Monday, January 29, 2007

New face, same body : Abdullah Badawi is PM, and Mahathir is no more BUT ...

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New face, same body
Abdullah Badawi is PM, and Mahathir is no more BUT �

by Charles Hector
Aliran Monthly 2003:11

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Abdullah never once did oppose what was done
Abdullah Badawi is now the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the head of the Barisan Nasional and the leader of UMNO, and Mahathir has stepped down after 22 years in these positions. BUT we must not forget that we are still under the Barisan Nasional government. This is something that many of us are forgetting.

Many Malaysians are celebrating as though there has been a change in the ruling party � as though Abdullah is from some other party, who has just come into power. Memorandums containing expectations of change are being sent. Forums and public discussions are being held. Many are hoping for great changes in the policies and practice of the Barisan Nasional government.

We are kidding ourselves because the same persons and political parties are still in power, and the Barisan nasional still controls more than a two thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat � thus having the capacity to amend our Federal Constitution as and when it chooses.

Mahathir Was Just One Man

Mahathir cannot and should not be held solely responsible for all the actions and omissions of the Barisan Nasional government. Mahathir cannot be held solely accountable for all those detentions without trials and for all those repressive laws that curtail freedoms and deprives the fullest expression of our rights.

He was just one man, and Abdullah was in the Cabinet as the Deputy Prime Minister together with many others. To say that because Mahathir was at the helm, all the others were shackled, their tongues were tied and they were deprived of the ability to dissent is a joke. Abdullah was also then the second man in the UMNO.

start_quote (1K) The Barisan Nasional still rules. There is no real reason to celebrate the departure of Mahathir, who, by the way, was not ousted but left on his own accord, handing over the premiership to his deputy, Abdullah.end_quote (1K)
The responsibility for all the actions and omissions under the premiership of Mahathir should and must be borne by all the members of the Cabinet, all the members of UMNO, all the members of the Barisan Nasional component parties and, of course, all you Malaysians out there who continued to vote in the Barisan Nasional into power over the years.

It is wrong and a gross injustice to solely blame our good doctor Mahathir for all the failings and wrongdoings of the Barisan Nasional government.

Some say that �Mahathir was a dictator�; so, all those in the Executive, the Cabinet, the UMNO Supreme Council and the Barisan Nasional component parties had no choice but to be silent and to follow whatever he said and endorse whatever he did or failed to do � even though they personally did not agree with it. This is ludicrous and totally unacceptable.

We do not live in a feudal state, whereby all subjects have no choice but to follow what the King says. We are a democracy � and I believe that when decisions are made in the Cabinet, the Supreme Council of UMNO and the Barisan Nasional, each and every member has the right to dissent and ultimately, the right to vote on any matter of concern. The PM, I believe, did not have the power to veto decisions of the majority.

Culpable And Guilty

Therefore whatever was done or not done is the collective responsibility of Cabinet members, UMNO Supreme Council members and Barisan Nasional supreme body/council members, amongst others. For all good deeds of the Barisan Nasional government, a pat on the back should be given and for all bad deeds all these persons in positions of leadership should be blamed.

Remember the Nuremberg trials, which found the persons in government and other positions of authority, under the leadership of Hitler guilty of crimes against humanity? Hitler was the leader, but that did not absolve others in position of leadership and decision-making from culpability for the crimes against humanity committed during World War II � it did not matter much whether they were following orders or not.

Likewise in the Malaysian context, each and every person, the first being Badawi himself, is guilty for all the fumbles, wrongdoings, failings, inadequacies, injustices and violations against human rights perpetrated during the time that Mahathir was the prime minister. And as far as the �public� record is concerned, I believe that Abdullah never once did oppose what was done during the period when Mahathir was prime minister.

Gerakan, a major component party of the Barisan Nasional, did at one time - if memory does not fail me - adopt a position that the Internal Security Act (ISA) was unjust and that the ISA should be repealed even though that position was contrary to the position of the Barisan Nasional government. Now, today, I am not sure what their position is with regard to the ISA and other preventive detention laws.

Rais Yatim, when he was out of the the Cabinet and working as a practising lawyer, took the position that the ISA should be repealed. But when he later joined the cabinet, he changed his position with regard to the ISA. Why did he change his mind? If he had changed his personal position after serious re-thinking and reflection, then it is all right. But if the change in position was merely because he was now part of the cabinet, then it is wrong. Later on, when he is no more in the Cabinet or in the government, will he again have a change of mind with regard to the ISA? Do not be like the �lallang� bending according to where the wind blows; stick to your principles and positions.

No Reason To Celebrate

Our �leaders�, ministers and members of Parliament, amongst others, from the Barisan Nasional must realize that we are all human beings � each with a brain, a mind, a conscience and a tongue, and it is all right to have a different viewpoint about matters and issues. If one is part of the Cabinet, and ther Cabinet has made a decision about a particular matter, then that decision must be upheld and followed. But at the same time, one can also still have a personal position about matters.

The stand taken by Gerakan once with regard to the ISA - it is not certain if they still hold that view - is praiseworthy. In a democracy, the majority decision is carried out and implemented. But the minority dissenting view is never silenced. The minority have the right to continue lobbying for their views to be adopted if they believe them to be right. Who knows, one day, it may be this �minority view� that prevails,

It is sad that in Malaysia we do not often enough read about MPs from the Barisan National or the different component parties of the Barisan Nasional taking a view different from that of the government and/or even the Prime Minister.

The Barisan Nasional still rules. There is no real reason to celebrate the departure of Mahathir, who, by the way, was not ousted but left on his own accord, handing over the premiership to his deputy, Abdullah. If a new political party or a coalition of parties comes into power, then maybe there is a reason to send memorandums and recommendations to the new government and to the new Prime Minister � but not in this case.

(Originally written 11/12/2003)

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