Monday, February 28, 2011

Bottoms Up! Revolutions On The Bitumen Of KL and Putrajaya?

It’s crunch-time. Now that Putrajaya has gone beyond the reach of Pakatan Rakyat following the serial losses sustained by PKR and the Pas since Bagan Pinang in Oct. 2009, are we to believe it is a chapter of the Jasmine Revolution that will finally unseat PM Najib Tun Razak and install Anwar Ibrahim on the throne with Lim Kit Siang and Azmin Ali as his deputies?

The Jasmine Revolution which startled the world in December 2010 in Tunisia has now phased itself into war over Libya. It’s American-led intervention once again, this time to force Muammar Ghaddafi out after 41 years at the helm. The next target will be Iran.

Will the same happen in Malaysia should Najib and the BN government refuse to surrender to Anwar, backed by his college of powerful friends the former US Ambassador to Malaysia, John R. Mallot, had reminded us in an attention-grabbing article he had written before?

The people need to know. People are asking is the Jasmine Revolution a fantasy of forces organized to actually remove kings, despots, tyrants and authoritarians from all over the Islamic world who refused to kowtow?

Is the “people’s revolution” we are witnessing really a powerful sweep of imperialism, as President Hugo Chavez said, ‘…for the oil.’

It would be the control of the Straits of Malacca in the case of Malaysia, the strategic waterway once said to hold Venice by the neck when Malacca was in ascendance in the 15th century.

Then it is about the containment of China. Indeed it is first and last about the containment of China whence once before, the beautiful Malaysian author, Han Su Yin (Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing), had been ambassador extraordinaire in the 60s to explain to the Western world China was not barbarian before Nixon’s visit in 1972.

It is like an old lamp traded for new. We are simply watching re-colonization unfold in the Middle East and North Africa branded as People’s Liberation Movements for a wider consumer market and that can be custom-tailored on order, like say for Malaysia and the remaining parts of Asean required to tail into the containment of China.

Prerequisites would include a divided house from which the military forces can be plucked from their barracks to reach the streets as prophylactics to protect from infections demonstrators who are raped by the police.

Or like it was in Indonesia in 1965, to move in a set of maneuvers nobody in the armed forces actually knew about.

Then, like puppets in a Punch and Judy show, they clobbered “the opposition” under a little known Col. Untung only to find General Suharto in command soon after.

He neatly performed a coup and he ruled Indonesia for 33 years thereafter.

But that was, of course, a military coup which was ostensibly triggered by the will to protect the Indonesian President (Sukarno) from being overwhelmed by the Communists who, we were later told, had also planned a coup.

Slaughtered in that historical event were more than a million before the blood-lust was finally spent and prayers reached the heavens for appeasing the lost souls in the blood-letting mayapada.

What shall be the picturesque history that shall be enacted in Malaysia after the Pakatan fail in its quest for power to rule over the Federation when PM Najib dissolves Parliament and call for the general elections?

And then, what will happen after the Pakatan fails in the power-grab?

In this near-successful quest for sea change that followed Anwar Ibrahim’s incarceration in 1998 and the Opposition came whiskers away from power in 2008, issues raised shifted from the seriousness of the police state and sustained detention without trial to the macabre sudden deaths of hundreds in police lockups to the heart-stopping death of a political aide, Teoh Beng Hock, at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission building.

PM Najib Tun Razak’s leadersip is responsive. But those matters of public concern he has not dealt with as yet.

There is also economic inequity, no minimum wage and social security net worth the thumbs-up.

Still, despite the high prices of food and the bad behaviors among the super-privileged elite, we have to ask is Najib Tun Razak a king, or despot, tyrant or authoritarian?

Has his wife, Rosmah, said to spend lavishly, bought the Big Ben or the London Bridge in a swing of splendorous waste to prove she is rich beyond compare?

Trivia of some sorts can excite pleasure in politics, but in throwing stones the Opposition should have been careful to observe whether or not it is in a glass house.

After the serial defeats in by-elections from Bagan Pinang on Oct. 11, 2009 to Tenang on 30 Jan 2011, the Pakatan, looking more like a ménage a trios that’s gone wrong, is nearly altogether done.

The Pakatan has dwarfed itself. The PKR, with Anwar Ibrahim as de facto leader and his wife as president, and with his former secretary, Azmin Ali, as her deputy, is like a sodden whore nobody wants other than by desperation of sheer lust for power shift.

After some law-makers left the party in huffs for failing to work with Anwar or with Azmin or with both, the party that boasted of a registered membership numbering more than 400,000 has been shown to have merely the whereabouts of 40,000 members – not enough to fill the seating capacity of the Shah Alam Stadium.

In the other wing of the Pakatan, the Islamic Pas General Guide (Mursyid ul-Am), Datuk Haji Nik Aziz Nik Mat, 78, publicly ranted against his party leaders sending the whole of the Pas into political stupor.

He made the Pas unfit to lead and even less fit to rule, and as a result the party almost lost its seat in the Manik Urai by-election in July 2009, then lost in Galas which is also in Kelantan where he presides as Menteri Besar (Chief Minister). It lost again in Tenang, a Johor state seat.

The Pas, set to lose once more in the March 6 Merlimau and Kerdau by-elections, cannot any more be taken seriously as politically a challenge that can unseat Umno.

Several days before 1,800 members of the party in Pasir Puteh, Kelantan, walked out to join the Umno in a certain turning away from the failing reason of the twilight leadership.

In that sort of slide it is only logical for people to ask whether or not a street power named Desire will be invoked to wrestle against the BN to wrest control of the nation sometime in September.

When thinking about a possible street revolution against Najib Tun Razak and the BN, say beginning September 16, it will have to be noted again that Malaysia is not a dictatorship.

Once more the regret is about the police state, about detention without trial, corruption which comes with super-privileges, and inequitable distribution of income which, with rising prices of food and transport, is lowering the quality of life for most.

There are also Malaysians who are non-Malays that have long deserved a fairer deal.

The question before us is about how these will be redressed. Will we opt to do it by the vote and other manners of leverages or by power that can be blistering in the streets? --- a ghani ismail, March 1, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From Jasmine Revolt To Armageddon

Inside the dank of dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and monarchs that have spun class miseries by a serial lark of severe unemployment and high food prices in an oil-rich region, a spreading waft of refined jasmine has inspired the world into believing a new culture will settle over the world.

What began with the self-immolation of an educated unemployed youth in Tunisia on 17 Dec. 2010 has spread across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), taking in Iran and the Ivory Coast as well.

President Zine El Abidin Ben Ali of Tunisia lost his foothold and slipped away to Saudi Arabia, a fallen star that was soon to be followed by Egypt’s long time president, Hosni Mubarak, said to have amassed a fortune estimated to be between 40 and 70 billion USD.

Today, after the fragrance has floated into Libya, the Jasmine Revolution, as it has been called because members of the Tunisian chapter had worn the flower behind their ears, has reached a crest that is likely to become a turning point.

In Libya it is civil war. From European reports it is clearly seen the “protesters” were armed. More than one third of those killed in the first several days were policemen, precisely 111 from about 300 dead as this is written.

Someone has apparently played out President Obama, now hard-pressed to intervene in Libya.

Muammar Ghadafi, the Arab revolutionary of a unique plumage, now under pressure inside that regional stress that is read as the making of the New Middle East and Greater Israel, has vowed to die as a martyr rather than slip out of the dank like a cur.

It may be naïve to say the Jasmine Revolution need not be about the New Middle East or Greater Israel. But it is a fact that the street uprisings are primarily about gross unemployment, averaging nearly 20 percent in the region and food prices that have gone out of reach for a lot of literate and lower-middle class families. Egyptian workers were also involved in the Libyan protests.

Still it settles the matter neatly as the making of an underclass from people who are often highly educated against a backdrop of heaven-reaching illiteracy that may be 40 percent of the adult population, in Egypt.

It is, in short, serious inequity, the power sustained by the police state, like it was under Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran.

In Iran, where the unexpected turn of events has been said to be expected, street-showings of an assortment of citizens demanding basic freedoms and rights were quickly squashed.

But for whatever niceties Iran have stood for in the eyes of the religious, the Islamic Republic cannot escape global scrutiny for the incarceration of Jafar Panahi.

Jafar Panahi, 50, is the film-maker who drew on celluloid the tongue-in-cheek, Offside, which has been widely publicized.

Panahi made a movie showing a group of Iranian women who dressed as men to gain entry into a stadium to see a football match featuring their favorite team.

The good man was sentenced to six years in jail for that and banned from film-making for 20 years, a senseless reaction of paranoia over what is clearly a simple protest against cultural constraints stemming from patriarchal ridicule of simple freedoms for women, and against the social critics.

This is the difficulty about religion, and especially about Islam. It has little tolerance for the social critics and it is often a killer of ideas too.

Malays, influenced by the Farsi, had Amazons, women who were admirals, soldiers and into the 20th century, leaders of guerilla forces who fought against Dutch colonialism, and Ministers. In Indonesia and the Philippines women were presidents.

Iran is Shi’ah. The Shi’ah, still in sectarian combat against the Sunni school of Islam in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, numbers 70 percent of Bahrain, which is a Sunni monarchy.

While Bahrain is also street-bound in the Jasmine Revolution and which can disrupt the flow of oil in the Gulf, the greater danger to regional stability issuing from the Sunni-Shiah contrast in the Gulf is the lurking Shiah community of Saudi Arabia.

They are between 12 to 15 percent of the oil giant, a number larger than what is required to stage a successful revolution of the kind that is rolling through the region.

Egypt’s revolution that ended the reign of Hosni Mubarak was performed, at its peak, by less than 2.5 percent of the whole population of 80 million.

But are we now reaching the turning point of the movement for rights and for equity?

In Libya Muammar Ghadafi reportedly ordered his country’s oil-plants to be closed, a clear address to the world that the Arab (and Iranian) reactions are on the way. Oil price surged as a result, and markets slid all over the world. Libya produces 1.6 million barrels per day.

Iran sent two naval ships through the Suez Canal en-route to Syria. About 2.4 million barrels of oil move through the Suez and the Suez-Mediterranean pipeline per day.

The threats are real, the warnings ominous. This is, after all, not merely an exercise for regional reformation but an existential conflict to the given cultures, some of which remain tribal and unaccustomed to the demands of open and democratic society.

These demands, for freedom of speech and expression, freedom of conscience, and the freedom of assembly, are anathema to many of the surviving tribal communities in the region.

While they are human essentials and for them we must cut across the boundaries of national sovereignty, making it our business to reach for democracy throughout the world, this view would be inadmissible in the monarchical Arab states or in the tribal reaches of Libyan society as well as with many communities in Iran and Iraq.

This is the underlying sensibilities in the Jasmine Revolution, an under-layer of sensibilities that may be diverse from our own and which can, in the given conflict of values, recoil as an intense and intimate conflict that is existential, and not merely a conflict of cultures.

In other words, it is clearly favorable to the making of Armageddon.

The movement for a free world will have to face the threats----a. ghani ismail, 23 February, 2011