"Politics, noun. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage." - Ambrose Bierce (The Devil's Dictionary)
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin called for patience concerning the date for the ultimate grudge match between BN and Pakatan Rakyat. I wonder when the "appropriate time" is.
One would have thought, with all the gerrymandering, "voter education", electoral rolls discrepancies, violence against opposition parties campaigning in the rural heartlands, granting of citizenships to foreign nationals, goodies thrown at all and sundry, overtures to simpatico Islamic elements (in the opposition) and the rest of the Umno bag of dirty tricks, confidence if not in your base but voter manipulation would entail a speedy date for a day of reckoning with your political opponents who you have characterised as enemies of everything Malaysians hold near and dear.
Prime Minister Najib Razak and BN spin doctors, have no idea what a populist message is and continue treating the opposition as though they were pre-Tsunami 2008 wannabes instead of the national power players they are.
Even more damaging, Umno continues treating a sizeable section of the electorate with access to the alternative media and who actively participate in civil disobedience walkabouts as enemies of the Umno state.
When you have stupidly defined this upcoming general election as a "war" with racial and religious undertones, losing becomes a prospect too unimaginable to consider. The only real loss for Umno would be the possibility of Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's retribution and of course, ejection from the gravy train which has sustained Umno all these decades. This is the great loss which Umno attempts to portray in terms of Malay hegemony and the decline of Islam.
They never once consider that the election of Anwar whose policies are very similar to their own and the ascendance of PAS by popular legitimate will, points to the exact opposite of what they fear.
Why the obsession with Deepak?
With each passing day, more tales of corruption, most often unsubstantiated and delivered by the most unreliable of tellers is passed off as gospel truth by Pakatan kool aid drinkers. This is really a minor point since there is more than enough well-documented cases of Umno malfeasances that should have sealed Umno's fate decades ago.
Why Malaysiakini even bothers with what someone like carpet trader Deepak Jaikishan has to "reveal" is frustrating but not surprising. In my opinion, he (Deepak) is the poster child for what is wrong with what Umno has wrought, the disingenuous nature of oppositional politics in this country and the sometimes-yellow journalism of the alternative media which some Pakatan supporters most notably DAP apparatchiks consider as black and white, unbiased (sic) reporting.
As usual, in the Deepak case there are Umno forces at play working towards ends that would further their objectives of retaining the Putrajaya throne. Who knows what foul schemes are hatched in the corridors of Umno power. The best strategy is not to engage in an orgy of speculation less we inadvertently further such schemes.
In any other functional legal system, everyone (including those propagating his revelations) involved in the Deepak drama would have been investigated, charged or been on the receiving end of some form of legal censure. Here silence from the ruling regime and selective legal threats from the opposition (on a wide range of issues) makes a mockery of the search for the truth of the death of a young Mongolian woman.
While the ‘other' component parties of BN or rather those cannon fodder in the so-called upcoming Umno ‘war' attempt some semblance of ‘unity', Umno and its go-at-it-alone policy and internal fighting, sabotages any kind of coherent offensive against the opposition.
The Kedah MCA, for instance, has mounted a successful coherent counter attack against the opposition but what gets much play is the debacle of Chua the Younger's foray into the Talam fiasco, which the Selangor Pakatan administration has yet to satisfactorily answer for.
Malaysiakini is on the right track when it highlights the plight of the Orang Asli community under the pious PAS administration in Kelantan. Nigel Aw's contribution to journalism in this country through his work in Malaysiakini more than justifies the latter's "news and views that matter" tag.
Pakatan supporters mean well but...
Pakatan supporters are a diverse demographic, united in their abhorrence of Umno and for the most part are right-thinking Malaysians (attempting to escape their racial preoccupation cage) who support the three opposition parties and their sometimes conflicting agendas. However, there are different strains of vocal supporters that unfortunately define Pakatan's online presence.
Pakatan kool aid drinkers mean well but unfortunately buy into the multiracial new (disingenuous) deal which Pakatan offers that often times clouds their objectivity. DAP online apparatchiks are so hypocritical (not to mention most of them are crypto racists) that principle, political expediency and racial politics are all the same.
Then there are Pakatan supporters who are not blind to the flaws of our preferred political parties and who view a change of political leadership as a basic democratic principle that could lead to a better Malaysia through a two-coalition power tussle.
The only real demographic that Umno-BN has left - I should be clear on this - is this so-called "non-partisan" demographic who think that "Umno has been allowed to run riot for too long" but the opposition is offering the "same shit with a different shovel".
This demographic which the mainstream media mischaracterises as the pro-BN ‘silent majority' is probably more influential than either coalitions, but who nervously wait in the sidelines.
Umno assumes it has their loyalty but the recent political messes that both coalitions find themselves embroiled in could translate to voter apathy (the more things change the more they remain the same, is the rationale) which would mean partisan voter turnout is what decides the fate of this country.
However should the Malay vote swing back to Umno, then prepare for a new era of Umno hegemony replete with retributions to those who have dared crossed the Umno line. Of course, Umno has the edge with its dirty bag of tricks, which makes any victory and there could be a real possibility of a pyrrhic one, devoid of any moral legitimacy.
Najib begs for a second chance to show his ‘leadership' skills but the reality is that in Umno and BN, such skills have never been a prerequisite for holding power. The internal mechanism of choosing a ‘leader' in Umno is predicated on money politics, sycophancy and political patronage (and not necessarily in that order) refined by that old master of dark political sorcery, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Anwar deserves second chance
If anyone gets to have a second chance, it is Anwar Ibrahim. He is perhaps the most successful political operative Umno has ever created.
By reinventing himself as the voice of a moderate Malaysia and by sustaining (which takes leaderships skills never imagined by Umno) his fragile coalition made up of disparate voices united in their ‘Umno must go' harmony, it is Anwar who has some moral claim to the idea that he is the ‘people's choice' or at least a sizeable section of the voting public, to lead them into a much hoped for new Umno-free era.
A long-time articulate Umno friend asks, "Doesn't stability mean the middle ground, anymore?" The question he should be asking, "What led Umno to arrogantly believe that they could define the middle ground, forever?"
If Umno loses, it will not be because a partisan electorate thinks that Pakatan is a better choice to lead the country, it will be because for some, Pakatan (for a wide range of reasons) is the only alternative to Umno. Just as Umno has declared a certain section of the public as traitors, said section has returned the favour in spades. I have made this argument before of the partisan nature of Malaysian politics and what each coalition is peddling.
I would much rather usher in a new era of political squabbling a two-coalition paradigm offers than stagnate under a decrepit Umno who over the years has been devouring itself. At least in the former, there is a small possibility of change since Pakatan has demonstrated that it is aware of the will of the people.
At the end of the day, this is Umno's last great political fight. Already the rumour mills in Kuala Lumpur are in a frenzy of the war chest jealously guarded to fund party hopping initiatives. Pakatan has a poor record when it comes to this issue. Anwar's Sept 16 fiasco is a cogent reminder that the Umno apple does not fall far from the tree.
Very soon, Umno's day of reckoning will be not only a test for Umno but also for those of us in the opposition. It would surprise (and delight) me if Umno loses, but the real test for the opposition is if Umno wins or worse reclaims its mythical two-thirds majority. Either way, it will be a new era in politics. The political tsunami of 2008 has irrevocably changed things.
No matter how much Umno attempts to keep the malice of May 13 in the minds of people (Kua Kia Soong's work on the subject should be required reading for all right-thinking Malaysians), the reality is that people will remember the importance of the Tsunami of 2008 as a turning point in the history of Malaysia.
My New Year hope is that we have another turning point in favour of the opposition.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.