Wednesday, February 20, 2008

An interesting read....before casting your vote

Of Bull, Broken promises, Blockheads, Buffoons, Bigots, and Bravehearts
by Martin Jalleh

It is the Year of the Rat. The Prime Minister (PM) has just let the cat out of the bag – the “General Elections (GE)” will be real soon, for there is a feeling amongst many that the country is going to the dogs.

The PM, who has never lost any sleep since he became the PM – has been trying to awaken the nation to an imminent GE. He had declared in June last year, in what could have been the most important statement of his political career: “I am no sleeping PM”!

Four years have passed swiftly by since Pak Lah became PM. He has made it very clear he is no “one-term” PM. Why, in between his many 40 photogenic winks he has even come up with Vision 2057! Who says the PM has failed to walk the talk -- when he has even managed Bolehland sleepwalking!

But the boys on the fourth floor of Putrajaya who have been spinning the broken record which critics have entitled “I started a joke” have a tough job ahead. Experts of make-believe and myths, they have to create a mega-mirage of a PM and a government with a proven track record this coming GE..

Often, and as was evident in 2007, their script and sandiwara have spun out of control by the silly statements of small-minded and self-serving sycophants surrounding the PM, causing Pak Lah and his government to stumble from one comic caper to another.

As the government’s delivery system fell apart, very symbolically and significantly so did structures give way in buildings such as parliament, the world’s second largest court complex in Jalan Duta and even Putrajaya.

Back to the PM’s “proven track record”, surely the year 2007 was a very “revealing” year and there was so much that the ordinary citizen of Bolehland could fall back on to help them decide who they should vote for this coming GE.

Excellent Economy
50 years ago, we were second in Asia in terms of economic development. Last year we were almost second last. We also had much lower FDIs than many other countries in ASEAN such as Thailand and Indonesia. But we were told our economy is doing well compared to many countries.

As one BN MP had so proudly declared in parliament last year, Bolehland had great cause to celebrate Merdeka, for we are “10 times more (economically) advanced than Ghana” which became independent in the same year as us!

Why bother with former European Commission Ambassador to Malaysia Thierry Rommel’s remark that the NEP amounted to protectionism against foreign companies? It is only “loglokal” that Umno still needs not only an unleveled-playing-field but also to move the goalposts from time to time.

2007 was another high point of Pak Lah’s premiership. We had to contend with high prices of food, fuel, gas, public transportation, tolls, etc. resulting in a high cost of living. We were told we were better off than four years ago. We
were merely paying the high price of believing some people in high places.

Even government backbenchers doubted the positive economic indicators by the government and expressed disappointment that the grassroots were not benefiting from domestic economic development. It is difficult to gauge what is going on in the grassroots when you are governing from the fourth floor!

Graft Galore
Pak Lah’s track record in his supposed “zero tolerance for corruption” drew a big zero in 2007. But there were several “firsts”. For the first time in the country serious allegations of corruption were made against the chief of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) and even the Inspector General of Police (IGP)!

Corruption allegations were also made against the Deputy Internal Security Minister, the Sabah and the Sarawak Chief Ministers and the Commercial Crime Investigation Department chief! It was revealed that 40% of the senior police officers could be arrested without further investigations – strictly on the basis of their lifestyles!

Another first was when the parties suspected of corruption investigated each other! The police investigated the (then) chief of the ACA; the ACA investigated the Internal Security Deputy Minister and the IGP….and the Attorney-General decided that all three were clean!

What the Mahathir administration took to “achieve” in 22 years – pervasive corruption and criminal breach of trust, mismanagement and wastage of public funds – Pak Lah’s regime did even better in his first four years, made evident especially in the 2006 Auditor General’s Report.

Dr M’s administration ended with Malaysia being ranked No. 37 on the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in 2003. Three years after Pak Lah took over, Malaysia’s TI CPI ranking plunged to No. 44 in 2006. It is likely to plunge further.

Crippling Crime
Pak Lah also achieved a record of sorts with regard to his pledge of a drastic reduction of the crime rate in the country. For the first time in Bolehland’s history, the crime index crossed the 200,000 mark. The rakyat in Bolehland did not feel good nor safe at all – whether inside or outside their homes!

The crime rate soared from 156,315 cases in 2003 to 224,298 cases in 2007 – a sharp rise of some 45% in the past four years of Pak Lah’s premiership. The number of serious crimes increased by 13.36% nationwide, with gang robbery without the use of firearms rising by more than 159% .

Shocked by the crime statistics of 2007, Pak Lah came up with a multi-pronged anti-crime strategy. What was really needed was the setting up of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC), a key proposal by the Royal Police Commission.

The PM had in fact in principle agreed to the setting up of the IPCMC on 24 January 2006, but by the end of 2007 his track record showed that his biggest “crime” was to shelve the IPCMC and replace it with a toothless Special Complaints Commission proposal.

Blocking Bloggers
2007 saw the elite in Umno going berserk over blogs. For so long they had monopolised “the truth". Unable to “buy over” the countless blogs on the Internet as they do with newspapers, they did what they were best at – “criminalise” or demonise what was a major threat to them.

It was quite a record – they intimidated bloggers with police reports (and yet could not pinpoint what they were complaining about!), law suits, arbitrary arrests, police interrogations and threats of the government’s use of the ISA,
the Sedition Act and a host of other laws.

On International Women's Day, Tourism Minister Tunku Adnan bin Tengku Mansor put on record how the government (also read as Umno) felt about bloggers: “All bloggers are liars, they cheat people using all kinds of methods. From my understanding, out of 10,000 unemployed bloggers, 8,000 are women.”
“All bloggers are not in favour of national unity. Our country has been successful because we are very tolerant with each other, if not, there will be civil war, the Malays will kill the Chinese, the Chinese will take revenge and kill the Malays, and the Indians will kill everyone,” Adnan proved how asinine he was.

But bloggers were not bothered. (Raja Petra was the least petrified.) They refused to be cowed by the blather on blogs by the bunch of official blockheads. They took to heart former PM Dr M’s description of them as being the "only hope" left to speak out on problems in the country.

Puerile Parliament
Pak Lah had quite a track record of being absent from parliament. In fact he was more overseas than in the august house. In a 44-month period as PM he made 83 overseas trips. Yet his deputy Najib Tun Razak would declare: “Parliament’s importance has not diminished even after 50 years of independence”.

Najib added that the role of the country’s legislature “should be given due respect not only from the elected representatives but also the people”. It was difficult to take Najib seriously especially when one takes into account:
§ the serious problem of high absenteeism in parliament amongst BN MPs

§the presence of six cows and 10 goats on parliament grounds waiting to be slaughtered for a dinner scheduled at the banquet hall to celebrate Pak Lah’s wedding

§ the severe and recurrent leaking problem of parliament's roof and the “bocor” comments by two BN MP buffoons – with Minister in the PM’s Department Mohd. Nazri Abdul Aziz, and even Najib defending their remarks

§ the comments of spineless, silly, sexist and of course ‘stupid’ MPs

§ the hype, hypocrisy and of course, hysterics and histrionics in Parliament led byMinisters like Nazri

§ the arrest of over 20 people within the parliamentary precincts when they wanted to hand over a memorandum.

Idiocy & the ISA
The government of Pak Lah created its own track record on the 20th anniversary of Operation Lallang which took place last year. Minister in the PM’s Department Bernard Dompok claimed there had been no detention under the ISA after Pak Lah took over as PM in 2003!

Foreign affairs ministry parliamentary secretary Ahmad Shabery Cheek had even the cheek to insist that “no one has demanded that the ISA be abolished”.

he PM himself declared that the ISA “is still relevant and useful” and that “matters pertaining to the rights of detainees will be given due consideration and assessment”. How can this be done when the basic tenet of the ISA is to detain a person without trial?

The Abolish ISA Movement (GMI) demolished Dompok’s claim by providing the statistics of arrests and renewal of detention orders under the ISA during Pak Lah’s premiership. They relieved Ahmad Shabery of his amnesia by forwarding him the long history calling for the abolishment of the ISA.

In a landmark decision the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that ex-ISA detainee Abdul Malek’s arrest was unlawful and that he was assaulted under police custody. He was awarded RM2.5 million in damages.

But it did not deter the government from ordering the arrest of five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) under the ISA on the false notion linking them to terrorists without a shred of evidence. Samy Vellu would later confirm that was no such evidence.

Muzzled Media

“I think this government under Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is a very, very liberal government,” Nazri tried very hard to convince himself as he spoke at a National Union of Journalists (NUJ) forum in September.
How and when was Pak Lah’s government “very, very liberal”? Was it when:

Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin (Zam) told the top editors of the media that there was “no need to tell the PM the truth”?

Chief secretary to the government Mohd Sidek Hassan instructed the media to avoid emphasising on news deemed negative against the government, such as the 2006 Auditor-General’s report?

· C
hairman of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission Halim Shafie ordered broadcasters against giving airtime for speeches by opposition political parties?

· t
he media were barred from covering the public hearing on crime held by the
Parliamentary Caucus on Human Rights and Good Governance in Petaling Jaya by Caucus chairman Nazri Abdul Aziz,?

all editors were rounded up to take specific instructions from the 4th Floor Boys in Putrajaya as to how to report the wedding of Pak Lah?

Zam told local newspapers not to quote from Internet blogs or use them as sources of information?

the Internal Security Ministry issued a directive to mainstream media not to publish any news on the issue of Malaysia being an Islamic State and only to publish statements from Pak Lah and his deputy?

Bernard Dompok’s disagreement with the PM and deputy PM that the country was an Islamic state was blacked out by the mainstream media?

editorial interference led to self-censorship which in turn had resulted in stories being slanted heavily towards the government such as the public rallies by Bersih and Hindraf?

The “liberalism” which Nazri spoke so proudly of resulted in Bolehland achieving the worst-ever ranking in the latest worldwide press freedom index released by Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – the sharpest plunge of 32 spots from 92 to 124 placing, which is also Malaysia’s worst ranking in the RSF annual worldwide press freedom ranking since it was started in 2002

Judicial Jesters
The defects which began to show on nine occasions in a three-month period after the opening of the second largest court complex in the world in Jalan Duta were very symbolic of the state of the judiciary in 2007.

Here too Pak Lah and his government achieved a record of sorts. The two main players were then Chief Justice (CJ) Ahmad Fairuz and Nazri
who is also the de facto Law Minister. Both were ready to do whatever it took and to utter the most naïve and nonsensical in order to maintain the status quo.

For the first time, the country did not have a Chief Judge for eight months, and the Nazri would insist that there “is no law that says the Chief Justice cannot act as the Chief Judge of Malaya”.

It was also the first time when a de facto Law Minister of Bolehland openly declared that he is the Minister for the Chief Justice! It showed how nascent Nazri was.

For the first time too the country heard a CJ confess the existence of judges who

(a) were often seen socializing with lawyers, prosecutors and corporate figures while hearing their cases in court;

(b) were “constantly angry and foul-tempered”, portraying themselves as being the most brilliant or perfect judge in court;

(c) accepted bribes.

No action was taken against all these judges!

The super fast-track appointment of Umno lawyer Zaki Azmi as the president of the Court of Appeal was also unprecedented. The government was passing a vote of no confidence on the judiciary and saying there was no one else in the judiciary worthy of the position!

Fairuz would go on to advocate the abolition of Common Law and favouring its replacement by an Islamic law system. He would challenge
Karpal Singh to reveal the name of a Federal Court judge who had not written judgments in as many as 35 cases. When the latter did, the then CJ kept an elegant silence.

With his track record, Fairuz was put on a fast-track to retirement. It was perhaps the most “correct, correct, correct” thing that Pak Lah and his government did. It would also give Fairuz a lot of time to recall his supposed infamous telephone conversation with V. K. Lingam.

People Power
2007 was a year when the ordinary citizens decided courageously to record their feelings on the streets of Bolehland. They believed in their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, in spite of the government’s poor track record of respecting these rights.

And so they told Pak Lah the truth –

on 8 Sept. when 750 people gathered near Batu Buruk, in Trengganu for a Bersih ceremah;

on 26 Sept. when 2,000 lawyers and others marched to the PM's Department in Putrajaya to hand over a memorandum asking for a Royal Commission to investigate the lingering Lingam tape scandal.

On 10 Nov. 40,000 converged at Istana Negara to express their concern over the conduct of elections in Malaysia;

on 25 Nov., about 40,000 ethnic Indians protested against the marginalisation of the Indian community;

on 9 Dec., a 100-odd crowd attempted to conduct a march commemorating Human Rights Day.

The tell-me-the-truth government could not handle the truth. Predictably each assembly was labeled “illegal” – is the Federal Constitution illegal? We were told it is not our culture to demonstrate – ask Umno, its in their history. It will damaged the country’s good name – peaceful assemblies are a common democratic feature overseas. There will be violence – only when the police “riot”.

In sharp contrast was former deputy PM Musa Hitam, who, when asked in an interview whether Malaysia is ready for peaceful assemblies, spontaneously declared: “Yes! Come on, we have been independent for 50 years”!

Pak Lah’s ministers stammered, stuttered and struggled to make some sense in front of the international media and to justify the government’s desperate responses such as charging the peaceful Hindraf assembly for “attempted murder”!

The mainstream media sank to a new low. At the 50th year of our nationhood we still have a servile press sucking up to their political superiors and giving stories a spin and a slant that suits, soothes and serves the government.

The police pranced, pounced on and provoked. They pushed and pulverized. They pummeled and reduced to a pulp. They pounded with chemical-laced water and pierced the air with tear gas.

But the people, especially in the Bersih and Hindraf assemblies showed they were no longer afraid. There were even moments when they stood their ground. The police lost all authority and respect Fully armed, they were helpless!

Rage on Race & Religion
For years Malaysia was very well known as Asia’s melting pot of races and religion. But Pak Lah’s track record showed a country gradually turning into a boiling pot – a land where opportunistic politicians used race and religion to stir the cauldron.

The PM, of whom well-known writer M. Bakri Musa calls “His Hollowness the Imam of Islam Hadhari” failed to put a leash on the increasing number of lower echelon zealots
or those whom columnist Helen Ang calls “Little Mullah Napoleons” running riot with their brand of religion.

Marina Mahathir’s Musings in May 2007 highlighted the existence of a “new association registered for the propagation of the shallow and superficial (SS)” and meant for those “who have nothing better to do with their lives than look for monsters under their beds, enemies in their blankets or crosses in their buns”.

“Just as we don't see the supreme irony of trumpeting our religious superiority while at the same time claiming that it only takes biscuits to destroy us, we don't see the irony of extolling ourselves as a superior race while at the same time insisting on crutches and handouts,” was Marina’s marvelous conclusion.

“2007 has proved to be one of the most divisive and troubled years in the half-a-century of Malaysia's nationhood – with religious polarization assuming its most serious dimension, compounding an already difficult problem of racial polarization in the nation-building process,” observed Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang.

In 2007, Pak Lah would create a record of sorts by contradicting himself time and again on matters concerning race and religion. For example, he would preach the virtues of inter-religious dialogue but would go on to ban the Building Bridges Conference, a seminar meant to bring together Christian and Muslim scholars of international repute.

The PM would insist on Malaysians being sensitive to each other but he would defend Hishammuddin’s brandishing of the keris at the Umno annual general assembly. He would also give his blessings to Umno holding its annual general assembly – on Deepavali!

He would emphasise that Malaysia is not a secular nor a theocratic state but would later decide to follow his deputy in declaring that Malaysia is an Islamic state – and made sure that the mainstream media carried his and Najib’s views only – what a dialogue!

In his Christmas message of 2007 he would call on Malaysians to move forward and put the country’s interest before any “narrowly-defined demands”. He would then be so “narrow-minded” as to ban the use of the word “Allah” by those of non-Muslim faiths, and its use in the Herald, a Catholic weekly!

Anwar Ibrahim provides a good comment on Pak Lah's track record in this regard: “The ruling BN coalition is appealing to Muslim sentiment to reinforce its support in elections which could come in March…Malaysia's problem is not radicalism…The real issue is what I would describe as state-sponsored Muslim puritanism more by racist sentiments than religious principles.”

Flip-flopping into the future?
The once looking good PM who had the people feeling good, increasingly failed to deliver the goods of transparency and accountability. Indeed in 2007, the supposed fairy tale of change by Pak Lah became what it really was – a full-bloom farce.

After four years, the PM
has no concrete results to show – just cheap claptrap. The only significant change of Pak Lah was when he made an amendment to the Federal Constitution to allow the then 65-year-old Election Commission Chief to serve until the age of 66 – do you smell a rat?

Will the citizens of Bolehland re-elect the “flip-flop” PM and continue to stomach the
farce, flaws and fraud flung at our faces by the 4th Floor Boys? Will Malaysians want to bring back the many soiled reputations, spent characters and self-seeking politicians of UMNO and the BN?

It is time to get real. Even the part-time model “space participant”, who came close to a moonwalk at the cost of RM90 million of our hard-earned money, had to come down to earth, and is probably busy back at the catwalk.

Indeed, ratting through the past four years it does not take very much for one to see that Pak Lah has ratted on his promises of 2004. Surely, enough is enough! A
Happy Rat Year!

Martin Jalleh
14 Feb. 2008

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