Monday, February 09, 2009

[Malaysiakini] We are all Perakians now!

Article taken from Malaysiakini.

~~ by Josh Hong

In Malaysia, they first came for the Kelantanese,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Kelantanese.

Then they came for the Sabahans,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Sabahan.

Then they came for the Islamists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Muslim.

Then they came for the Hindus,
and I didn't speak up because I was not a Hindu.

Then they came for the Perakians,
And I didn’t speak up because I was not an anak Perak.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
(adapted from Pastor Martin Niemöller’s anti-Nazi statement)

I know it is a cliché, but in this anguished moment, when words fail to express the anger and the sorrow that so many people feel over the dramatic turn of events in Perak, the first thing that comes to my mind is: We are all Perakians now!

We have come a long way since the political tsunami last March, and the wheel of history must not be allowed to move backward. The effects of the political baptism that had imparted hope and aspirations to the people cannot be annihilated in such a despicable manner, certainly not by a political party that, despite the heavy electoral losses, refuses to root out corruption in its own midst but is bent on shortchanging the people, treating the popular will even worse than dust.

A bogus state government

At the rally outside the menteri besar’s residence in Ipoh last night, I was heartened by the multiracial crowd and the carnival-like atmosphere. It seemed that while the people were outraged, they were prepared to fight it out.

“Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin has been an exemplary Muslim menteri besar. I can live with a government made up of Malay leaders from PAS, but not Umno.” One Chinese man that I was chatting with could barely conceal his anger.

How can a state government hastily formed by nearly all Umno assemblypersons call itself “a unity government”? It is a bogus state government at best.

I am certain this political plot that was so cunningly scripted and brilliantly executed by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak will not stop at Perak. Rather, it is a harbinger of more insidious plans to come.

Remember, this is a politician who had always believed the prime ministership was his to assume – sorts of following in his father’s footsteps – until the shocking death of Mongolian model Altantuya came to light. Since then, Najib has repeatedly failed to shake off his tainted image.

If the humiliation at the 12th General Election last year was the last nail in Abdullah’s political coffin, the ignominious defeats at Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu were ominous signs for Najib and Umno as a whole. It was hoped that with Najib in charge, the Malay party could at least salvage some credibility and re-establish itself as a natural ruling party. It was not to be, and the rank and file was becoming restless and fidgety by the day.

Najib knows full well to ascend to the highest political office, he must first secure the confidence of Umno grassroots; any regard for the Barisan Nasional component parties is only secondary or may not even be necessary.

What Najib is remembered for

Umno is a party that is bereft of political ideologies. Its survival is premised on monopolizing and looting national wealth. Having lost four federal states to Pakatan Rakyat last year and failed to wrest Kelantan from PAS, the Umno leadership has seen its fortune dwindle and the resources shrink as never before. In engineering the political coup in Perak and beating Anwar Ibrahim at his own brinkmanship, Najib has, so far, successfully assured Umno that he is not hesitant to do the extraordinary so that the interests of the party will be safeguarded.

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s inertia over the last few years may have turned the prime minister into an “accidental democrat”, but Umno was made to bear the consequences. The party’s membership is now comprised of numerous contractors and developers ravenous for more mega projects and business deals, rather than teachers and civil servants who earnestly and honestly worked for the common folks as was the case in the 1940s through 1970s. Najib was acutely aware something must be done – by hook or by crook – to strengthen Umno’s grip on power and to keep the Umno-putras satisfied.

What is Najib known for? Not any political ideals but Altantuya and series of disappearances and reappearances involving private investigator P Balakrishnan and state assemblypersons Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi, Osman Jailu, Hee Yit Fong and Nasaruddin Hashim. But the deputy prime minister fears no backlash for his top priority is to regain control over the country, beginning with Perak. After persistent urges by others, Najib has finally resolved to act Machiavellian – much like Dr Mahathir Mohamad when his rule was under threat – and deal with the consequences thereafter. We can expect more arbitrary use of the Internal Security Act and other evil laws to coerce the populace as Mahathir once did.

Confronted with this formidable man, the (former?) PR government only has itself to blame for not acting fast enough when the rumours of defections were making their round. In making their respective political calculations, the Pakatan parties lost the precious opportunity as Najib activated his communications channel to Istana Kinta. With the benefit of hindsight, the abrupt reminder by Raja Muda Nazrin Shah that state rulers must be neutral and non-partisan early this week was not something coincidental.

Ruler's role is merely formal

I have never looked benignly at the Raja Muda’s seemingly liberal thoughts in the past. And the latest developments in Perak only confirm my long-held suspicion that the royal household has been cautiously rebuilding its political influence after decades of silencing by Mahathir.

Granted, what happened in Perlis and Terengganu last year shows that state rulers were entitled to appoint someone as menteri besar who can command the confidence of the assembly. However, in these two states, the quagmires were caused by Umno’s infighting while the BN’s mandate to rule was not in dispute. In the case of Perak, Pakatan maintained its legitimacy to administer the state until the defections took place. The best way to resolve the stalemate should have been to sue for dissolution and fresh elections.

In Constitutional Monarchy, Rule of Law and Good Governance: Selected Essays and Speeches, Sultan Azlan Shah wrote the following:

Unnder normal circumstances, it is taken for granted that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong would not withhold his consent to a request for the dissolution of Parliament. His role is purely formal.

Hence, the Perak ruler’s decision to go against his own wise words is most regrettable. An inauspicious precedent has now been set and it clearly does not bode well for the nation as a whole and there must be a way to address the constitutional obscurity.

The fall of the democratically elected government in Perak will have manifold effects. It has enraged the public, and demoralized the fledgling Pakatan governments in other states. And it will also most likely embolden Najib and his cohorts to go for the jugular. United we stand, divided we fall. Anyone who is not willing to empathize with the people of Perak now will reap the bitter fruit in the future.

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