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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Calm Before The Storm

The Calm Before The Storm

It seems like the chess game Anwar Ibrahim is playing with the nation, or is it poker, is reaching end-game. His apparent revelation of MCA members of parliament imminently crossing the floor has upped the ante and possibly set the stage. What this means for us all is the subject of much debate. Some are uncertain about whether a change of government at this stage is a good thing while others are uncertain as to whether UMNO will allow for a change and the lengths it will go to stop it.

There are whispers of it being possible that the incumbents might resort to triggering Emergency powers, and the suspension of the rule of law that entails, to defeat the possibility of the Pakatan Rakyat taking over government. There are concerns that the Internal Security Act might be invoked, detentions of key figures would greatly assist in undermining efforts to that end.

In all of this, civil unrest in whatever form, from peaceable demonstrations that turn unruly or even violent to endemic and seeming unstoppable violent crimes, could become the convenient excuse for the taking of measures.

It seems like a radical step but then Malaysians are no strangers to extreme strategic plays in aid of power grabbing or simply staying in power. Though we have been virtually desensitized through over-exposure to the socio-political significance of the mass ISA detentions under Operasi Lalang in 1987 and the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas in 1988, these events remain significant not merely for their historical value. In providing an insight into the range of Dr Mahathir’s tactical playbook, they also shed light on the manner in which senior UMNO personalities might approach challenges in the present day.

Dr Mahathir’s impact on the evolution of UMNO cannot be downplayed, more so for the iron grip he had on the party. He was indisputably UMNO during his tenure and it is more probable than not that we will continue to see glimmers of his trademark style of crisis management in the time it will take for UMNO to be free from his influence. The continued detention of the HINDRAF 5 despite the manifest lack of any credible factual basis is just one example. The sacrificing of the lives of those detained and their families to secure a perceived political benefit is classic Dr Mahathir.

That being said, we also have to recognize that much has changed since the former premier’s hey day. In particular, while previous crises within UMNO took place in a context that was politically secure for the party and the Barisan Nasional, the opposition posed no threat. That is however not the case any longer in the same way that UMNO and the Barisan can no longer take for granted the support of a significant portion of the electorate. Consequently, those within UMNO who aspire to greater heights must divide their attention between the not easily reconciled aims of regaining the confidence of rakyat and successful internal politicking. Waging war against the nation, either through Emergency rule or repressive measures is certainly not going to endear UMNO any further in as much as it may win some support within the party.

Whatever the case, Malaysians must see that they are now pawns in a political game being played by both sides of the divide. This does not mean that we should take things lying down. For though we may have little say in whether Pakatan does attempt to take government or whether the Barisan adopts a reactionary stance, we do have the right and the means to make our displeasure known. More significantly, we have the ability to defeat the machinations of any party who acts adversely to our interests as long as we remain united and remain focused on what it is we all need as a nation.

Circumstances make the need for a calm response from the rakyat even more pressing. The drastic fuel price hikes and resultant unhappiness amongst the rakyat have presented a useful political opportunity to both the Pakatan ad the Barisan, albeit in different ways. Demonstrations and mass assemblies are being planned by a civil society more awake to the power of such events. These events are convenient staging grounds for political campaigns, a state of affairs that the Pakatan has been quick to take advantage of and which creates a potentially explosive tension that could be manipulated by those who wish to.

This does not mean we should compromise. If anything, we must strengthen our resolve to stand by principle. It is however vital that we remain vigilant and anticipate the possibility of such manipulation. It does not take much instigation to transform peaceable assemblies into the kind of public disturbances or even civil unrest that will justify intervention in one form or the other.

(Malay Mail; 17th June 2008)


Anonymous said...

Hi Imtiaz

As usual very cogent roundup of the situation we are facing.

I concur that unlike the previous occassion, MCA, Gerakan et all should not bow down.

I also concur that we should not be taking to the streets for any demos'. Demo's have already worked. Now people should just light candles in front of their homes, and stay at home (switch off the lights). Can u imagine the impact of this Ghandian approach at civil disobedience?

The learned Monkey from Rembau and people of his like, will not be able to make much hay from a Ghandian approach.

But Malaysia must prevail. Democracy must prevail.
The Rakyat will prevail.

If moderates are taken out via a grass cutting pogrom, then the radicals will come out. Let us pray that we will not face a "Night of Crystal" or "Krystalnacht" here in Malaysia.

Fareez said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your estimation of the current political scene. Nowhere is it more evident than in the local newspapers and television broadcasts. Not a day goes by without a politician slanging or critisicing another's policies in the news. More often than not the news can be seen to take only a certain slant on the issues, leaving the other side looking extremely idiotic in the eyes of the public. I however also believe that the average Malaysian is intelligent enough to judge biased reporting as it is and not place much faith on it.

However, my opinion is that the current resurgence of 'people power' in Malaysia has to be taken a step further.

Malaysians in general are used to taking a hands off approach to politics, preferring the power elite in Barisan or the Opposition to handle things. I believe that instead of just making our displeasure known we must now take more proactive measures to ensure that our views are not just known but also taken seriously. Participation of true intellectuals and individuals without a partisan identity need to step up their efforts to call for transparency and accountability.

Various means towards this end can be adopted, establish NGO's with a focus on good governance and transparency, start political focus groups to lobby for better healthcare services and other related problems that plague the normal citizen. These groups are in a special position to affect change as they are non-partisan and can exist without the mandate of any political party. Therefore they are able to talk to both the Barisan National and Opposition parties.

I believe that only with more people getting involved in the political process will there be any significant change for the better within the curret political framework.


Anonymous said...

The SAPP's attempt to pass a vote of no confidence on PM Badawi is not just a vote of no confidence against Badawi, but also one against the corrupt and racist BN/Umno regime. This move by SAPP must be seen not only from a political standpoint but also that of economic and social standpoints as well.

Apart from being robbed of their resources by the West Malaysian plunderers led by UMNO, East Malaysians have also found albeit too late that their cultural and religious identity have been robbed as well. Prior to the 1980's, non-Muslims were the majority population in Sabah. However today,we find that Muslims make the majority in the State. I've nothing against anyone wanting to embrace Islam or any other religion for that matter. However, what irks me is that the manner in which this drastic change in population has taken place.

It is a known fact that UMNO has manage to keep its hold on power by using Islam as its tool. The logic is simple here. As long as you get to increase the Muslim population, the stronger your power base will become. The reason for this is because prior to the March 8 General Elections, the majority of Muslims generally voted for BN. Only a few would vote for PAS. That's why countless number of Filipino Muslims and Indonesian Muslims were given the Mykad to increase the Muslim population in Sabah, and I suspect in Sarawak as well. Very often, as we have often noticed among especially the ethnic Indians in West Malaysia, the moment they convert to Islam, they immediately regard themselves as Malays and Indians no more. Many of these converts will take a Malay as their husbands or wife's all for the sake of enjoying Malay privilege's. They also make sure that their children are registered as Malay in their birth certificates.

The same thing is going on in Sabah and Sarawak. One day, you will find Malays the majority in these states as the number of conversions to Islam among non-Muslim Bumiputeras increases as well as the increasing number of Filipiono Muslims and Indonesian Muslims being granted citizenship. While you are reading this, many non-Muslim Bumiputeras are being brainwashed by a politically motivated Dakwah (missionary) campaign orchestrated by Umno itself at MARA Colleges, Public Universities, Teacher Training Colleges, Military and Police Academy's, Government Nursing Colleges as well as in the Civil Service. I must stress here that I'm not against Dakwah activities but what I'm against is any attempt made to convert someone by means of blackmail, coercion or plain brainwashing done to fulfill the political agenda of a certain political party. Religion is strictly between the individual and God and NOT Umno!

The New Economic Policy (NEP) is another reason why our East Malaysian brethren are feeling the way they do now against BN.The NEP is an affirmative action policy similar to what is in USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In these countries, the indigenous people do not hold any political power and are also in the minority. The ones who hold the political reigns are the White Colonialists and who are also in the majority. In short, the giver and receiver are different people. Unfortunately in Malaysia because the Malays are the dominant political force through Umno's own dominance, what has happen is that the NEP has been abused. The giver and the receiver here are the same people. Recent studies have shown that 61% of Sabah Bumiputeras and more than 50% of Sarawak Bumiputeras live below the poverty line. In fact Malaysia's Gini Coefficient is the highest in Southeast Asia because of high incidences of poverty in East Malaysia especially in Sabah where the State's GDP per capita is less than the national average.

The truth here is that due to Malay Muslim dominance of the BN government, the NEP had largely benefited the Muslim Bumiputeras in both states as well as in West Malaysia. Employment, business and educational opportunities were not equitably distributed to the non-Muslim Bumiputeras in Sabah and Sarawak under the NEP due to selective discrimination by a Malay Muslim dominated civil service. The end result has shown that the NEP is an abject failure. What made things worse was that due to Umno's politics of patronage, not all Malay Muslims have benefited from the NEP due to cronyism and nepotism which we stil see today.

I believe the Sabahans, Sarawakians and all Malaysians have had enough of the BN/Umno regime. What SAPP did is the precursor of things to come in the coming days and weeks. Brace yourself BN/Umno. The Second Political Tsunami is upon you!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant comment there Margeemar!THAT DOLLAH IS SO DECEITFUL! KEEP LYING THAT SAPP IS PROMOTING IT'S SO-CALLED GREEDY SELF-INTEREST; EXCUSE ME, WHAT ABOUT UMNO/BN?! LOOK AT YOUR 'EVIL' SELVES IN THE MIRROR IDIOT! I applaud SAPP brave move but they need to move away from narrow communal and ultra-nationalist politics, and to join up collectively under PR, so that the real greedy scums of BN/UMno can really be toppled! For rakyat's sake! Time for SAPP and all other non-Umno component parties to dump Umno! What I cannot understand is despite all the racist politics towards non-Malays and non-Muslims (now forcing DAP MPs to wear the songkok, for goodness sake; what's next - the veil?!), why are they still kissing Umno's dirty feet?! Besides, with all the oil wealth that corrupted Umno leaders have stolen from Sabah & Sarawak, with many rural East M'sians are still as poor as anything! And I was shocked when I was in Sarawak & Sabah; to find menacing illegal immigrants from Mindanao and Indonesia, behaving like kings, with no respect to the local custom and population! I just sent a formal letter of complaint to Sabah immigration complaining about illegal immigrants building ugly huts all over the beautiful beach of Kg. Sukang Suka Laut, Indarasan, Kudat, which was praised by Lonely Planet as one of the most beautiful place in Sabah with pristine white sandy beach and lots of corals, small islands and mangrove swamp with amazing wildlife. It should be a national heritage but now it’s full of illegal immigrants from across Mindanao, just hopping on the so-called fishing boats across Borneo sea, joining their “IC-holders” relatives who have settled in the village; whilst destroying such wonderful natural environment. They even went to the toilet, all over the beach and in the forest! Who knows what else they’re smuggling in their “fishing” boats; might be Islamist extremists form Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao there, guns, prostitutes or drugs! One last thing; what happen to all the oil profit from the newly-found oil& gas well in Kikeh, Sabah, which is supposed to be the biggest well in SEA? I complaint to YB Anwar, why the 90% tender was given to Murphy Oil, USA and not to Petronas?!

Noor Aza Othman,
Menunggu Umno/BN “jatuh jauh ditelan jurang Gunung Kinabalu, yang banyak hikayatnya!”

Pat said...

Hi Malik Imtiaz,

I agree with your take on the way things stand now, and the various senarios that may develop. If you are right, and Emergency rule is invoked, would we then not be back to square one? OMG perhaps even behind square one?!

I, too, disagree with demos. They send frissons through me. I feel the ones being planned now smack more of political motives than wishing to do anything concrete about making things right.

I like bobsam's idea of the candles in a window or garden. Imagine a dark moonless night, lit only with the light of thousands upon thousands of candles. Speaks volumes; surely louder than marching and screaming and being drenched with laced water and tear gas.

Please, let sanity prevail in the days and months to come.

Anonymous said...

Talking about Mahathir. Here's more on Mahathir and RapidKL issue (the post he answered about the involvement of his OWN son-in-law)

"Tun Mahathir first brought up the issue of Rapid KL in his posting on his blog of 10 June 2008 in which he did not disclose that his son-in-law was involved in MTrans. In response, I had a number of questions for him in relation to the role of his son-in-law and himself as Prime Minister at the material time.

I am also glad that he has finally admitted to his role in the awarding of a monopoly of the Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya monorail projects to MTrans when his son-in-law was involved with the said company. If the shoe was on the other foot i.e. if it had been a relative of Pak Lah at that time and if it was Pak Lah who had awarded the monopoly, the accusations and allegations would be endless.

Maybe in future, before Tun Mahathir and others of his kind want to accuse Pak Lah or his family of nepotism then it would be wise for him to appreciate the numerous reasons that make up the possibilities. He himself seems to be able to make up countless reasons to defend himself. Reasons he thinks should be good enough for everyone, but when Pak Lah gives reasons for the decisions he makes it is never good enough for Tun Mahathir and friends. WHY THE DOUBLE STANDARDS?

Ironic that he uses the term ‘my son-in-law so happens to be in the company”. Can you imagine Dr Mahathir keeping quiet and accepting an explanation like this from Pak Lah 

Remember the hoo-haa he created because Khairy Jamaluddin was an employee of ECM Libra. For him that was not on, but his (Mahathir’s) son-in-law being an employee in MTrans and a shareholder of Kuala Lumpur Infrastructure Group (KLIG) which had a direct interest in the monorail in which he awarded through direct nego to them was ok. This is what you call perverse logic.

In his latest postings he again is being selective in what he reveals and highlights, Why is Dr. Mahathir only focusing on the busses awarded by Rapid Penang when both Rapid Penang and Rapid KL are both operated by the same company? Why does he point out that SCOMI got 70 busses out of 150 busses? Why doesn’t he highlight the fact that RapidKL awarded 1200 busses in KL and 150 in Penang and Scomi got a total of 355 busses out of 1350 busses and even then 160 of these busses was awarded to Mtrans when his son-in-law was involved (way before SCOMI bought into the company)

Selective memory or selective persecution ?

As to halting the Putrajaya monorail network, he of all people should know that it was stopped by the current administration because the traffic required just did not make this a viable venture. It would not be prudent of the government to justify spending the amount of money required to sustain the monorail for Putrajaya.

Tun Mahathir should thank his lucky stars that during the time he was PM (especially the early days) he was spared the constant vigilance of bloggers. The mainstream media he could and did suppress. Otherwise the litany of allegations in many commercial ventures where he is said to have influenced decisions in favour of his family and friends would have been endless."

Anonymous said...

Very good post. We need more bloggers who have in their hearts the interests of the people, instead of any political gains. I also wish more people realise that just like the mainstream media, what we get on WWW cannot be taken at face value. The latest series of revelations by and against our former premiere is one such example. A very simple act of verifying allegations against facts will show that these issues that is most pertinent to everyday people (most recently the public transport issue - read : Rapid) are manipulated in a way to fan the emotions (and it is trite fact that it's really easy to make someone angry) and in the midst of such selective broadcasting - the people stand to lose the most.

"Whatever the case, Malaysians must see that they are now pawns in a political game being played by both sides of the divide." "Circumstances make the need for a calm response from the rakyat even more pressing."

I couldn't agree more.