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Monday, October 1, 2012

Desperation in high places

By Rom Nain |

The recent uncorroborated, shameful and absolutely baseless allegations about international conspiracies and takeover plots illustrate one simple situation – sheer desperation.

And it is clear that those politically-owned media unethically concocting and sensationalising these allegations would not have dared to make such allegations had they not been owned and controlled by their BN political masters.

Thus, we can safely assume that hidden hands were – and still are – at play. Indeed, as one of their shameless spinners put it on Friday: Nothing personal, as any politician would say, purely the business of politics.

But why the desperation? Indeed, after dishing out millions of OUR money in the form of BR1M, cash handouts to students and pensioners – and even more being dished out in Friday’s Budget – why, indeed, is this regime still scared of facing the rakyat in the 13th general election?

So scared that, despite declaring and bragging that it is a democracy, it hits out at genuine pro-democracy civil society organisations with much-prouder records than the regime has ever had.

Well, perhaps now is a good time to remind ourselves – and those who are still unsure – why this regime is, indeed, feeling desperate. First, in the March 2008 elections, it lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament and also saw five states (until Perak was ‘recaptured’ under dubious circumstances) and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur fall to the Pakatan coalition.

Now, that was a bitter pill to swallow. And, certainly, there was hell to pay, as the then-Prime Minister, (Tun) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, soon found out. Indeed, about a year later, he was not so much shown the door as he was virtually booted out by the same men and women who, after the virtual landslide victory for BN in 2004, had seen Pak Lah as their saviour.

With the possible exception of that wily old fox, Dr Mahathir, of course. Dr M was always rather lukewarm towards Pak Lah as PM and, by the end of Pak Lah’s short tenure, was already laying into him, blaming him for virtually everything that had gone wrong with BN and UMNO.

Work cut out for him

So, when Najib was handed the post of Prime Minister in 2009, he really had his work cut out for him. He had inherited a coalition that was very much lopsided in nature, with a virtually decimated Gerakan and MIC limping badly, and an MCA that, equally, was having its fair share of internal problems.

And, of course, within his own party, UMNO, the numerous warlords needed appeasing, evidently led by, you guessed it, that old doctor who always seems to be in the house.

Top of the wish list for virtually all of these interested parties within UMNO and the BN was – is - a return to the good ol’ days of having a two-thirds (or above) majority in the Dewan.

Najib knows that. He knows that anything less will, most likely, see his neck on the chopping block. Many believe that he’s been putting off the GE or, indeed, telling us all exactly when it will be held, precisely because he has thus far not received one single assurance, from inside or outside the party, that Barisan Nasional will get back the two-thirds majority.

Next, of course, is the intense political rivalry and the ambitions, especially within UMNO. It’s widely believed that Najib and his Deputy both covet the top post. Number two, Muhyiddin, now, apparently, has that old doctor and party reactionaries and conservatives backing him and a narrow ‘I-am-a-Malay-first’ agenda.

Again, the age-old question of dynasty comes into play, with the old doctor wanting to see his son follow in his footsteps and seeing Muhyiddin as the perfect patsy to allow him to do so. So, with the old man, number two and the chosen son waiting impatiently to nudge him off the edge, the stakes are, indeed, very high for Najib.

Hence the need to be janus-faced, the need for hypocrisy. That is, the need to talk of 1Malaysia and Transformation, on the one hand, to appeal to a more aware, worldly-wise and growing Malaysian middle class.

And, on the other, to play on old, racist sentiments, warning the Malays, as he did on Malaysia Day, that “the 13th general election is not an ordinary election. Instead, it will determine the survival of the Malays.”

Yet again, revealing the desperation. Such desperation is also noticeable among the also-rans, the no-hopers, in the BN. Which is why we see the MCA, evidently devoid of anything of substance, reduced to a father and son act of… desperation.

The senior Chua Soi Lek, like a broken record, seems totally obsessed with two things - well, actually three, but this is a family-oriented column – the DAP and hudud. Day in and day out, his favourite newspaper (The Star), the one that his party owns, repeats his rants about voting for the DAP and getting parts of your anatomy chopped off as a consequence.

His son, on the other hand, evidently has a fixation for the Selangor Menteri Besar when, perhaps, as Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based industries Minister, he could serve us better by looking more into the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) scandal.

Answers still not forthcoming

Speaking of scandals, the financial mismanagement ones really are the bugbears increasing the desperation of the regime. There are, of course, so many that have not been resolved, where answers are still forthcoming.

But, straight off the top of our heads, we can think of at least two – the NFC cows, cars and condos scandal and the more expensive, possibly more damaging, Scorpene submarines scandal.

Many times previously, the regime has depended on a compliant, self-censoring mainstream media and the rakyat collectively having a short memory to, somehow, minimise, even eliminate, the implications of these misappropriation of public funds.

This time around, however, this strategy doesn’t appear to have succeeded. Some argue that it’s because of the existence of the alternative Internet news media and social media.

Others credit the work of resilient whistleblowers, such as PKR’s Rafizi Ramli (left), and the regime’s current punching bag, SUARAM, for bringing these alleged abuses out into the open.

While all this may be true, like a small group of film students at my university, a group with a warped sense of humour, I think it’s the imagery that has made these two scandals stick in our minds.

The imagery, that is, of cows living in condos and driving to the farm in luxury cars. The imagery also of submarines that can’t dive.

Whatever it may be, these ‘irritants’, these ‘noises’ are extremely difficult for the regime to shut off, leading to much consternation and increasing desperation.

So, the regime’s ‘strategic team’ – what, I think, in the days of the Cold War and even Watergate they called the ‘dirty tricks department’ – is called up. They, in turn, dig not so deep into their mouldy bag of tricks and come up with what they believe will scare the living daylights out of all us – especially those of us who have no access to the outside world, beyond that provided by newspapers like Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian and TV stations like the Media Prima quartet of TV3, NTV7, TV8 and TV9 and that dinosaur, RTM.

And, of course, although many of us would probably have never bumped into a Jew in our lives, most likely won’t, and wouldn’t know that we had done so even if we did, the Jewish bogey is pulled out of the bag. I did say it was a mouldy old bag, didn’t I?

Okay, so it’s quite obvious that I don’t buy all that Jewish conspiracy nonsense. But I’ll share a little secret with you, strategic team: even my 86 year-old mother down South doesn’t believe you.

She, too, thinks that you’re getting extremely desperate and that it’s making you act like a bunch of nincompoops. You must forgive my mother; she’s old school, indeed a retired school teacher, and tends to use more halus words instead of ‘moron’ and ‘bangang’.

No longer works now

But, the point here, I guess, is that there’s a pretty unoriginal team of spinners at work here. What may have worked 20, even 10, years ago no longer works now. Even on the ‘ignorant masses’ in the hinterland.

If it did, March 2008, despite all the reported fraud taking place – all the phantom voters, the dead 100-plus year-olds rising up from their graves just to vote – would not have happened. If it did, the makciks and pakciks would not have been there, marching on the streets of KL, asking for clean and fair elections.

If it did, the 13th general elections would have been announced – and possibly held – ages ago. If it did, such desperation on the part of the regime would no longer be necessary.

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