the BN will survive or die? Monsieur, what have you done?

Anwar Ibrahim, after he entered government he quickly delivered the International Islamic University, Bank Islam, Takaful (Islamic insurance) and all that we now have as Islam’s financial infrastructure in Malaysia. We certainly can do with someone like him.

Anwar is a leader with an uncanny political insight and skill. He has never lost in an election, not in any organization, not in Umno, and now he is set to win when he is finally allowed to hold political office after being disqualified because of the extraordinary six-year internment Mahathir honored him with in 1998-9.

But what has Pak Lah delivered in all the years he spent in the Malaysian cabinet? Can anyone recall?

Tengku Li has written to all party divisions asking for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to discuss the reasons for the terrible defeat and the terms of the future, both of the party and of the nation. He cried at what had happened. There must have been a lot of tears shed over the fate the moving hand writ, and because of the arrogance in the party.

The leadership should have been entirely free from any celebration of the ego, with the kind of one-upmanship that had been apparently pursued for reasons best known to the Monsieur, the Prime Minister himself. He said many times he would prove himself better than Dr. Mahathir.

Fact is, Mahathir did not cause a defeat as colossal as this. It only takes another 35 seats for the Alternative Front to rule, after it won 82 in a field of 222, a record breaking feat even the sharpest among the observers and analysts had not dared to forecast. The Front only had seven seats in parliament before.

Many in Umno and the BN will surely look to Tengku Li and Mukhriz to sort out the difficulties and if the duo can finally count to 35 or more, the goose that shall lay the golden egg would have been hatched. Good luck, Monsieur. --- a. ghani ismail, 18 March 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008


- The Case Of Three Blind Mice Out To See The World-

It’s a witch’s brew that’s been concocted by the DAP in Perak, the kind served with a floating red cherry. Winning 18 from a field of 56 cannot be so good as to make the others bow before demands issued by the power-inebriate and to change the system as though the newly won wonderland provided free a magic-wand to wish away constitutional and institutional impediments for “Malaysian Malaysia” to become instantly real.

With one knee-jerk DAP leader, Lim Kit Siang, almost held contempt the Perak Sultan, the state constitution, and his strange bedfellow, the Pas, without whom his party cannot form the government in Perak.

DAP won only 18 in a field of 56 in the state. With the PKR seven it could only count to 25, four short of the 29 required to rule with a majority of one. Pas has six, the arithmetic giving the combination 31 from 56 and hence, also a fair share of the meat.

Thus, three names were submitted to the Regent of Perak, Raja Nazrin, one representing each of the trio. It had to be that by force of the simple numbers.

The Regent in his wisdom chose the Pas candidate and Kit Siang boomed his objection in terms that would involve the palace in politics. Calling for the DAP to boycott the swearing-in of the Mentri Besar at the istana on 13 March, he slid the spanner into the works. Both the system and the culture had become his enemy.

His apology feeble, the ambers he stoked became fanned into a fire when the Perak DAP state assemblypersons disagreed with him and instead demanded eight of the 10 Exco seats in the government leaving one each for the PKR and Pas.

The party was wishing to lunch on the lion’s share at the expense of its mates, having agreed previously to take six and leave two each for the PKR and Pas.

Clearly one from the trio was going blind into power and the blind spots afflicting it were enough for the Perak Regent to decide the pact was not fit to form a stable government.

He cancelled the swearing-in of the new Menteri Besar and has since asked the three parties to give him in writing their acceptance and support of the candidate he had chosen.

It is Kit Siang and the DAP that had gone high on the samsu before the carnival had begun. It was lucky Raja Nazrin was not someone who would bear a grudge. Pas and PKR were victims of circumstances. They had all agreed on the principles of the power-sharing and that failed to keep to the detriment of Kit Siang and the DAP in Perak.

But what’s really behind Kit Siang’s objection and the DAP becoming grabby are the big questions people are asking and the answer is simply both have lost their heads feeling the power in their hands for the first time in the party’s blessed life. The character weakness shall remain a sore point. The DAP will have to prove it is a temporary malady.

Some people are swiftly seeing into the strange development the familiar mask that’s been a disguise of communalism. It is the demand for “Malaysian Malaysia”, which some are now saying is semantically “we rule our way, for us, the Chinese.”


The DAP wants out all constitutional provisions that provide for Malay Special Rights and those that deny non-Malays the right to becoming Menteri Besar in all Malay States.

It is also against race-based affirmative action. It wants meritocracy in all fields, including in the Administration and in education, while keeping the Chinese schools intact, denying shared life-space for the children as they grow.

Some Malays conceive this as demanding to colonize. But in states where the Opposition can rule, it has only won 18 seats of 56 in Perak, 13 of 56 in Selangor and 20 of 40 in Penang. In Kedah it has but one seat.

Immediately after taking power in Penang it announced it will dismantle the New Economic Policy (NEP), resulting in a quick reaction. More than 3000 demonstrated at KOMPTAR where the new chief minister, Lim Guan Eng, had not had time to warm his seat.

He reeled into instant apologetics, saying he merely said he wanted open-tenders and not continue with the negotiated-tenders he alleged the BN government applied. The result is a blurring of the policy intent and the others in the pact had to save him – united we stand, but together we may still fall, of course.

In Perak the imbalance of woes blew into a circus. It caused a malady of conflicting policies and perceptions within the trio even before the government had been installed. The samsu must have been super-strong.

The PKR is willing to retain Malay Special Rights and accept the ethnic-based affirmative actions with the condition all communities shall equally benefit from the government’s pantry.

The Pas also accepts the NEP and is merely wishing to remove the corruption that goes with it. According to the Prime Minister, Pak Lah, 85 percent of the projects in the Bumiputra affirmative action basket fell to Non-Bumiputra beneficiaries. It must have been via graft, thievery and syndicated brigandage.

On the NEP and Malay Special Rights the Pas is largely the same as the PKR and differ mainly about Islamic Law.

But the larger problem with the Pas, and therefore with the pact, is about how it thinks. For instance, while the rest of the capitalist world required the Welfare State because of the industrial reserve of four percent needed to keep industry assured of labor supply, the Pas wants it because it is in the Holy Book no matter if the country is capitalist, socialist or something in-between.

It’s the same about slavery. While the West decided to do away with the institution so as to enlarge the consumer base for industrial society to succeed, the Pas wants to free slaves because the Prophet of Islam did it and it is “recommended” by the Holy Qur’an.
It is dogmatism about which the younger set of Pas members want moderated and modified.

The DAP, on the other hand, is a social democrat and a secularist, now showing itself rather of a greedy brat and a chauvinist, something the others in the pact will have to decide whether to take into an Alternative Front or simply retain as a needful artifice in a pact of political convenience.

DAP obviously wants the upper hand wherever it has won the most seats regardless of the constitutional and cultural impediments. The penance it will have to do to retain the people’s support has mounted to a heap higher than Golgotha.

How it shall fare in the future now hangs in a limbo somewhere between heaven and hell. It will have to pay a heavy price for the disappointing display of drunkenness, swigging the witch’s brew so early in the day.

Heaven obviously did not devise these sorts of conflicts to happen in Malaysia. Previously it was done by the Pas. Now it is the DAP’s turn to go backside up in a sort of yamseng that isn’t even proper in gutter-politics.

Failed State

On March 13 the Regent of Perak decided the trio would never make it together and rather than risk having a failed state, he cancelled the swearing-in of the Menteri Besar, leaving Perak without an elected government for more than a week.

There are sensitive issues the pact will have to deal with before it can gain the people’s confidence, and especially earn more Malay votes in the next general elections. The most critical is about who owns Malaya and the Malay States.

Malaysia is historically a crude British colonial product. Citizenship as we know it today became a legal option only in 15 September 1952 when via an Ordinance the British Raj decided 2.72 million Malays and Aslis were citizens by birthright and 1.157 million Chinese and 222,000 Indians became “automatically” citizens by fulfilling residency requirements in 1953.

That was to repay the Chinese Communists, especially, for their services to the British in its fight against the Japanese and to win over the other Chinese against the Communist Insurrection launched in 1948.

More meaningfully, it was a means to forge a Malayan citizenry to enable self-government and subsequently, Independence.

In the 1955 election for self-government the Alliance that was formed to represent the Malays (Umno), the Chinese (MCA) and the Indians (MIC) could finally be tested and the coalition won 51 of 52 seats contested.

In the 1959 federal election, of 104 Parliamentary constituencies up for grabs in Malaya, the Alliance proved its worth and took 74. From the remaining, the Pas took 13 and rose as a specter since, green as a cabbage leaf, but bearded for disguise. The Socialist Front gained eight and PPP got four.

The experiment to provide citizenship to the Chinese and Indians to secure Malaya from the communist threat worked. But what it also implied was a consensus on a social contract, the charter of which is the Malaysian Constitution before the distortions had damaged the purity of the intended laws and liberties.

Then it must be remembered Umno was born in the grounds of the Johor palace to secure the Malay royal houses against “Mad” MacMichael’s use of force to coerce the Sultans to agree to the Malayan Union in 1946. The Malayan Union would have turned the whole of the Malay States into British Crown Colonies like Singapore, Malacca and Penang.

Thus, among the ground rules between the trio in the Alliance was the consensus that the Malay states belong to the Malays and all citizens share the country without displacing the Malays from their special privileges. Non-Malays can lead the Executive in Penang, Malacca and the Federation.

It must be clear then that the Malay special privileges can only be removed with the consent of the Malays themselves, i.e. when they are ready to set those aside. In other words, it should be achieved by persuasion. Revolutionary change would spill lots of blood. For what?

Is It Not Enough?

Is it not enough for the non-Malays to be able to take as a whole the governments in Penang, Malacca and the Federation? Is it “nice” that the Chinese insist they keep their own schooling system to hold intact their identity and culture and then demand to be freely accommodated in all sectors and all privies?

It would be good for the PKR and the Pas to let the DAP have all 10 Exco posts in Perak so that they do not have to bicker over the meat. The people will react if the greed gets out of hand. Take the lot and be done, but the Perak constitution prefers to maintain the Malay state as a Malay state.

The social contract was carefully observed by the Alliance. Until the PAP of Singapore had entered the show after the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the social contract was meticulously and gracefully observed. PAP demanded “Malaysian Malaysia”, causing a stir that forced its separation from Malaysia two years later.

To the Malays, the DAP has since been remembered as a leftover of the PAP, and dancing to the same tune, the rhythm of which is reminiscent of the Chinese bid to takeover the country immediately after the Japanese Occupation.

While most people remember the Malays had had to fight against the Communist terrorists from 1948, the historical facts enlisted the Koumintang into the ruinous racist extravaganza beginning in 1942.

In 1942, Kuomintang guerrillas operating in the Jeli to Grik and Lenggong watersheds burned down isolated Malay villages. They killed those who tried to escape and took some captives. The captives were enslaved and forced to work in plantations.

Later the Communists in the MPAJA (Malayan Peoples’ Anti-Japanese Army) likewise took turns to coerce Malays, wishing to collect taxes they imposed and to use the Malays as informants.

The Malay reaction came late, in mid-1944, but it was surprisingly strong and decisive. They fought against guns mainly with the parang panjang (machetes).

Continued coercive activities such as these brought about the formation of the Home-Guard and the Special Constabulary (SC) under General Templer in the mid-1950s.

For the first time the Malays from the kampungs were trained in the use of firearms and posted to man the roads and villages all over the country, to secure their Tanah Air (homeland).

Under the Home-Guard, barefooted Malay men and women were trained to use the shotgun, pump-gun and the 303, to defend their kampungs and their Tanah Air from “Chinese”. There were “bamboo-spear” (tombak) squads and “squatter-staff” (sticks) squads.

It was the kind of mobilization from which fables were born. Some Malay women, we were told, had even shot their husbands in the leg for merely mentioning then name of another woman they met in the training courses. Such was the temper that was aroused among the women, and such too was the courage of their husbands to continue eyeing other women.

These remain like living fables in the collective memory of the Malays, and in Umno it is a raison d’etre for the establishment of the party. It is the soul of its élan. The Malay wants and needs to believe this country remains his. The others he calls “Orang Asing”, aliens, even if they are citizens.


The Malay sultanates affirm that heritage and hence, it is very much a part of the Malay existential personality. He “owns” the Raja-Raja and they in turn affirm the country belongs to the Malays, defining his self with his homeland through his Raja.

This “feudalism” will need time to change. It is a cherishment, viewed as a little “nicety” of Malay culture that provides him the psychological security he requires to be living in a shared political space with the “aliens” (Orang Asing) who are economically still his better.

Kit Siang, ramboed through that Malay “nicety”. Though he apologized it is still the kind of thing you must never do to become government. The damage is done and the penance will have to be made.

He had struck against constitutional monarchy and along with the DAP, made himself vulnerable. This constitutional monarchy is doing to Idris Jusoh in Trengganu what the Opposition had failed to do. Is that not a “nicety”?

But Umno, MCA and MIC will certainly recall 1944-56 and 1969, the gist of that being a counter-action against the “Tsunami” that grounded the BN to a jarring halt, knocking the Gerakan into the graveyard, the PPP into the backstreet and the MIC into a sudden recall of Subramaniam, Samy Vellu’s allergy. Is there still the BN in West Malaysia, in a hospital intensive-care ward somewhere?

Still, it is better for the DAP to remember the counteractions have begun. What has been a larger than surprising win can now go into severe systematic debility. Victors should learn to be magnanimous, and dutifully humble to the nation, the people and their own constituencies. They must also be collectively accountable.

Everyone I talked to did not wish to give the DAP a warning. They issued reprimands. ----a. ghani ismail, 14 March 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008



As the dust begins to settle and sober rationality is retrieved from the shell-shocks of the recent general elections, some Malays now realize they have given themselves into the “Malaysian Malaysia” concept they rued several decades before and demanded Singapore’s PAP stay out of infant Malaysia that had been born in 1963. The DAP and the multiracial PKR have now virtually gained control of the larger half of the Malaysian political conscience, making it impossible for the Umno to recover the politics of communalism unless she remarries the bearded Pas, while the Chinese and Indians backtrack into the ethnic sieges of the MCA and MIC.

The BN had won in this election by the narrowest margin in history and lost the two-third majority in parliament the first time since creation. The BN had never suffered the loss of five states in one go. It was a splurge in the kind of political extravaganza Malaysians had never been in a hurry to slurp.

But the hubris had gone far too far this time. A trip starting from Ave Maria in 1957 should never have gone to the Baghdad of Harun al-Rashid when, for a slave girl who could sing as melodiously as a nightingale to his ears, he paid three million dinars, in gold.

The money-success of the Malaysian elite was going there. People who became millionaires by a surprise built for themselves palaces to shock others into obeisance by materialistic impress. One managed to gain the ire of the regnant.

There was the guy who came home from a trip to Paris to boast about having spent in three nights RM750,000 ‘without buying even a single necktie’. He splashed the easy money on women, engaging a plurality for what must have been a succulent sojourn he could not forget, and God would not. He became a bankrupt soon after.

Malaysians would probably have heard of the politician who paid a shaman RM 1 million to guarantee he would win in the party election and his adversary paid the same fellow twice the amount, and won!

About the other politicians you should not miss was this one who paid a Buddhist “monk” RM50,000 per day for a month to get rid of a rival without applying physical contact. The “monk” he found with his wife on his bed in physical mish-mash instead, and missing from his safe was RM20 million. The pair quickly escaped.

The quality of political leaders in the BN was running wildly to outdo the Hong Kong filmdom in its scandalous septic. We were having a circus long before Chua Soi Lek lost his sense of security and was caught on tape playing tiddlywinks. The arrogance had gone wild. Even the judiciary, it was said on video-tape, had succumbed to the overwhelming materialism. There was nothing left for idealism to secure a steady foothold. Rebellion was in order. Impotence would be the price to pay otherwise.

In that opiate-laced atmosphere of national development the mullahs lunged for their share of power. The results were a string of laws and bye-laws by which they could exact little payments from little people. Couples must take a one day course for RM80 to get married. Certification of a sort must be obtained from the local mosque imam within 24 hours before the wedding to ensure the couple would be wed in the district of domicile. It is illegal to marry outside the district of the bride’s home. Once divorced the couple would have to attend a course for three-months before marrying again. It is ridiculous infringement of rights

Rehabilitations camps were set up to deal with those who fail to comply with these laws and regulations or with the official version of Islam. I was told a young woman spent more than three years in one after being caught eating in public during Ramadhan. She was having her monthly. Another spent more than two years for buying the number-lottery.

In the case of Revathi, she was forced to endure solitary confinement for six months in one of these camps and allegedly forced to eat beef.

Then there’s 121 (1A), the 1988 constitutional amendment that finally slapped the nation with two sets of laws and a dual judiciary. By it we had to be distressed by the tussles for the bodies of many converts who died, including our Everest hero. We could no longer seek redress from the civil courts if charged and found guilty for “religious offences”. Malays cannot marry by civil registry. It’s a catch-all, and a means to apply religious violence more and more want out.

Many reasons should be listed to provide a glimpse of the clever and effective rejection that happened on 8 March 2004. There’s the infamy of the son-in-law and the cronies that took whatever came within the reach of their grabby hands.

Surely it was accumulated temper that blew down the BN in five states and removed the two-third majority from the ruling coalition in parliament. It was all of the above and many more, apart from the final price-rises and the burdensome tolls the public was expected to meekly accept as a matter of the nature of BN power and development.

Still, the point that many tried to make through the years that led to the Big Bang was the simple refusal of the arrogant to acknowledge the efficiency of the environment, and the peoples’ dignity. That was hubris. And this is wrath. Hehe!

But are the Malays ready to accept “Malaysian Malaysia” now that the concept is pursued by Malaysians and not Singaporeans?

Like the reaction of a babe to change of branded powdered milk, it’ll need a little time before we can possibly know. It’ll take just a bit more time before the babe shall graciously smile, or she will religiously purge and wail. ---- a. ghani ismail, 12 March, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Pak Lah Rejected




Days into the Chinese Year of the Rat, Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi (Pak Lah) was reported to have told the nation it was God who placed him into the PM’s chair and he had worked hard without earning any extra benefit. His problem this time could have been sourced in his home state, Penang. The people there rejected the heart of his table-model Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) plan.

It’s about Patrick Lim’s 104-hectare Penang Global City Centre (PGCC). The modest city centre originally planned to offer a culture-attuned setting with only two towers had been changed into a RM20-25 billion high-density suckers’ paradise with 40 high-rise buildings for which at least two flyovers would be needed to ease the traffic through.

The people want it booted out, a reckoning the Prime Minister will have to accept. The state governments have their own development plans and his table models are deemed as intrusions that will finally provide unfair access to his family and his cronies.

Most states do not have enough money to build on their own the required infrastructure, which was what the problem of development had been about outside the Klang Valley. Especially in the east coast states and in Sabah/Sarawak, the money for infrastructure must come mainly from the federal treasury. Pak Lah’s table models of development have little to do with infrastructural development. That’s the main basis of the unbelief.

The Iskandar Development Region (IDR) in Johor was clearly such a case. Johor has her own development plan and needed money for infrastructural development. The development that had proceeded thus far in the IDR far, in fact, to be found in Nusajaya the state had started a long time before.

To all and sundry, Pak Lah enriched his family and friends, and in Trengganu there had been the sort of looting that would be hard to stop from spilling over into a blatant rip-off.

What happened in Trengganu was not quite about a treasure hunt. It was plainly and simply looting. The Monsoon Cup that was clearly a failure had cost RM250 million the first time (2005) and that was raised to RM300 million in 2006, ostensibly to draw the rich and famous to the oil-endowed State that has too few good hotels to host a thousand decent spenders at any one time.

Patrick Lim’s dominance in Trengganu was unbelievably conspicuous, sired by Pak Lah’s son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, plus Pak Lah’s political secretary, Wan Farid Wan Salleh and the man’s brother, Wan Hisham Wan Salleh in the Trengganu chapter.

It would appear to every watcher Pak Lah godfathered the racket. It was the making of a cinch for a spending spree of Trengganu’s oil royalty (Wang Ehsan) amounting to more than RM1 billion a year.

Hundreds of millions were spent in the “Tourism Binge” that was supposed to have kicked off with the Monsoon Cup. On top of the RM550 million cost for the two seasons of Monsoon Cup, RM250 million was spent for a Crystal Mosque on a small island off Kuala Trengganu, RM400 million for a bridge, RM 30 million for 30 chalets, and RM 200 million for IT development.

What came to Kuala Trengganu after that much of spendings? Well, the Giant Supermarket chain opened a store and with Mydin it heralded Kuala Trengganu into the supermarket age.

From that brilliant move in Trengganu Patrick Lim sauntered to the Penang end of the game with great promises. There he had acquired 104 hectares of prime land previously owned by the Penang Turf Club through Abad Naluri Sdn. Bhd., 23 percent owned by Equine Capital Bhd., his flagship.

He acquired it for a song (RM488 million) in 2002. Rezoned for commercial and housing development, the value of the land is believed to have multiplied six or seven times the value he paid for it, before a nail being driven into the dirt. It was a jackpot.

He offered to build a culture centre in a sedate commercial and housing surrounding with only two towers, but changed that to 40 high-rises instead after Pak Lah had become PM. That must have been a move of towering inspiration. The people in Penang want it thrown out and it looks like the nail has been driven into someone’s coffin instead.

The Penang racecourse he would build inside another piece of land he had also acquired, this one in Batu Kawan, conveniently where the new Penang bridge would begin on the mainland. This 450-acre piece of land houses his Crescentia Park, a commercial and housing project inside the Pulau Cassia project of the Penang Development Corporation.

Once again Pak Lah’s table model of development intruded into a state development plan that had been there from a long time before and needed the cash to pay for the infrastructure.

Pak Lah came in with the cash that the state should have gotten from the Malaysia Development Plan anyhow. But through the table models Pak Lah has been launching, a crony found access into the Penang landscape and took the king’s ransom. Though Patrick Lim is also from Penang like Pak Lah, that was not enough to dispel the ill-feelings. The people felt themselves taken for suckers and they acted.

In Trengganu, when the people reacted, two were shot in a hassle with police on Sept. 8 2007 when the police should not have carried any life bullets to manage the crowd of citizens in the first place.

Pak Lah has been riding the high winds and how does he think he can pull the blind to hide this kind of rip-offs and abuses is the big question a lot have been asking. It involves hundreds of millions in Trengganu’s oil money on the one hand and on the other the choicest pieces of land on Penang island and Penang mainland, with changes in the development vision(s) the people finally decided to boot.

This is saying nothing about what people think of his son’s ventures into the Penang money-culture or what role the son-in-law played in the ECM Libra takeover of Avenue Capital. His brother was said to have gained contracts of 15 years duration with the Mindef and with MAS when others have to do with the normal three or five years.

But this Trengganu and Penang jaunt are merely about Patrick Lim, the man former PM, Mahathir Mohamad, had named “Patrick Badawi” and in whose mansion in Perth Pak Lah retired when the whole of Johor was flooded in 2006, leaving 17 dead. Pak Lah, instead, was reported to have gone sailing with the rich Frenchman, Juan Todt, and his fiancé, the famous Michelle Yeoh.

What kind of a godsend Prime Minister does that make Pak Lah? Does he believe God appointed him PM of Malaysia to do the kind of things he has done? Is he about to deny he enriched his family members and a few cronies?

Was that the purpose God had for him? If not, what else has he done? Can he tell us how he had been proactive about moderating the inflation? Did God inspire him to sell Proton’s shares in Augusta for one Euro or had it been some chaps from Singapore? Did he do that right?

Who denied the Monsoon Cup the monsoon winds and waves on both occasions the “Regale” or “Race” was held in Kuala Trengganu, making it possibly the world’s costliest farce? Wasn’t that also God, Yaweh?

Worse of all, he reneged on all his promises to return to the citizens of this beautiful country their civil and human rights to enable the needful, which is to reach for maturity to change, modernize, develop and to integrate into a single nationality before it is too late.

Inside Kamunting detention center are five rather emotional BUT innocent Hindraf leaders. It would be in his better judgment to let them free now, before announcing his retirement.

The problem is simple. The resentment is getting to reach a peak and the longer Pak Lah lingers the worse it will be for the BN and the country. Penang has done right to reject the table model of development Pak Lah has been delivering, one after another, and another. --- a. ghani ismail, 10.2.2008

Corruption In Malaysia


For the first time in all my blessed life whistle-blowers are being threatened with custodial terms by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) in Malaysia, including even the Mentri Besar (Chief Minister) of Kelantan, the venerable Datuk Haji Nik Aziz Nik Mat, generally believed as a man who would not lie. In light of the losing battle against corruption, the agency has certainly done a vulgar recall of a feudal distaste. Perhaps Pak Lah should quickly act to redress the widespread disenchantment with his leadership on this score.

The general perception is corruption has never been as bad. Under Dr. Mahathir, when corruption had become heady at the height of the Malaysia Incorporated exercise, the ACA would get to work even on an anonymous tip. Now, like a wheel of fortune, it has gone round on a 180-degree turn. Who would even care to write to the ACA when corruption is often a syndicated assemblage of the crooks and of crookedness?

Corruption is culture when the people agree it is foolish not to accept a bribe, or not to demand payment when the privilege can be assumed real. Have we come to that in Malaysia?

Most people we ask will answer positive. Sitting at level 44 on the world anti-corruption index, wearing the crown of corruption in the midst of the heavy pricing inflation is more then demoralizing. It is disillusioning.

In the time of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Dato’ D.R. Seenivasagam alleged in parliament a member of the Cabinet was corrupt and when he was asked to repeat the allegation outside the august House he did.

The case isn’t even worth to mention in the setting of corruption of today. The Minister then had gotten for his wife a license to extract guano. He was duly booked.

The Tunku was a relaxed Prime Minister and Malaysia with him at the helm was not altogether so successful a developmental state. When the May 13 racial riot burst out in blood, he was said to have been with friends playing poker. But corruption wasn’t his pet nor did his Cabinet feed on the contraband stuff.

His Ministers were known to pay the taxes for items they bought in Penang or Singapore that the customs did not charge them for, and called the officer in-charge to be reprimanded.

During Tun Razak’s time one Minister was known to have helped his school-mate to riches by giving him an import license of an essential item. The friend taped the conversation that involved RM750,000 payable to the Minister. The man was never booked but copies of the tape were spread around. Little else was required to usher in a new modus operandi of power.

During the same time Umno, in having to find the means to relieve itself of being dependent on the MCA for funds, decided all Mentri Besars (Chief Ministers) would be allowed to keep a “special fund” bank account with one of the signatories from among the party Supreme Council members. It was over that kind of account that the Mentri Besar of Selangor and Umno Youth chief, Datuk Harun Idris, was booked in 1977 and spent years as the special guest of His Majesty.

Corruption had become a political means but by no means a culture, meaning here with a positive value attached.

The value factor changed under Dr. Mahathir. Corruption during his time had become a way to riches. But he was not hypocritical about it. He was purported to have written somewhere to say the Malays suffered a dilemma about becoming rich in their country and he was probably determined to offset that indetermination.

The rest is for folklore to record either orally or in writing. Legend has about it a shyness to recount the real stuff. That may dwarf King Kong. When Pak Lah first rose from the seat of Prime Minister, a hidden hand had taken pages from several Chinese dailies to advertise. The advertisement damned the predecessor’s regime as “corrupt to the core”.

Mahathir had his chance to even the score several years after. He gave interviews to redress the misunderstanding. He said about corruption that Pak Lah’s leadership was even worse and the anti-corruption campaign had been a failure..

But the general perception has tilted to the Mahathirean delight. Corruption is perceived much worse today than it was before, not necessarily in terms of the volume stashed in numbered and unnumbered accounts or in pillows and mistresses, but in the terms of acceptance.

Now, when the ACA has repeatedly threatened the whistle-blowers and it has become a stock joke that it would be the whistle-blowers who will do time and the corrupt set free. They may soon report whistle-blowers to the ACA even.

The first thing about the fight against CORRUPTION is it must be sincere to purpose. Then it must be relentless. As for the means, many of us have been suggesting that the government follow the route that Hong Kong had taken.

But now that we are saddled with a new turn of events after the ACA has serially threatened to book whistle-blowers for false allegations even before “the interview”, it looks to a lot of people like the battle against corruption has become farcical.

This makes useless the anonymous letter of appeal to the ACA to act on the corrupt and especially on syndicated corruption. This also demoralizes whistle-blowing into drafted meanness. --- a. ghani ismail, 21 Nov. 2007