Monday, September 22, 2008

BN, the country's biggest stumbling block

BN, the country's biggest stumbling block
Richard Kamalanathan | Sep 22, 08 4:41pm
The last few weeks have provided a troubled insight into the turmoil-ridden government of Malaysia.

1. The uncalled for detention of Tan Choon Hong, Teresa Kok and Raja Petra Kamaruddin under the International Security Act was simply unfounded. These arrests were unwarranted and have only proved that the present government is shrouded with fear and uncertainties. It has tried its best to bring about an aura of fear and perspiration amidst the general population.

2. The resignation of Zaid Ibrahim as de facto Law Minister, condemning the imposition of the Internal Security Act against the three persons simply proves that the government in Putrajaya is not cohesive and Abdullah Badawi is isolated and there is an executive quandary and quagmire shrouded with benign conflicts ravaging among the members of the cabinet.

3. The refusal to accept an invitation by Anwar Ibrahim, the parliamentary opposition leader to debate a motion of no-confidence on the credibility of the government simply proves that Abdullah is fearful of losing his position as prime minister and also losing control of the government to Pakatan Rakyat. As leader of the Barisan Nasional, he has shown disrespect for the process of democracy.

4. The swapping of cabinet roles between the prime minster and the deputy prime minister simply shows that Abdullah is an escapist and a very incapable leader who can’t stay and pursue the finance portfolio during troubled financial times. He has chosen this time to make his deputy the victim of circumstances and run away from his premiership responsibilities.

The sending and recalling of the 50 BN MPs to Taiwan without recourse and respect for the taxpayers’ money shows how decadent the executive powers in Putrajaya are today. Let us say a minimum of RM50,000 was spent on each member. Hence, a total of RM2,500,000 has been unnecessarily spent.

Therefore, a few important conclusions can be made from the above.

The first is an issue of national security. Were Tan Choon Hong, Teresa Kok and Raja Petra Kamaruddin threats to the nation? Tan is a journalist who reported the irresponsible statements made by Ahmad Ismail. Anyone having some sense would think that this is stupid. Zaid Ibrahim immediately resigned because he did not want to be associated with such absurdity.

Teresa Kok has, all this while worked very hard with rural Malays. Lots of rural Malays are now looking forward to accepting DAP has an alternative party to Umno which can represent them along with PKR and PAS. And for this she gets hit with the ISA. Instead of asking Umno leaders to work for the people, Abdullah has set his mind to destroy anyone who works for the rural Malays.

There appears no one in the executive today who has the courage and intellect to challenge RPK openly and hence the best option is to detain him under the ISA. The executive is a herd of cowards. Their horns are held merely by the Police. What a shame to freedom of speech.

The second issue is stagnant ministers who don’t contribute anything to the country. What kind of ideas and changes can one accept from people who are more interested in politicking than improving the country’s economy and well being?

The third issue is not an issue of personalities; it is an issue of respect for democracy. Anwar is not a liar but the same cannot be said of the prime minister. Anwar has formally, as parliamentary opposition leader, asked for an emergency session.

He has the right to do so under the Standing Orders of Parliament. It is an inherent right of every Malaysian. Every citizen of the country has the right to tell the Speaker to convene the Parliament if he or she has an urgent issue that warrants parliamentary debate.

The prime minister should have had referred the matter to the Speaker of the Parliament. This must be decided by the legislature and not the executive. The executive should succumb to the will of the parliamentary process and not poke fun of it.

Abdullah has no respect for our parliamentary procedures. He is not brave enough to confront the no-confidence motion. Moreover he is calling the opposition leader a threat to national security. This statement is serious and hence it too warrants a parliamentary debate to find out if the prime minister has contravened the Standing Orders in relation to the rights of the opposition leader of Parliament.

The fourth issue of swapping portfolios is a non-issue to most of us. Whoever of the two holds whichever post is not going to bring great wealth and admiration for this nation in the financial and banking sectors. The poor will remain poor, struggling to make ends meet amidst high prices of goods and services.

It is laughable that the prime minister thinks the swapping of portfolios can make a change. Our ailing economy needs a complete overhaul, not just a change of personalities. As with most things in this government, why address the core issue when you can pull wool over the rakyat’s eyes?

Any right-minded person can see that the above issues are more than adequate reasons to seek the immediate resignation of Abdullah’s government notwithstanding the probable no-confidence motion on his government.

The nation must move forward and it appears that the BN is its greatest stumbling block.


MY New Dawn said...

Pak Lah's last stand
Teh Tarik | Sep 22, 08 5:08pm
Dear Pak Lah,

The end is near. But how will you play your finale? Why not do some good things before you are pushed out? Why not leave something that people will remember you for?

This is now a question of your legacy. How do you want to be remembered in history? How about as the man who – in a heroic last stand before he quit - finally displayed some bold leadership?

The Umno knives have been unsheathed. Caesar died the death of a thousand cuts on the floor of the Roman Senate. You faced several verbal stab wounds at the recent Supreme Council meeting. And you will face 1,000 keris vote-stabs on the floor of PWTC.

Yet strangely, death can give fresh energy. When a doctor tells a cancer patient he has only six months left to live, he can suddenly gain deep insights. For instance, workaholics may suddenly realise that life is not about how many luxury cars they can accumulate but how important family and friendships are.

If you manage to cling on, say until Dec, your last few months in power will present you with a golden window of opportunity to do the right thing. Because, having nothing to lose anymore, you will gain a strange freedom to become a statesman and forget about narrow Umno political calculations.

You were our great hope for change in 2004 and you messed it all up – big time. But never mind, better late than never. Here are some suggestions on how you can steal the thunder from Anwar Ibrahim.

1. Push through the IPCMC to improve the police force. Replace the current IGP with someone who will start combating crime and internal police corruption seriously.

2. Establish the Judicial Commission to ensure only competent judges are promoted. Clean up the illegal immigrants from Sabah and elsewhere.

3. Nationalise the highway concession holders so that tolls can be cut. And announce that all toll profits will go towards improving public transport.

4. Reduce the petrol price to RM2, to inject more confidence into the economy in these turbulent times.

5. Set free all ISA detainees and have a national reconciliation dialogue.

6. Announce that all government projects will be given out by transparent open tenders.

7. Set up an independent National Ombudsman to get tough on corruption starting from
Oct 1.

Of course, some of these steps will invite all kinds of objections, especially from your colleagues. But be brave. Your Umno ‘friends’ are already showing you what their ‘loyalty’ means.
As the Chinese saying goes, before you are killed (by your enemies), grab a fistful of sand (and throw it into their eyes).

Yes, you can be forced out, but at least you can limit the economic plundering before you leave, by the reforms above. You are still the prime minister. Surely you still have some power left. You are still holding aces in your hand, especially the corruption files on the political warlords.

You’ve tried the same old tired Umno formula of provoking the Malays against the Chinese. But this time, it's not working as well as in 1969. Or 1988. The world has changed, the people have wisened up to political manipulation.

So why not do something different? Admit that you made some mistakes. If you are sincere, we will forgive you. Malaysians can be quite a forgiving, soft-hearted lot.

With these bold reforms, your party will hate you but most Malaysians will love you. These reforms are about building good institutions and even after you quit, your successor cannot easily backtrack on them.

In other words, it would be your greatest farewell present to us. And we will forever remember you fondly for your legacy even though Umno pulls you down.

They say you’re a ‘nice guy’ caught in the wrong job. So why not win back some respect from Malaysians before you resign? Who knows, after you do all that, the voters may love you so much that Umno will not dare to force you to resign after all and Anwar will have the wind taken out of his sails.

In other words, as you save Malaysia, you may well end up saving yourself too. If not, then perhaps the next best bet is to be remembered as a fair, decent guy who at least allowed someone else – Anwar – to take over the country peacefully and to deliver the reforms that you could not push through yourself.

Either way, please let all Malaysians remember you as the man who did the right thing in the end.

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MY New Dawn said...

Seize the moment
Bernie Chow | Sep 22, 08 5:10pm
Given the precarious and fragile situation that our beloved country is now in, the gravity of all that has been happening since Mar 8, the almost untenable current leadership and with a history behind us of manipulative, unscrupulous and devious politicians using race/religion cards, I would certainly support any attempts and opportunities for a new government to take over.

It is without a doubt that our general elections have always been held on an uneven playing field - gerrymandering, suspicious electoral rolls and postal votes, main stream media control, money politics, etc, which means that results could have been fraudulent and not reflective of the desire of the majority.

We have tasted all forms of gross inefficiency and lackluster public delivery services, unabated corruption, racist policies with scant regard for meritocracy and transparency, showing neither genuine concern nor sincere respect for the poor and the marginalised.

Race and religion have been politicised to the hilt and this has affected every sphere and strata of our lives from civil/public service to education, health and transport systems. Tainted and myopic ways of operation, laced with corruption, racist and self-serving ways is the order of the day.

Year after year, the Auditor-General’s reports reveal nothing but sham, unchecked abuse and misuse of power, blatant corruption and yet nothing happens and the reports are relegated to a corner with no one taking responsibility.

Further more, we know that the three arms of legislature are in tatters - all in need of cleansing, rejuvenation and almost total transformation before they can be effective and credible. We can only see what has been shown, but what about those cases that are kept secret under the pretext of the Official Secrets Act ?

The country is heading towards a national crisis, both economically and politically. The onus is on us as Malaysian citizens to put an end to all this for the sake of our future generations. 51 years is enough. The decay has to stop.

Our country is truly in an unique, never-experienced-before situation and that itself calls for a unique and conscientious response, perhaps even having to adopt a paradigm shift. For the first time in our political history, there is some semblance of an option, an alternative government in-waiting, waiting to be given a chance to be tried and tested.

It is incumbent on all of us as responsible citizens to give them this chance to begin the long and arduous task to transform, reform and ‘un-corrupt’ all systems.

It is time we stand up to be counted and not hedge and hide under all sorts of ‘moral’ and ‘righteous’ reasons. We are living in unprecedented times and we deserve the government that we get or want to have.

The country cannot run on auto pilot any longer. The serious business of governance and righting the wrongs have to begin. So seize the moment and support change!

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MY New Dawn said...

It's all in Abdullah's hands
John R Mallot | Sep 22, 08 5:13pm
I refer to the Malaysiakini report Pak Lah-Anwar impasse headed for a climax.

Today, Malaysia is at the most important turning point in its history. Ironically, the man who has the opportunity to decide which way Malaysia will go is the man who has been considered an ineffective if not a failed leader – Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Ramon Navaratnam said it best when he said if Abdullah lets the democratic process take place and does not stifle the country with arrests and emergency rule, it will be his finest hour, and he will go down in history as the man who liberalised the democratic system in Malaysia. But if he reneges on his word to not invoke the ISA, then he would only be digging his own grave.

Although the attention of the world has turned to the financial crisis in the United States, interest in Malaysia has never been higher. The world is watching. Malaysia can redeem itself in the eyes of the world – or it can become an international pariah – all within the space of the next few weeks.

The Malaysian people should not underestimate the influence and impact that Anwar Ibrahim has overseas. The 18 months that he spent abroad after his release from prison allowed him not only to reestablish his old connections but also to develop new ones.

He spoke widely throughout the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and developed a new cadre of admirers. He is, without question, the most well-known and respected Malaysian in the world. So when he again faces more sham charges of sodomy and is carried away by a SWAT team, or when he then pulls off one of the most stunning political comebacks ever, the world pays attention.

But it is not up to the world to decide who should govern Malaysia, it is up to the Malaysian people.

What the international community does expect is that the contest should be fair. For too long the Malaysian government and Umno have relied not on the forces of democracy and persuasion but on the powers of intimidation - the ISA, the sedition laws, the denial of business contracts, spying by the Special Branch, financial ‘largesse’ and propaganda and even outright falsehoods disseminated by government and party controlled media. They too often have ruled by fear.

Ten years ago few people dared to speak up. But this time, the people are not afraid. They know what is going on in their country, and now they want the right to decide their own future.

After Anwar was sacked from the government ten years ago, the question was who would replace him. Dr Mahathir had announced that he would be stepping down in the near future, so the new DPM was likely to become prime minister. I was having lunch with a newly-arrived high commissioner from a Commonwealth country.

We were speculating who might replace Anwar when I said, “No matter who it is, he will have a hard time. It is always hard to follow a strong, tough leader. Look at Morarji Desai after Indira Gandhi in India, or John Major after Margaret Thatcher, or Goh Chok Tong after Lee Kuan Yew.”

Since he was newly arrived, I gave him my impressions of Abdullah and Najib as potential successors, as I had dealt with both of them. I said that they were not as authoritarian as Dr Mahathir and they were more ‘hands off’ in their leadership style. Neither of them were men of vision. So we were likely to see a kinder, gentler, but weaker leadership.

My colleague told me that he had spent a lot of time in Africa, so don’t count on it. Weak leaders are even more likely to rely on the secret police and internal security laws to stay in power, simply because they are weak.

So here we are, 10 years later. Was I right, or was he?

When you look at Abdullah’s record over the past five years, the verdict of history already seems clear. Race relations are worse than at any point since 1969. The economy is suffering. Corruption and scandals are rampant and even touch the highest offices in the land. The opposition has achieved its greatest electoral victory in history. The BN coalition is breaking apart, and Umno’s unity is shattered.

By any measure, history seems ready to record that Abdullah was a failed leader.

But the prime minister still has a chance to turn this around. Ramon has framed Abdullah’s choice well. Dig your own grave, or turn this into your finest hour. The choice is Abdullah’s, but the verdict will belong to the Malaysian people – and to history.

The writer is former US ambassador to Malaysia.

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