Saturday, December 15, 2012
The Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has stated that his vision of 1Malaysia is intended to counter the growing national divide between Malaysians on race, religion and other sensitive socio-cultural issues. He has also argued that the aim of the vision is to strengthen national unity on the basis of inclusiveness – “this policy means that we’ll try to be as inclusive as possible, in a sense that we should have a government that is able to reach out to all communities”. (Interview with CNN, Talkasia, 1 Nov 2010)
Monday, December 3, 2012
God, comedy and the Umno general assembly
COMMENT The Umno general assembly has often come across as reality comedy. Its ‘performers’ unwittingly amuse us with their unintentionally comic turns. This year, they didn’t disappoint.
Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, whose family is embroiled in the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal that forced her not to renew her senatorship, says that for the upcoming general election, she is a winnable candidate. God help her.
Indeed, God was invoked on several occasions throughout the general assembly, sometimes for the sake of seeking his help.
President Najib Abdul Razak urged Umno members to pray hard to God in order to win the general election. “Let us pray so that with His blessings, we will continue to be the country’s ruling party,” he said.
The subtext of that smacked of a loss in confidence.
In fact, Najib’s rhetoric in the past several months has been reflective of that. He has been practically begging his audiences to “give us another term”, an appeal no Umno leader has ever stooped to. They had always taken it for granted that they would rule long-term.
He has been persuading voters not to change the government, as if he were expecting them to. He has been bashing the opposition parties at every available opportunity, to influence voters not to vote for them.
At the general assembly, he even entertained the prospect of losing: “We can replace treasures or honour that are lost, but if we lose this fight, we will be left with nothing.”
He was of course exaggerating - because not winning Putrajaya doesn’t amount to losing everything - but he was nonetheless acknowledging the possibility of defeat.
No other Umno president before him has ever had to countenance that.
Apology too little too late?
Now Najib cannot bank on the confidence of the Umno of the past to carry him cockily to the general election; it has been too deeply mired in corruption and cronyism, and the rakyat have got wise to it.
He even apologised at the general assembly for all the wrongdoings of Umno and the other parties in the BN coalition. But, as they say, it may be a case of ‘too little, too late’. And it certainly is of no use if the corrupt practices are still continuing.
Why, for instance, he has not answered the allegations of businessman Deepak Jaikishan that for his help in facilitating a project deal, his family was paid by the latter, and that Deepak got involved in the case involving the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu because he wanted to help Najib’s family? Why did Najib leave it to Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to volunteer to reply to Deepak?
This exposé, the NFC scandal and the question surrounding the RM40 million 'political donation' received by Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman have caused untold damage to Umno. It may not fully recover from the blows.
Even so, there was much bravado flaunted at the general assembly. There was talk among Umno leaders of winning the general election with a two-thirds majority and recapturing all the four states now in Pakatan Rakyat’s hands. They might have prayed to God first before they offered these predictions.
Pahang Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob even told the media, “I tell you, DAP cannot win in Bentong. Cannot win! If DAP wins in Bentong, you cut off my ears and I’ll jump into the Pahang river.”
Such haughtiness! Well, just to see if he will keep his word, the electorate should vote BN out of Bentong. Earless Adnan might be a more humble person after that!
Hey, but the next day, probably feeling scared that his Bentong prediction might actually prove wrong, he did a flip-flop. That, however, made him even more laughable. He said he didn’t mean “cut off my ears” literally. He said he was using figurative language.
“Do you know figurative speech? In English language, we have figurative speech. We have simile, we have metaphor, hyberbole,” he said. “So when I say cut off my ears, that means they (DAP) can never win ... not that if we (BN) lose, they (the opposition) will take a knife and cut off my ears literally.”
And why did he use “figurative language”? His reply: “… to let people learn English”!
Ha ha ha! That got me rolling on the floor - because “cut off my ears” is not at all a figure of speech in the English language. And it definitely wouldn’t mean someone can’t win. Adnan doesn’t know that and he wants others to learn English? What a clown, the epitome of the know-nothing who behaves like a know-all. Or a case of someone who’s caught and simply tembak (shoots).
And since there’s no such figure of speech, dear voters, please continue sharpening your knives.
Divine intervention badly needed
Meanwhile, enjoy the most hilarious, most misplaced joke that came out of the assembly – courtesy of Umno Youth information chief Reezal Merican Naina Merican, who said Umno is the party chosen by God to liberate the chosen land of Malaysia.
Woweee! This is fresh, this is creative! This is … divine!
He even said God’s chosen people are the Malays living in Malaysia.
But hang on, doesn’t 'God’s chosen people' traditionally refer to the Israelites? And the chosen land to the nation of Israel? Jews, baby.
Did Reezal make a boo-boo in associating with the enemy? Was he even aware of it?
He said God is the true authority over all governments, the giver of power to those that he has chosen, so he must believe that Umno-BN will win the next general election. But what if it doesn’t? Will he stop believing in God?
What kooky thinking. Here’s something Adnan could learn from in terms of the English language - an example of a hyperbole.
Reezal was probably trying to outdo his Umno Youth boss, Khairy Jamaluddin, by waxing so hyperbolic. The day before, Khairy quoted from Winston Churchill’s famous speeches in his call to fight Pakatan Rakyat, but he obviously went overboard.
He was comparing the next general election to World War Two. But come on lah, brudder, they’re not the same lah.
While Churchill’s “we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets” and “we will continue hand in hand like comrades and brothers until every vestige of the Nazi regime has been beaten into the ground” are inspiring, Khairy’s “we will debate them in Parliament, we will smash their arguments in coffeeshops, we will expose their lies in cyberspace … we will lay this wretched Pakatan coalition into the ground!” sounds terribly frivolous. Schoolboyish even.
Level of intellect worrying
The scary thing about all this comedy is that among the people spewing this rubbish are holders of high public office, and that some of the Umno Youth upstarts may one day become ministers.
Even outside of the general assembly, you get the Malacca Chief Minister Ali Rustam, accusing Singapore of interfering in Malaysian politics simply because the briefing by French lawyers on the Scorpene investigations in France was recently held there.
Worse, last week Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Latiff Ahmad disparaged the name of French lawyer William Bourdon by changing the surname to 'Bodoh' (stupid). The jury may have no difficulty in deciding who was being ‘bodoh’ in this case, but it showed the level of class and intellectuality among our so-called leaders.
It is the level of intellectuality that comes from decades of playing to the gallery, of pandering to the masses who have been deliberately manipulated to remain politically immature and intellectually challenged through being provided substandard education. And so to reach out to these masses, our so-called leaders appeal to the lowest common denominator.
They are the avatars of “the devil we know” - the phrase Mahathir Mohamad recently coined to describe Umno-BN - and they often exhibit the worst characteristics of politicians. The crucial question is: do we want these types to continue leading the country? Do we want them to be the chosen ones, i.e. chosen by us? At the coming general election, do we vote them in - again?
All I can say is, God help us if we do.
KEE THUAN CHYE is the author of the new book ‘No More Bullshit, Please, We're All Malaysians'.
Umno's war drums herald bleak future
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength."
- George Orwell (1984)
COMMENT For someone who is gung-ho in parroting Winston Churchill, Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar has a strange way of emulating the complicated former British prime minister. For someone mimicking the "never retreat, never surrender line" his preference of defending his Youth post but sitting out of the next general election is rather perplexing.
Surely, in this great time of Umno's needs, when Umno is facing ‘Bitter moments between two possibilities, between two futures, between light and darkness. This warrior did not falter, did not fear, and so he vowed: his country will fight at sea, in the air, on the beaches and even on the streets itself. Even starved and subjugated, his country would never surrender!' Khairy thinks of himself as one of the few good Umno men whose fate will be decided at the ballot box.
Indeed, when we have a Wanita Umno representative sounding the alarms bells of hidden hands spreading the gay disease and highlighting the Sunni/Shiite schism, it would seem that minorities would always be the convenient targets of Umno in lieu of any substantive policy debates.
Churchill claimed the difference between war and politics is that in the latter, one could be killed many times, and Umno is testament to this truism. I see so many faces of the corrupt and the immoral, banished for a time for misdeeds forgotten by the Umno supreme council, making speeches of war, on a certain section of the electorate who no longer will toe the Umno line.
I have always been cautious of making Nazi analogies with Umno, having had the misfortune of actually meeting those who profess allegiance to those people and ideas that had disposed of the Weimar Republic. However, this Umno general assembly reeked of the ideology that sustained the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or the National Socialist German Workers' Party.
With Umno Youth information chief Reezal Merican Naina Merican (right) proclaiming that Umnoputras are the chosen people and God's choice will always be Umno to rule and liberate this land, what we as non-Malays/Muslims are left with is the cold comfort that as 'pendatang', Umno and the God they worship will never consider us as Malaysians. Will it be a stretch to replace Aryan supremacy with Malay supremacy?
To Umno, we non-Malays are Jewish stand-ins. This is why there were the constant references at the Umno general assembly to May 13 and the delusion that the Malays would be reduced to the state of refugees in their own land.
The non-Malays are reduced to a Jewish stereotype in the hope that this will bolster Malay/Muslim nationalism. To Umno, we are here to take what rightfully belongs to the Malays and what rightfully belongs to the Malays belongs to Umno.
If you have the stomach for it, read up on the speeches of Nazi officials (Hitler was not the only one) or maybe just the writings of Umno sympathiser Ridhuan Tee Abdullah. Doing so will offer clarity on how the 'other' is demonised as part of the Umno state's propaganda efforts and the philosophy that supports the systemic marginalisation of a certain section of the Malaysian polity. I wonder if the Langley spooks, who Umno claims are Anwar Ibrahim's handlers, briefed Obama on this when he met Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
The long Umno watch has been an era of 'Gleichschaltung'. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is Nazi terminology meaning 'coordination' or "the restructuring of German society and government into streamlined, centralised hierarchies of power, with the intention of gaining total control and coordination of all aspects of society".
Poisoning minds of Malay graduates
What have we been witness to over the years? To name a few: the Biro Tata Negara courses that have poisoned the minds of Malay graduates and civil servants, to bolster the Umno narrative that the Malays community is under siege; and ‘Operasi Isi Penuh", which saw the civil service decimated and one ethnic group monopolising the instruments of government.
The natural consequence of these was that anyone questioning the credibility or efficiency of these institutions would be construed as attacking the 'Malay' institutions.
Our identity cards feel more like 'Ariernachweis' - the certificate that identified one as belonging to the Aryan race - and as Malaysians, we are divided according to race and religion.
'Operasi Lalang', which aimed to cripple dissent from opposition forces. Add to this the subversion of the mainstream media - does anyone remember the time when Utusan Malaysia was considered a 'leftist' news rag? And the restrictions on freedom of speech, under the guise of protecting "racial sensitivities".
State (read Umno) propaganda organs are allowed to inflame racial and religious sentiment but those who attempt a rational dialogue or defend themselves against such attacks are deemed as traitors or engaging in sedition.
The ISA and the practitioners of the dark arts (Special Branch) are reminiscent of the Gestapo and over the years, many were carted away in the dead of the night in the Black Maria.
The historical distortions in our history books, which are then fed to the younger generation in the hope that they would believe that Umno was truly the party chosen by God, and the absence of non-Malay/Muslim cultures that further estrange the Malay community from the rest of Malaysian society.
The formation of para-security groups such as Rela (People's Volunteers Corps), which Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak once described as Umno's "last line of defence".
Of late, with the rise of Anwar Ibrahim as a credible threat to the Umno hegemony, the hate mongers of Umno have been on overdrive, linking CIA and Jewish conspiracies to the ascension of opposition political parties and special interest groups sympathetic to the aims of these parties. Outsourced thugs in the guise of right wing groups harass anybody questioning their (Umno's) misinterpretation of the constitution.
Umno, which has always been at war with itself, attempts to put on a unified front. However, a 'Night of the Long Knives' threatens to redefine the power structures within Umno. The race and religious cards are the only cards Umno can play.
Let us be honest. With all this talk of Malay sovereignty being at stake, the real target of Umno is always the Chinese community. Umno blames the resurgence of PAS under the multicultural cloak as a devise of the Chinese. It accuses Anwar of being a Chinese proxy in his attempt to divide the Malay community. The DAP is vilified as communist agitators, Singaporean lackeys or Christian zealots threatening the ummah, through (that is right, their proxy) Anwar Ibrahim.
The other non-Malays who pose no significant threat and are merely collateral damage in the coming general election. I suppose what distresses Umno is that the Chinese (or a sizeable majority of them) have paid attention to Winston Churchill's dictum that "an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last" and have decided not to appease the Umno crocodile any more.
What of the MCA, MIC and all those other satellite political parties circling around the Umno sun? Well, as appeasers to the Umno machine, they are the Neville Chamberlains of this tragic tale and May 13 was their Munich Agreement.
I realise many people may be offended by this analogy (certainly many of my Jewish friends would find this piece distasteful, since Umno has done nothing in the league of the Shoah) but if the honourable gentleman from Rembau wants to indulge in a Churchill analogy, I see no reason why I cannot explore the same.
The irony is that Khairy's 'Between Two Visions' manifesto is something worth exploring. An interesting discussion could have been had concerning the visions of Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan National. Instead, what Khairy and his ilk have chosen to do is play the same old cards in the hope that their own record of (mis)rule is forgotten in the ensuring outrage.
I will end this piece with another Churchill quote one that I believe Lee Kuan Yew (he will always be Harry to me) would appreciate: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
I suppose Harry could be forgiven for this because unlike Umno, Harry could mount a credible defence of his party's record of administering the state, even if many are ignorant or choose to ignore, the PAP malfeasances. Umno, unfortunately, cannot do the same.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.