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Friday, March 22, 2013

Corruption, Chaos and Change

By Mariam Mokhtar | FMT

Change is in the air, and the rakyat is sick of the endless exposes of corruption. The cosy existence of Umno and their cronies will be threatened if their power is usurped. For decades, we accepted the apparent BN victories in general elections. There have always been suspicions of cheating but no one knew how to obtain the proof. Anyone with evidence of electoral fraud would probably have been locked-up under the ISA.

Today, vote-rigging, electoral fraud, voter manipulation, vote-buying, and tampering with the election returns have been exposed. Change is in the air, and the rakyat is sick of the endless exposes of corruption. They are equally tired of an inept Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) which is not fit for the purpose.

The rakyat has a strong leaning towards the opposition, so how would they react if BN were to win GE-13? Would they agree with the results? Would they, as in previous years, accept the BN victory? Would they rise up in disbelief and anger, and demand a re-run?

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is in an untenable position. He cannot dither over the announcement of GE-13, for he knows that foreign investment will dry up.

His other great fear is losing his seat. If that were to happen, he would risk losing his freedom, both his physical and financial liberty. For obvious reasons, the man with the most to lose, if BN is not victorious in GE-13, is former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Umno leaders are not men of integrity. What they cannot obtain by normal means, they will grab by force, or by deceit.

The rakyat may not be as forgiving as some leaders of the opposition. Mahathir is not the only one they wish to see prosecuted. The cronies whom he nurtured will also be targeted. No one could ignore the ill-gotten gains of all of Mahathir’s children, however innocent they may appear to be. Mahathir leaves nothing to chance and he will not allow the bumbling Najib to act on his own.

Before the announcement of GE-13, sporadic acts of violence have already been used to intimidate the public. Whilst our attention was riveted on the Suluk incursion in Lahad Datu, Opposition politicians, human rights NGOs, and social activists have been attacked.

Najib does not have the luxury of being able to delay GE-13 much longer. Some people claim that they had to disrupt plans for overseas holidays, leave and weddings so that they will be able to vote in GE-13. Whilst the date of GE-13 remains uncertain, bosses are loathe to expand, or make key appointments.

During his tenure, Najib could have done the right thing and made his government more accountable, more transparent and more competent. He ignored the rakyat’s concerns and now he has run out of time.

Was Najib’s bluff called when people questioned his handling of the Suluk Invasion in Sabah? He made life difficult for the opposition politicians by accusing them of sedition just because they questioned his poor leadership skills in managing this crisis. Najib would be foolish to declare Emergency rule now, to delay the election. Further delays mean that our neighbours in the region look more attractive to foreign investors.

If BN wins GE-13 and the rakyat perceives that the win has been achieved by cheating, the people might rise up to show their dissatisfaction. Would Najib declare a state of emergency? Najib could order the security forces to quash the rakyat, but would they disobey his order? Our police force has shown that it is a tool of Umno, when it used violence against peaceful Bersih protestors. Will the armed forces attack the rakyat?

If the election returns are tampered with, will the staff and volunteers counting the ballot papers, walk out in protest? When President Ferdinand Marcos called a snap-election in 1986 in the Philippines, 30 computer technicians at an election tabulation centre, allegedly walked out in protest citing election tampering. Will our workers do the same?

In some countries, religious leaders have openly condemned their elections, for being fraudulent and then declared themselves to be on the side of the people. If tensions were to escalate in Malaysia, whose side would our religious leaders take? Will they support the rakyat or Umno? Whose side will the rulers take – the rakyat or Umno – those who pay homage to them, or those whose largesse they depend on?

How will the diplomatic community react? The Election Commission (EC) has invited delegates from five Asean nations to observe the election, but none from mature democracies. The EC might as well have invited delegates from Khazakhstan, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

Will the rakyat respect the findings of these invited observers? If the rakyat refuses to be cowed, will these countries provide a safe haven for our former leaders, or will they leave Malaysians to mete out their own justice? Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was unable to avoid the wrath of his countrymen.

If Umno were to cease to exist tomorrow, the Malays would not die away. Many Malays know this, but in some Malay communities, especially in the rural heartlands, the fear of extinction runs deep. It is an insecurity which is being exarcebated and exploited by Umno.

No one wants chaos or disruption in our everyday lives. Our leaders were given a chance to listen, but they refused. They are averse to change. They will not accommodate our wishes. Will Malaysians stand together and allow a fractured nation to heal?

Mariam Mokhtar is a FMT columnist

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