Friday, December 23, 2011

Judging the Judge, Courting the Kangaroos

There is a sense of impending chaos leading up to 9 January 2012. There is tension in the air, so thick one can actually slice it with a knife. Is it the calm before the storm? Why and who or which group is behind it?

Recently a group of university students went on a rampage, protesting against the AUKU, so it seemed. A closer examination however shows the action to be directed to UMNO, as symbolised by the act of contemptuously lowering UMNO's flags carrying the images of its leaders, replacing them with the students own. Video clippings of the students protesting showed excessive defiance, more abuse of UMNO than the issue of AUKU as such. This suggests UMNO is the target, AUKU merely the camouflage. The student protest seemed an act of conditioning public sentiment, a prelude for the real thing. What's the real intent behind the pretext? Could it be related to other development, a bigger picture or scheme of things?

At the conclusion of his trial, Anwar Ibrahim was asked by the press as to his chances of a favourable verdict. He gave an interesting reply to the following effect: If the judge goes by the facts and the law, he has no option but to acquit, unless he wants to take instruction from higher up...then we will deal with it politically later. Such statement has the consequence of putting the judge on trial, judging him. The logic runs: if the judge acquits, a pat on the back for applying the law, while a conviction can only evidence puppet of a judge  colluding with UMNO. Putting it differently, the ambit of the law runs only in acquittal, while a conviction lies outside or runs counter to it. A tough call indeed for the judge. 

In the meantime, about a month ago, at the PKR party convention, the youth leader had vouched should they be pushed to the corner ( alluding to an unfavourable judgment in the trial), they would topple the government from the street. The same group had a few days ago launched a 'Free Anwar' movement (901) The Deputy President of PKR, Azmin Ali likewise had separately vouched to break prison wall and free Anwar if convicted. Incidentally, the student protest and demands over AUKU exploded a few days after the conclusion of the trial, led by university students closely linked to Anwar Ibrahim, according to recent media disclosures.

It seems the ' Free Anwar Movement' has for its rallying call the slogan ' Rakyat Hakim Negara'. Of course this has been politically crafted for the maximum effect of undermining the government (taken as synonym with UMNO)  and the law. The term 'hakim negara' signifies both the Attorney General, as well as 'judge the nation'. Hence the slogan cuts both ways, either ' Rakyat the Attorney General' or ' Rakyat Judge the Nation'. All of which has the import, in the event of a conviction, 'the people reject the law', 'the people judge instead'. There is this simple deterministic formula: acquittal means the working of the law, conviction means the evil machination of UMNO!

Well, there had been much aspersions against our vital institutions, the judiciary and the court included. The 'yellow shirts' had always denounced our court as 'kangaroo court'. Now the question is who is the one undermining the rule of law, judging the judge and mobilizing kangaroos to subvert and cower the court or the law?

I have a foreboding feeling, there will be many protests and street walking leading up to judgement day, on many seemingly unrelated issues, all of which are however united in demonising UMNO. I am sure the public  is not so credulous or gullible as not to see where all of this is heading!  

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Fool's Election Manifesto: We Are Wiser Now!

I am deeply concerned, so should you! The nation is in crisis. The ballot box had been transformed into feedlots. Everyone had been told they can now fly kite. Vital institutions such as the court, Parliament and house of worship had been violated by street walkers, soliciting and touting support. Vulgar banners replaced good manners. Speeches and statements of leaders no longer moral, merely preaching and screeching. Truth become excuse, muse, crafted to confuse. Ideals become idle talks. In public life there is no conviction, only misdeeds worthy of conviction. Not many leaders amidst the political divides, only office holders on the leash, manipulating and manipulated. The insane posing as saints, playing ascetics with antics. Lying about laying (in bed) has consumed and wasted national energy , both accused and accuser. What is to become of us! There is no more clean, serious, purposeful politics, there is only poly-ticks ( involving an infinite varieties of opportunists, materially, spiritually, sensually, or whatever)

We need genuine options, a new vision. Transformation has not penetrated enough into our crisis,what more resolving it. Reformation has been wanting too. Both Transformasi  and Reformasii  are indeed an integral part of our crisis. I shall not detail specific issues here, as this manifesto is not meant to be a comprehensive political critique of political parties, but merely to outline a new vision for our nation. Suffice to say that they are both locked in a deadly power struggle, driven by the will to power, which is not our game. We are about setting the nation on a new foundation, new chapter, new direction, new consciousness and conscience!

Given the depth of our crisis, we cannot be content with TRANSFORMATION or REFORMATION, since both confine themselves only to repairs and patchwork of existing conditions. We need to work on basic principles and values, we need to rebuild our future bottom up, from the ground. We need to rehabilitate our wounded and compromised institutions. We need to heal our spirit and material conditions. It is basic reconstruction that is needed. We need to erect, brick by brick, fibre by fibre, a better future. We need ERECTION!

Part of this vision is our quest for truth, not power. We demand leaders who do not balk in the face of it. They boast of courage in exposing falsehood and baring the truth. We resist leaders who excel only in deceptions, spins and cover ups. We expect and respect leaders who crusade the naked truth, in full revelation, no frills and smoke screens. They are uncompromising in stripping the truth off falsehood, shedding externals,going to the essence.We demand militant FLASHERS!

Our vision  resents deeply the inefficiency and red tape bogging down development. We oppose leaders who are fast in the mouth but drag their feet in moving things. We abhor the *ucker sort of leader  whose expertise is only in messing  things up. Neither do we need suckers.  We demand dynamic leaders who are capable of ridding dead woods and motivating lethargic politicians and public servants.They excel in shaking things up, bucking up our civic life. We don't want shirkers, what we need are committed SHAKERS. We rejcct leaders who suck up, and elect only those who BUCK UP!

Going by our vision, we are deeply concerned at the deterioration of morality and integrity in public life. The rate at which public morality and integrity is being eroded and subverted is phenomenal and epoch making . Instead of leaders on both sides of political divide living by those values and code of conduct, those very values had been relativised and undermined to accommodate their misdeeds or misconduct. Consequentially, the line between right and wrong had been blurred. In the ensuing moral crisis, right is denounced while wrong assumes the garb of truth. Immorality has become the norm while integrity and principles reduced to the status of the abnormal, the deviant. Unscrupulous leaders are fast winning converts and gaining the moral ground,  becoming the dominant influence. In such situation, we need courageous leaders who dare sail against the current. Yes, we need PERVERTS!

Our vision requires leaders who are free from our major moral afflictions. You name it, we have such afflictions. One major affliction is schizophrenia, leaders with split personality. There are too many examples to fit into a political manifesto. We have leaders who are paranoiac over conspiracies at home but work tirelessly in spawning conspiracies abroad. There are those who chant the slogan of freedom and autonomy at home, but invite foreign domination and interference in our domestic affairs. There are many among our leaders and activists who confuse the cause of freedom with that of free condom. And then there are those habitual kleptomaniacs plundering public funds. There are those mega shopaholics of epic proportion, maybe of ill- gotten wealth. We need leaders capable of counselling and rehabilitating such lost souls. In order to heal our wounds, restore our spiritual values and mental health, we need leaders with certain expertise, THE-RAPISTS!

Let our petty  politicians jostle and squabble over Putrajaya,  the seat of power. On our part we shall reclaim our countrysides, our cities and our vital institutions. We shall restore decency and conscience in our politics and civic life. We shall erect and reconstruct a new foundation for our nation . As an option to Transformation and  Reformation, we humbly  offer a new vision, Erection!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fool's guide to instant politics: Election Survival Kit

The various 'perhimpunan agung' of recent dates (or should I say ' perhimpunan gaung' by virtue of the great echo and noises generated?) are over, be it PKR Johor skid, or UMNO's KL bonanza. While the one sent delegates into enemy's traditional stronghold, the other invited and entertained delegates to the capital for, politicking, as well as for the usual 'distractions' and' indulgences' of the city, a change from the province. But both lived up to the 'gaung' aspect, by way of fiery, theatrical and millennial packaging of speeches.

Judging by the tempo and temper of both, they were bracing for the major cockfight around the corner ( I am serious in my term 'cockfight', for it represents accurately the essence of election in this country, where it is mainly a question of winning or losing, never mind the issues)

One thing is clear, the war drums had been commanded and judging by post-gaung events, preparations for the election had been intensified or put on the highest alert to 'war'. The clear signs are there: the quarrels over candidature and seat allocation, and the intensification of mud slinging between parties as well as internally, and the intensification of servility, cringing and pledging of loyalty to the 'great leader', 'supremo', 'the sheikhul' the king maker, who decide which cock to feature in the pits.

In such moments, I truly feel sorry for the innocent clueless uninitiated, dreaming of becoming politicians, who stand absolutely no chance against the adept, the 'old hand', the invincible 'veteran', the well connected, those boasting of 'pedigree', or simply 'polticians'. So to even things up somewhat, I decided to share some of my scanty notes on politics, that they may fare better than me ( my notes are yellow (papers) due to the years, never succeeding even to nudge me into 'politics')

If you hope to be a candidate in the coming election or cockfight, which is around the corner, learn the following principles mighty fast. Your 'political' survival may depend on this.

Don't try to learn or deepen your grasp of politics and politicking. Above all else, politics is 'play', a 'play acting'. Pick up tips on theatre art or acting. Before you can dream of being a politician, you must brace up your acting. For instance you must know how to 'dress'. Actually it is not 'dress' , but more familiarising yourself with the art of 'costume'. For the Malay audience of a perhimpunan gaung, with a strong nationalistic and religious bent, dawn the bajung kurung and the tall deep songkok. For court sessions, with the more westernised audience, international media, dawn the stylish and posh western suit, saving the more flamboyant and striking graphic or batik wear for evening 'indulgences' or 'escapades'. Learn to pitch your 'scripts' and ' delivery' to the right crowd or audience. It is not about being 'sincere', 'being who you are', ' to be of 'conviction', it is really getting into role playing, into the script ' convincingly', to the point that the audience forget they are watching a play acting.

Those who miss this point, are usually confused as to Malaysian politics. They lament the inconsistency of principles, the lack of unity of vision and the almost schizhoprenic nature of our politicians. They are confused or disappointed because of their wrong expectation. They are looking for a 'leader' of a politician when there is none really, for most of our politicians are merely actors reading different scripts, on different stages, in different theatres, before different audiences. I am not here referring to contextualisation of speeches, with same principles or values of a leader with an integrated personality, which is of course necessary or unavoidable in politics.

For heaven sake, don't be stiff! Learn how to use you body language. Use you hand gestures. Watch the master actor-cum-politicians. Practice on that sharp downward double thrust of the elbows, followed by the double clenching fist, give it several shakes or twang reflecting intensity, and with boisterous voice and extreme emotionalism say your script, ala Hitler, or Soekarno.

Learn the proper diction and the voice control. Know when to go soft and seductive, boisterous and commanding, secretive and slimy, glib and gossipy. But above all never, never neglect to cultivate the deadly 'nasal'. This is particularly potent and hypnotising. Pick up some points from yoga manuals on breathing control and practise. You must be able to switch from normal to 'nasal' at will. The 'nasal' represents many things, among others learning, profundity, depth, piety, saintliness, eroticism, exoticism. Based on my observations of our actor-cum-politicians, including the most adept, I recommend that the nasal be reserved for the fatal blow, involving key words like ' corruption', 'cronyism', 'akhlak', or arabic based etymology with roots in Islamic history. All in all the 'nasal' works wonders for your political 'telo' or 'lingo'.

And lastly, don't learn only from dictators, great leaders and orators, learn from fine actors too.! If you study closely many of our prominent leaders, they incorporate many elements from no less than characters played by the late P.Ramlee himself. Pick old videos, whether of UMNO days or post-UMNO era, note the smug, the rolling of the eyes, the hand gesture, the disguised naughty eroticism, the 'boyish', 'cutish' 'shy' quality (malu-malu kucing), faked humility, feigned lurking behind flamboyance and craftiness. Learn to use smattering of dialects or multilingual expressions, which is nothing more than popular racial stereotypes really, for effects. The late P.Ramlee was a master at this. He could swith smatterings from Javanese, Arabic, English, Tamil, Chinese, German and many more, in slang in not the actual language. In this respect observe and learn how a prominent contemporary opposition politician avail himself of bollywood materials and javanese. Don't forget also that P.Ramlee was himself a great 'nasalist', who used it deadly for effects. 

In tight corners learn how to take the fight to the street. Learn how to roll up your sleeves in public to indicate readiness to brawl . It is a refined art. The rolling of street brawlers is quite different from that motivated by fashion style. There must be strength to it, with clenched fist packing mighty punches. This seemed to be very effective for ladies and lady audience, as evident in the last perhimpunan gaung Wanita UMNO when it worked a frenzy. It was most effective in hand-offs and in deflecting issues at hand. 

Always takes lesson from history. Take the example of PKR AMK during the last perhimpunan gaung ( or was it AMUK?) The youth leader has learned well from his French history perhaps, that bit on the storming of the Bastille. In high drama, he solemnly vouched to break prison wall or topple the goverment from the street if they have to! ( is this constitutional or in accordance with the law?)

And by the way, if ever you are caught with your pants down (metaphorically or otherwise) in any compromising situation, deny, deny and deny to the hilt.  If confronted by strong evidences, deny that you were' you', attributing the act to a double acting as' you', put up to it by others. To pull this off successfully, your acting as you will have to be better than the double playing' you', for in all probability the double would be a splitting image of you.   

I have to stop now. My warranty ends here. This manual is only for aspiring members of parliament.I hope these notes are of some help to you. Those aspiring for more, perhaps an MB or PM, are well advised to learn or understudy elsewhere. Anyway, good luck in the coming general election, or shall I say the cockfight!

P.s I am posting this unedited in view of the fact that the election in around the corner, hence time is of the essence!I  absolve myself of liability over any loss of deposit for the advice tendered in this manual.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011: The Rule of Law or the Rise of Mob Rule?

Parliament is deliberating on the Peaceful Assembly Bill, the essence of which is what is best for the nation in terms of balancing freedom of expression with regulating anarchic tendencies in the garb of it. As predictable, the opposition and anti-establishment elements have gone to town to oppose the proposed law, which recommends in principle that demonstration and assemblies be better regulated and channeled with the view of ensuring public order.

What is the bone of contention between the opposition and the legislators behind the move? Again as predictable anti-establishment elements wish to preserve the anarchic and emotive elements, while the advocates work towards neutralising them. The opposition rejects the proposal to ban street demonstration, to restrict assemblies to specific and confined avenues such as the stadium, and the stipulation of longer notice of intention and application to the authority. Those advocating the change in the law of course insist on those very things.

If the public chose to be partisan over the issue, it is clear how the alignment would polarise or gravitate.Basically the PR elements would oppose the proposed change, seeing it as 'draconian', out to neutralise their basic weapon or modus operandi, while BN elements would be in vehement support, seeing it as 'disarming' or putting the straight jacket on the opposition.

But then this is a serious issue involving public order, security and perhaps the very survival of our democracy. I propose we the public look beyond partisanship and the 'prankish' stances of both political divides.

The fact is that our democracy depends on public order and the rule of law.In our history in sombre moments, we admit our democracy cannot be of the puristic western type which can afford greater leeway to racial and ethnic sensitivities. Our democracy cannot!

Reflect upon our dark moments in history of ethnic relations, and you would know what I mean. Yes, some will be accusing me of raising the dark spectre of racial riots. But no, this is not 'raising the scare', 'the spectre of bloodshed' for ideological reasons, but facing history in its cold brute facts and learning instructively from it. We imperil our democracy in failing to distinguish between these different approaches to history. Machiavellian abuse of history should be distinguished from sincere learning from it.

Which brings to mind the recent scathing but historically accurate attack on the DAP and its leadership in Parliament by YB Zulkifli Nordin. Actually far worse abuses had been hurled at the Malays, besides those cited by YB Zulkifli Nordin, which had been left out perhaps due to sensitivities. There were abuses even to the effect of  compelling the Malays and Muslims to consume pork during the heated campaign of 1969. Incidentally, the remarks of YB Zulkifli Nordin should be taken together with his blog recounting his PKR or youth movement days as able lieutenant to Anwar Ibrahim. In the language of a direct participant and eye witness, he recounted the planning and deliberations that transpired in organising a street demonstration (peppered by emphatic 'I was there' ) . By his account, it was planned by the organisers which street to block, where to congregate in case of police action, at what stage cars were to be torched for maximum effect! These are disclosures not to be taken lightly.

Actually street demonstration is by nature violent. There is no such thing as ' peaceful' street demonstration. In this matter, it would be foolish for us to go by the pledge or pronouncement of organisers themselves. No sponsors or organisers of street demonstration would ever say they wish to organise a violent or anarchic one. It is axiomatic that all would say their intention is 'peaceful demonstration' in the name of 'freedom of expression' and 'democracy'.

A close examination of the structure and contents of street demonstration shows the following elements, regardless of the pronouncement of sponsors: a) defiance towards the law and authority, b) militancy and aggression in its style of political mobilisation, c) limited room for  genuine dialogue or reasoning, despite its surface appearance to the contrary, d) confrontational and antagonistic towards authority and other views e) heavy reliance on sensationalism or emotionalism, f)) anarchic psychology of the mob, g) authoritarian and oppressive towards the public in the sense of an 'imposition', 'loud', ' indoctrinating', and 'forced down their throat' , h) nihilistic, relativistic and Machiavellian contesting of social norms and limits, i) highly propagandist and manipulative of public opinion and mass medias, k) show of strength, brute power through sheer numbers, l) highly provocative (towards the law and authority), with latent intention of sparking conflict, m) dangerous play of bravado and populist 'heroism', secretly wishing for an iconic 'martyrdom', to be manipulated for escalating open violence, n) and many others.

 All of which enable me to say indeed street demonstration is by nature and structure a violent process. Of course I say so with the caveat that street demonstration is to be distinguished from the 'Salt March' or 'Spinning Wheel Movement' of Ghandi or  'We Shall Overcome' of Martin Luther King. These pacifist and civil right protests are by content and structure a different phenomenon altogether. They have nothing to do with the 'street demonstration' of Adolf Hitler towards seizing power, and its  variations we are witnessing in many Southeast Asia countries. .

Setting aside partisanship, I wonder just what are we witnessing before us? Where do we stand? How do we best preserve our democracy? How do we build a nation? What do we want really, transcending partisanship, populist tendencies, abstract liberalism and 'human right', bourgeoisie rhetoric, dangerous and convenient Machiavellian politics and uncritical personality cult? Of course by the' rule of law' we do not mean either a rubber ruler, pliable and malliable to vested interests. Such abuses should not be admitted into the conception of 'rule of law', nor compounded with it.

What is our choice effectively speaking, one we are willing to back morally or politically. The rule of law or mob rule?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why the public lost: ‘shifting goalposts’ and ‘good intention’ of bad goalkeepers

A few days ago Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid the Chairman of PAC, perhaps the most powerful parliamentary committee, charged with overseeing government spending, gave a press conference in connection with the National Feedlot Corporation  (NFC) debacle. On specific issues pertaining to NFC, he explained that so far the committee had invited only the Ministry of Agriculture. As he would be meeting the Ministry of Finance and NFC in January 2012, he refrained from commenting on the specific issues of NFC until then. On this front, fair enough.
However, while not commenting much on NFC, he said many other interesting things on the state of our government spending. He spoke of recurring patterns of poor management, bad planning and cripling delays in all ministries, departments, affecting not just NFC but ‘many many’ other projects across the board. His intonation is interesting enough, as well as his line of reasoning. I find it interesting to reflect upon as a discourse.  While lashing out at the general pattern of mismanagement and bad planning, he sounded almost like softening the gravity of the individual case of NFC by pleading a general malady affecting many, if not all ministries and government departments. In other words, thus run his line of reasoning: ‘do not single out NFC as bad, for generally they are all bad’. Since they are all bad, NFC is not that bad after all since it conforms to the general and recurring pattern! Hence it is all quite normal really, in ‘the nature of things’.
From this line of reduction, converting the individual case of NFC into the general, Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid then launched into denouncing the general malady, pledging to look into the problem, for the reason the public has had enough of the spinning and the twisting, so much so they do not believe the government even when it is telling the truth! This line of reasoning in a way conditions the ground for more spinning and twisting, implicitly suggesting that even as ministries and government department spin and manoeuvre in tight corners, they could well be telling the truth It is only public disgust and exasperation that’s blinding them from seeing truth! After morphing the individual case into the general, the gravity of the general is then ‘sanitize’ by insisting a ‘relook’ into the way the government manages and spends fund. In this manner, ‘action’ is seen or felt to be taken towards redressing the general problem of mismanagement, bad planning and paralysing delays affecting many projects.
While steps are being taken to ‘relook’ into the problem , the current mismanagement and misspending are absolved by Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid’s emphatic statement  that ‘all done with good intention’. In other words the mismanagement, misspending and bad planning are all the doings of honest but alas incompetent idiots. Well it all sounds like a fatal combination for the nation. On the one hand we have  'honest' idiots running ministries and the public sector, on the other hand we have dishonest clever people plundering the nation. Given this scenario can our nation survive in the long run! Nevertheless it explains a lot. It explains why public fund is readily depleted and wasted by the billions, while financial wizards, great industrialists and entrepreneurs seem always to end up with great fortunes. Perhaps there is much truth in Mahatma Gandhi's saying: 'Behind any great fortune there is always a crime'. Excuse me.. perhaps I should say: 'Behind any great fortune there is always an honest idiot'!
The kind of ‘delay’ Datuk Seri Azmi speaks of is not of the usual kind. Ordinarily what we understand by 'delay' is the kind that holds things up, hampers development or progress of a whole process. The kind of ‘delay’ he speaks of is of a special kind. It holds things up only partially, while expediting other elements in the same process or transaction. He gives an example, reflective  he said of a general pattern! In the case of the NFC, all the money for the project had been withdrawn by 2009, but due to ‘delay’ the contract or agreement was signed only in 2010. There you have it! In this form of ‘delay’ it expedited  payment and withdrawal, completed even before the agreement. Simultaneously the ‘delay’ holds up the agreement, effecting 'spedious' payment.
This peculiar form of ‘delay’, which upsets the normal sequence of agreement and payment, gives rise to an associated malady. Datuk Seri Azmi refered to the problem of ‘shifting goalpost’. He explains the problem as one in which obligations and things to be done keep changing. If before the deal was to do such and such, in the end they become different things altogether! Wow…this is dead serious for the nation. Small wonder why many mega projects went haywire and down the drain. It explains the ‘blunders’, ‘bad planning’ and the whole complex of ‘bad management’, ‘misspending’, or ‘non- deliveries’. Once payment had been secured prior to agreement, of course obligations and accountability would be weakened or subjected to renegotiation. Hence the ‘shifting goalpost’ and ‘changing targets’ lamented by the Chairman of PAC.
Given the vicious cycle of ‘shifting goalposts’, where honest idiots are confronted  by clever crooks, can the public ever win? A small comfort though to learn that the problem is being ‘relooked’ into by PAC!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Confession in the Charge of Conspiracy

Let’s face it. Many of us are very gullible when leaders defend their interests by charging ‘conspiracy’ on the part of others. This phenomenon says many things. For one it shows we are becoming more suspicious of the conduct and thinking of our leaders.  We are also growing more cynical and skeptical of politics and public life. In everyday expressions, we feel ‘pissed off’, ‘fed up’, ‘disgusted’, ‘disillusioned’ over their antics and pronouncements. In many ways this is healthy, in the sense we are now more predisposed to be critical, cautious and discriminating in our public or civic life. We are no longer that credulous or naive as to accept everything at face value in our relations with leaders. We tend now to examine their doings and views from more angles, for hidden motifs or vested interests lurking under or behind their stance.
But then, many of us tend to fall into another form of credulity or gullibility under the very same charges of conspiracy kicked up as a smoke screen by our leaders or public figures. In   short we are no less naive, credulous or gullible than before, only that our taste and menu has changed somewhat. Errant and incorrigible leaders has now smart up to our blind spots or rather soft spot for conspiracy theories. Hence in our politics and civic life, ‘conspiracy’ has grown to be the first weapon of choice in the arsenal of leaders in crisis.
This is by no means confined to particular parties, organizations or affiliations. The utility of conspiracy theory has not been missed by any groupings worth their salt. The potency of the conspiracy theory is availed of by the ruling party, as well as the opposition. Just for example, at the very beginning of the National Feedlot Corporation issue, the Minister at the center of the issue proclaimed this is a move ‘ out to destroy Wanita UMNO’ . This is quickly chorused and echoed by many. This pattern represents many of the responses of the ruling party to scores of other issues as well.
As for the opposition, we know they thrive on it. In fact Anwar Ibrahim built a whole personal platform on this charge of conspiracy. Very early in the beginning of the sodomy case, when his supporters were earnestly defending him along legalistic and logical grounds, he had expressed the view that the charge of sodomy ‘is politically motivated and hence must be fought politically’. In gist, he attributed it all to ‘conspiracy’ as genesis as well as his defense to it.
While we are more than aware of the currency or prevalence of ‘conspiracy’ as a tendency, we need to understand it’s psychological, moral and political effects on us in a more in depth manner. Otherwise we would be deluded and made prey of, all the while thinking  we are being ‘critical’, ‘ aware’, ‘discriminating’, ‘conscious’, ‘politically matured’, ‘ liberated’, ‘emancipated’, ‘just’ and the like.

 ‘Conspiracy’ as technique or political tactic works in the following way, with its corollary effects: 

 a) It deflects from issues at hand. Hence in the case of the National Feedlot Corporation, it serves its cause to deflect public gaze by pointing to the machination of others out to destroy or undermine Wanita UMNO. This deflective function explains too why Anwar Ibrahim has not sued over his sex video, challenged the authenticity of the video, has not been forthcoming with DNA samples, has avoided the ritual of religious oath and the like, all of which are directly connected with the issue. On the contrary, he has been most vociferous in denouncing ‘conspiracy’ out to destroy his political career. Maximum deflection is usually accomplished by errant leaders by identifying their personal self with bigger cause or mission. Thus an individual problem becomes the fate of  ' Wanita UMNO' or a leader with personal issues becomes 'the survival of the opposition' or ' the very embodiment of opposition cause' .  

 b) the conspiracy theory is most effective in dividing people over issues, making for partisanship
and sectarian views. Once unfolded, the theory begins to influence people to gravitate around partisanship, regardless of the issues at hand. Hence people begin to collude and conspire themselves to divert, deflect, to cover up the real issue at hand, be it corruption or sexual videos and the like. This explains the gross and jarring inconsistencies and contradictions in our political life. Parties or groups which are normally fast in denouncing the corruption of adversaries all of a sudden become vehement protectors and apologists of corrupt parties. Likewise, groups and public members who are never wanting in censuring leaders for sexual misconduct overnight turn into apologists for promiscuity. This is particular schizophrenic when it comes to generally orthodox PAS , with its rather stringent sexual mores, ever zealous over khalwat (close proximity), adultery, or sexual segregation.  Only the theory of conspiracy could explain and reconcile Nik Aziz’s views that beautiful women should not be allowed to work with his view that those who oppose Anwar Ibrahim (in the heat the sex video controversy) can never go to paradise!
c)  the conspiracy theory also acts in a devious manner to relativise our values or to blur our sense of right and wrong, that is to compromise our principles. Because the theory deflects from issues, and divide us along partisanship regardless of issues, it forces us to compromise our principles and values too in the process. In this regards, even as we try to infuse public life with higher morality or conscience, under the spell of conspiracy theory, unknowingly we conclude with errand leaders in making our politics and civic life unscrupulous or immoral. Deluded by conspiracy theory, we collude or conspire along with errant leaders,

 d) conspiracy theory develops a form of ‘false consciousness’ among the public duped in its sway. It undermines proper appreciation and understanding of the real issues and in this manner prevents them from the right course of action in politics, be it pertaining to ‘ reformasi’ or ‘transformasi’ .
As stated above we need to understand the working of the theory of conspiracy frequently resorted to by leaders in crisis situation. It is very useful for them whenever cornered or held to account. As we outlined, the theory of conspiracy deflects from real issues, it divides people into partisanship or sectarianism away from moral principles, it compromises public conscience or relativise it, and it clouds public understanding of the real issues or situation. While the theory of conspiracy effects all the above, if we examine our errant leaders closely, we can infer their confession of sort in their very theory of conspiracy. As they deflect, we know what they are really hiding. As they divide, we know what public opinion they fear. As they relativise values and principles, we know what principle they fear the public would judge them by. As they whip up smoke screen  to confuse and cloud understanding, we know what they fear the public understand.
 In  other words, it may serve their cause in the short term to resort to conspiracy charges. Unknowing to them though, as they do so, they may be signing their very own confession. As they try to cover their tracks, they leave even more telling signs!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Creative Corrupt

I have always been impressed by the fact that there are levels of corruption as indicated by its degree of ‘sophistication’. It ranges from the cheap direct ‘give’ and ‘take’ at face to face level, say at the counters of immigration, custom, utilities board, land office, licensing authorities or at traffic checkpoints and the like, to the super efficient and sophisticated corporate wizardry, capable of transforming billions from one form to another, from cattle to condos , from one airline to another, from agricultural to premium freehold land bank, from Malay reserve to freehold, from worthless shares at one point to those rocketing through the price ceiling. All it takes really is just a matter of ‘swapping’, ‘conversion’, ‘ reinvesting idle capital’, ‘rebranding’, ‘repackaging’, ‘rezoning’, and all manner of ‘tricks of the trade’, ‘ professionalism’, ‘ legal advice’, and of course ‘ vision’, ‘flair’, ‘entrepreneurship’.
At the highest or sophisticated level, corruption is hardly that, because it assumes the garb of legality. It achieves the perfect combination of abuse, opportunism, indecency, vulgarism with invulnerability against the law. At this level, corruption can even be transformed into saga of success, epitome of financial wizardry, the acts and doing of capitalist prophets. Failing banks can be turned around into the most dominant or premier bank, due to brilliant ‘merger’, ‘take over’ and ‘corporate make over’, ‘bail out’. At this level, great bankers, industrialists are mythologize as Midas whose touch can only turn ugly duckling corporations into gold. With their touch, or  the mere grace of their name, boasting of great parentage or siblings, penny shares become punters favorite overnight, appreciating five times or more with the batting of an eye.
If you study and reflect on all the happenings of sophisticated and legal form of corruption, which we cannot even call it by its name due to its legal guise and seamless metamorphosis, we are bound to acknowledge one truth, that is its perpetrators and practitioners are creative people with a special bend of mind. Study this scourge hitting our nation closely and you will be amazed at the spinning, wheeling and dealing going on. As some sociologist had observed corruption ‘greases’ things. It makes things moves smoothly in a devious way. For example, a hypothetical corporation, let’s say ‘National Fed A Lot Corporation’ or ‘ Anyone Can Fly With Easy Subsidy’ , can justify its purchase of premium real estate, or share swap, in terms of 'sound investments' with figures to boot, under dubious circumstances. When pressed for an explanation our hypothetical company is not obliged to divulge all the complex of vested interests involved in this transaction, the various kickbacks, the commissions, the profits, the trade offs, and the like, suffice with a mere ‘ sound investment’.
To handle corruption effectively, we need a higher level of public morality and a higher level of legal standards pertaining to corruption. We need this because vested interests would always work towards a low standard of legality that they can easily outwit or slither out of. We need to be as creative morally and legally as the creative corrupt in our midst!

Friday, November 11, 2011

National Feedlot Corporation: Meditation on the Cow

When it comes to leadership, the standard for integrity in office or governance should go beyond quibbles over legality. This is because everyone knows there can be many phenomena which may pass for 'legal' which nevertheless violate or at least compromise the principle of integrity in office. This is usually the case in the issue of cronyism. Usually practitioners are intelligent enough to 'fix' things in such a manner to satisfy legality, yet accommodating of vested or conflicting interests. In Malaysia there are only too many of such examples, which is a major bane for our nation. The basic issue is just where do we fix the standards for integrity in office, good governance or scrupulous leadership? If we just reflect on all our past issues involving fiscal policies, developmental planning or the implementation of mega projects, there is always this problem of 'legal vested interests' costing the public.

We will also note that whenever we have a relatively clean government in the world, it will be one which is prepared to set the standards of integrity in office higher and beyond minimal 'legality', into scruples and old fashioned morality or honesty. We will also note that in any major case of corruption in court, the defence will invariably be that of 'legal though interested',therefore 'not quite corrupt'. That is is why a good government will set its standards at the legal-moral level, stretching the limit of the law towards this end. On the other hand, a less principled government or leadership would instead use the 'legal' argument narrowly as to exclude all considerations of scruples, morality and decency. That is why at the end of the day, morality and decency should guide politics (tempered by the law of course!). Otherwise, many of the issues of 'corruption' or 'cronyism' could be a subject of polemics till the cows come home!

A capable and principled government should reflect serious commitment to weed out corruption and vested interests, regardless of party affiliation or partisanship. Without such resolve, a government would soon be riddled with corruption, for the simple reason that those of its inner circle would feel secure from action, on the understanding that only outsiders risk it. Also, corruption then becomes a sort of privilege for the ruling group. This is far from saying that a change of government necessarily ends this problem. The weakness would continue even with a change of government, as the incoming ruling group would simply avail itself of ' the privilege'. In fact, an opposition would always decry the 'corruption' of ruling group usually because it relishes its 'privelege' and opportunities for corruption. This is why a good government, or one which endeavour to go down in history as one, would combat corruption seriously, taking the bull by its horn! It aims directly for a bull's eye, instead of making excuses and side stepping into many irrelevant issues, or bull...!

An honest and people-oriented government would think of the national good and the interests of the citizens in general.The prime motivation in politics is not personal interests or gains. It doesn't see the nation as a cow to be milked dry. It would endeavour to secure and advance national interests , never to plunder or blunder deliberately for gains, exposing the nation to ruination as would a cow in a china shop!

The very little that I read of the Auditor's-Report, is already too much by way of dubious practices and abuses. It sets me wondering would there by any measure of the proverbial 'heads shall roll', or merely the usual 'let the good times roll'! Holy cow!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Seksualiti Merdeka 2011: The Thrill in the Drill

The public outcry on both sides, whether in support or opposition to Seksualiti Merdeka 2011, has been at cross-purpose to each other. In this respect, the issue has given rise to an atmosphere of exasperation to partisans and 'confusion' to members of the public. Those who object or criticise, see Seksualiti Merdeka 2011 as advocating 'free sex' in the form of LGBT. They see the event as a threat to the norms or values of the majority. They question the right of the sponsors and advocates to 'freedom of expressions' and 'human rights' in championing their cause, explicitly or latently. On the other hand the supporters or sympathisers of Seksualiti Merdeka 2011 seem to compound many issues in their stand, thereby creating a general mood of ' unsaid things' , 'latent support', or even 'streaks of opportunism' among them. The basic approach is essentially ' we like it, minus the liability', a kind of ' expediency or convenience ' if you like.  

The stand of PAS, PKR or PR in general is interesting to ponder. Although giving a semblance of non-committal stand on the issue directly championed by Seksualiti Merdeka, their stance clearly reflects the modus operandi of PAS, PKR and PR. On the whole they like the idea of street demonstration, the exercise in mobilizing, the networking, the organizing, the populistic stancing, the whetting of defiance, the conditioning of international opinion, cultivation of anarchic and anti-establishment psychology, and the subtle undermining of the legitimacy of authority and the establishment. Seeing street demonstration as a basic principle to its modus operandi, the opposition strives for its maintenance or preservation.

While keeping the practice of street demonstration alive and  intact, PKR, PR and PR carefully dissociates themselves from the issue of LGBT as such . This is carefully done in several ways.One way is to avoid official statement on the issue of LGBT directly. So as not to appear too glaring, members are allowed to speak up ' as individuals'. If pushed to the wall in making an official stand, they would sidestep into general diffused and abstract issues like 'human rights', 'freedom of expression', 'freedom from persecution', and of course the usual ' draconian establishment', ' authoritarian police' and 'protection of minority rights'.

In opposition to what PAS, PKR and PR see as 'heavy-handedness' or 'intolerance' of the authority, they advocate a general approach of 'social education', ' dialogue', 'forum', 'engagement' or ' moral persuasion' towards LGBT. While such approaches have their objective values, coming from PAS, PKR and PR they represent a glaring departure, even a stark contradiction to their general political disposition. All of a sudden we note the generally orthodox PAS and segments of PKR, noted for their preoccupation with attire, rituals , 'westernisation', sexual segregation and the like, prescribing rather unconvincingly the 'social education' approach or 'tolerance' towards alternative sexual mores or norms. The jarring contradiction suggests political expediency rather than political conviction or principle.

Although the opposition has 'dissociated' itself from LGBT as an issue, it has has vested interests in the polemics over the Seksualiti Merdeka 2011 event, politically speaking. The General Election is around the corner. It is clear that sex videos of wayward leaders would be one of the major arsenal of adversaries. If such videos promise to be a major political liability to the opposition, it would serve their cause to tamper sexual norm or values of society. If the paradigm of public sexual norm or values could be conditioned somewhat towards greater 'liberality' or 'permissiveness', then the errant sexual conduct of key oppositional leaders could be made more acceptable or palatable. In this way it is hoped  the public would be more accommodating, ' forgiving', 'understanding' of deviant leaders. Shifting the paradigm of sexual mores and values, or at least relativising it, would be an imperative of 'damage control' in the face of serial exposure of leaders in the mass media.

As evident in the Sensualiti Merdeka 2011 issue, the opposition is not really interested in the issues as such when it comes to street demonstration. It merely wants to ride the practice of street demonstration to its full advantages. Hence the public can expect the practice of street demonstration to continue or intensify. From the perspective of the opposition, street demonstration is to be eventually transformed into an opposition tradition. This explains why the practice is of increasing frequency, assuming a serial nature. It explains too why leadership and sponsorship is always the same for several incidents. As far as I can see, the interests is to move politics from parliament, the mass media, into the street. To shift politics from discussion and dialogue to 'direct action', regardless of what sponsors claim or declare to the contrary. Who knows, one day Malaysia can go the way of 'people's power' in the Middle East. Until then, never mind the issues. What matters is the drill must go on, the thrill must be whetted. To be prepared for any eventuality, 'the thrill of the drill' must be sustained at all cost!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Fool's Guide To Public Finance and Avoidance of Bankruptcy

Having read the horrors in the Auditor-General's Report and Minister Idris Jala's speech on finance and bankruptcy, I feel a huge gap in my grasp of financial matters. It is my impression that keeping and managing money is by no means matter. It is elusive, slippery and can simply evaporate or disappear into thin air. It is very vulnerable to plundering and blundering. It is very amenable to sleight -of- hand, falling readily into the pocket, easily concealed up the sleeve, or made a subject of illusion.

Just to help my own understanding of the mystical subject of finance, I decided to make some notes of my own, sharing them with those equally perplexed.

Firstly, there is the concept of 'operating cost'. This should normally refer to the regular or recurring cost of keeping things running, such as salaries and other overheads. Normally 'operating cost' should exclude subsidies, unless subsidies is part of your operational calculation, like for instance for winning votes, in the case of which subsidies is certainly part of 'operational cost'. In any case I think we need to distinguish 'operating cost' from 'operation cost'. 'Operation cost' is the huge burden of correcting, restoring, salvaging, bailing after the plundering and blunderings that we read of. If you like, 'operation cost' is analogous to the cost of restoring our health, say for instance after we go for a heart bypass. Putting it simply , 'operation cost' is the expenses of cleaning up the mess left by someone, which nevertheless continue to drain even more public funds. To recapitulate: We need to distinguish 'operational cost' from ' operation cost' .

I always note that 'subsidy' seems to be a dirty word for many leaders and some diehard of bourgeoisie thinking, normally of those in the private sector. It is taken to signify ' reliance', 'dependence', 'fatalism' of the lower classes, commonly designated as ' subsidy mentality' or 'crutch mentality' by the more affluent. The truth is all classes are usually the beneficiaries of 'subsidy' in one form or another as reflected in the economic or financial policies. Only the form and terminology differs. For the affluent', we don' t call it 'subsidy' but 'perks', 'tax reliefs', 'infrastructural developmental cost' , 'incentives', various form be of licenses like 'AP's', and many more.

Actually 'subsidy' can be either constructive or parasitic. Subsidies in the right places could be a vital developmental tool, like the encouragement of education or development of skills. Subsidy can be a vital mechanic of social and economic equality, and a dispenser of social justice. But there is the other kind of subsidy, which is parasitic in nature, which lives off public fund without accruing much benefits for national development. This can take many forms, wether we call it 'subsidy' or by any other term. Nevertheless subsidy of this kind acts as a drain of public fund. This phenomenon is best categorised as 'subsides', as it merely eats into public fund, depleting it.. To recapitulate: we need to distinguish clearly between ' subsidies' and 'subsides'.

I always have problems with this term ' investment', as in the case someone saying 'investment' must be prioritised over all else. As I understand, 'investment' is putting money to good use, accruing many other benefits, financially or otherwise. 'Investment' is foregoing present use of capital for long term profits or benefits. Within our context, normally 'investment' refers to huge projects costing billions, or big businesses and the like. But for some strange reasons, our 'investments' seems to  mean many other things, essentially plundering and disguised blunderings. Public funds seems to have vanished with no benefits accruing, for example a highway project costing billions which is unfit for public use. To make sense of this, even if it is only for myself, I would called such spending ' investiture', because it merely allows some to wax riches, often instantaneously without accountability. To recapitulate: we need to distinguish clearly between 'investment' and 'investiture'.

And then we have this dumbfounding subject of 'loan'. Now 'loan' to my understanding means the money the government needs to 'borrow' to run the country and finance its development. In this respect I do see the need to 'borrow' or take a 'loan'. If well managed, it can certainly be an important factor for our national well being. However, now I read our 'loan' has significantly escalated, jumping by 12.3 percent from the previous year to RM407 billion. With the horrors of the Auditor-General's Report still fresh  in mind, I realise something must be wrong with my earlier understanding of 'loan'. 'Loan' seems to be something dangerous, threatening of bankruptcy. For greater clarity , I would call this ever escalating and threatening factor not 'loan' but 'moan'. We should be worrying now that our 'moan' has greatly skyrocketed. As a corollary, we should not speak now of 'borrow' but 'sorrow', allowing for the verb form as in ' googling' or ' fingering'. In short our leaders and bureaucrats should stop 'sorrowing' more and more 'moan', bringing us to the brink of bankruptcy!To recapitulate: we need to distinguish between 'loan' and 'moan', between 'borrow' and 'sorrow'. 

I hope to share my personal notes with those equally lost in comprehending recent issues and development in public finance, who are nevertheless anxious over the prospect of our nation falling prey to bankruptcy. Admittedly the notes are too rudimentary or crude for government leaders and top civil servants holding the rein of public finance or the national economy in their hand, vowing 'never to let this (bankruptcy) to happen' -Minister', to cite Minister Idris Jala.    

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Auditing audacious greed or costly fool?

In a persistent pattern, easily anticipated and predicted like clockwork, the recent auditor's report recounts the usual blatant and outrageous plunder of public fund by way of 'deliberate' waste and ridiculously inflated spending. Thin indeed is the line between 'bad planning', 'careless spending' and probable vested interests that underline them. Where the procedures and supervision over vested interests are weak or lax, there would for sure be widespread 'bad planning', 'human errors', 'overspending', 'misspending', 'ill conceived projects', 'bad decisions', 'bad purchases' and everything else suggesting all manner of 'mistakes', 'blunders' and 'bad judgement' which nevertheless drained billions from public funds.

In such a situation, from the point of view of vested interests, the trick is to pass 'vested interests' for 'silliness', 'inaptness' or 'inefficiency', which no matter how costly will still remain 'innocent' of questionable motives. What! ... the Marine Department paid RM 56,350 for binoculars worth about RM 1,940? Paying RM192,694 for laptops, printers. LCD monitors and DVD players which should cost only RM20,193 ? And the Tourism Ministry paying RM1.95 million for pamphlet racks done without the Ministry's approval? The same ministry spending RM270 million on advertisement by direct booking instead of following the procedure of tendering which could cost only RM 75.38 million?Ministries overspending on items such as ovens and folding beds by RM306 million? All of which naturally drove the federal government's public debt up to RM407.1 billion, up 12.3 percent over the previous year.

There are many too many of such 'blunders' and ' costly mistakes ' in the Auditor-General's Report, so many as to make the report almost a compendium on a management style dominated by fools. The phenomenon is so prevalent, so usual in our situation as to make it 'normal' and 'common knowledge' ,that it no longer shock or surprised us, merely exciting disgust and indignation among a few, and acquiescence or resignation among many others. Such recounting of administrative 'blunders' and 'bad judgement' has attained a kind of ritual status, no different from the past and would be repeated in the coming years. Initially it would be met by pious pronouncement to bring people to book to appease the public, which would then quietly fizzle out as the issue fades in public attention.

The fact that the phenomena of 'blunders' and ' innocent oversights', notwithstanding how silly or costly, are persistently continuing testifies to the lack of will in checking them on the part of leaders. Either it testifies to their lack of seriousness or willingness in checking them or to their ineffectiveness in doing so .Either way, it casts doubt on their leadership of society and nation.

What leaders should understand, however, is that public indignation or revulsion would be eventually translated into the ballot box.This is because the issue of ' blundering bureaucracy' is of such nature as to constitute the very stuff of life and reality for the voting public. It would take many many speeches promising 'high income society' or ' public spirited budget' to erase inner public revulsion towards such 'errors' or 'bad judgments', if at all rhetoric can counter life experience. Even when the public are handed out little goodies, or direct handouts, these would be nullified by public  resentment that they are being made to pay RM 56, 000 for  RM1,900 binoculars. Though they hear the promise of higher income, they nevertheless resent being made to pay over RM190,000 for gadgets worth only RM20,000. And so will they feel over the overspending and wasteful ways of Ministries in general.

The purpose of this posting is not to lament the fact of a 'blundering' and 'erroneous' bureaucracy and leadership, examples of which are replete in the Auditor-General's Report. What is important is to draw wider implications and observations relevant for our society and nation. From the widespread phenomenon of ' blundering bureaucracy' can be deduced the following: a) there is vested interests in initiating or implementing 'bad planning' and 'inefficiency', with considerable cost to the people, both financially and in terms of development, b) there is an unhealthy symbiosis between the bureaucracy and the private sector, which then thrives parasitically on society and the nation, c) for the 'blundering bureaucrats', the bureaucracy and national administration is seen basically as the cow to be milked perpetually, d) for the participating representatives of the private sector, good business skill and acumen is the art of networking and cultivating certain 'blundering bureaucrats', on which their business success vitally depends.

All the above does not auger well for the nation and society. The revolting examples mentioned in Auditor-General's Report do not represent simply isolated examples of deviation or corruption against a background of an otherwise efficient administration. Rather they represent a whole fundamental attitude towards what being a part of the national administration means for certain type of bureaucrats, and what is really going on between the bureaucracy and the private sector in some powerful and well connected circles on both sides.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hudud: Hide your cake and hype it too

I learn from today's Star that the PR had a big pow-wow, chaired by Dato Seri Anwar on the issue of hudud, which had been causing an uproar within their ranks, threatening to split open the tradional fault lines between component parties.At the end of it, PR in a show of solidarity rejected the implementation of hudud, on one of the grounds being it is against the Federal Constitution.

Only a few days ago, I read that Nik Aziz was adamant on implementing hudud, with or without the agreement of the BN,or anybody else, and to the surprise of many Dato Seri Anwar gave him his full support, which of course angered and stumped many DAP leaders. I remembered Karpal Singh reacted strongly against hudud laws, enumerating what he deemed some of its rather gruesome punishment, like stoning to death and beheading for adulterous couples. The public would have noted the punishments would apply to some of the PR leaders themselves who seem to be head over heel on the implementation of hudud.

In todays Star alongside the news of PR's rejection of hudud,Nik Aziz affirmed his resolve to push on for the implementation of hudud, which of course set the public wondering just what is going on with the issue.

Earlier on we read of Anwar's full support for Nik Aziz and his hudud resolve, but now we read of the meeting chaired by Anwar rejecting the implementation. Was it a misreporting that Anwar fully backed the hudud, or is it an about-turn on his part under the pressure by the DAP?

Anyway, the official rejection by the PR, has the effect of making the hudud intention solely the idiosyncrasy of Nik Aziz,and a localised issue of Kelantan, while component parties of PR are quite clear in their opposition. In this respect, it can be said to be a good damage control by PR. In this manner the disquietude among non-Malays is somewhat placated and their support and votes are maintained. On the other had, Nik Aziz resolve is good for winning back some of the Malay Muslim ground which may have been alienated over the use of 'Allah' affair, and the abandonment of PAS principle of championing the formation of an Islamic state.

On the side of Nik Aziz's insistence on hudud, it is still a win-win situation for PAS and PR. I think everyone knows, including Nik Aziz and his supporters, that the hudud would never ever be implemented since it violates the Federal Constitution. What is gainful for them is that, the failure to have hudud can be conveniently blamed on the 'infidel' and 'obstructionist' BN. The hudud advocates would then be casted in the image of wronged champions of Islam.

But still the divergence between the official stand of PR, as the outcome of the pow-wow, and Nik Aziz's chosen path, is so jarring, crying out for explanation for the public. Now this is taken care of by a useful and convenient 'democratic' device, 'respect for differing views'. Accordingly Nik Aziz's camp had thank the PR component parties, especially DAP, for their understanding and 'respect for their stand'. Likewise the PR in unanimity had thanked Nik Aziz camp for their understanding and 'respect' for their stand and view in rejecting the hudud implementation. Accordingly Dato Seri Anwar had also underscored his willingness to discuss the hudud idea anytime it is aired, out of respect for differing views. All seems to auger well for 'democracy'.

Well the way it's going the PR, and its component, seems to strike a good balance in availing itself of the hudud question. It gives something to the Malay Muslim ground that had been alienated, while 'out-Islamising' the BN at no cos At the same time it had smoothly and formally distant itself from the issue, so as not to alienate non-Malays and non-Muslims on the same wavelength as Karpal Singh.

In this manner the PR can hide its cake and hype it too, all to its advantages!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

PM Najib's Malaysia Day Speech: What freedom and for what? A query for both divides

PM Najib’s Malaysia Day Speech recently is worthy of note and response. This is reflected in the fact that it had evoked varieties of responses from the public , or more explicitly, from the mass media representing various interests. The speech had been hailed as ‘courageous’, ‘reflecting political will’, ‘a man of his words’, ‘ stunning of oppositions’, ‘ a wonderful gift to freedom lovers’ and many more positive accolades of various shades on both sides of the divides. Then there are the cautious and cynical ones viewing it as ‘election sweeteners’, ‘election ploy’, ‘ sleight of hand’, ‘ making virtue of necessity’ ,‘ ‘condescending’ , ‘theatrics for gullible Malaysians’ or even downright ‘ making idiots of the Malaysian public’ .

With a view of personal assessment, keeping in mind the above responses, trying to see the truth in them, while carefully guarding against interested partisanship, I went through the text of the speech. I have the following comments to make, fleeting thoughts (and not learned legal scrutiny) crossing my mind in my cursory survey.

The discourse on our history and background to the nation’s development and progress is merely a backdrop to the point that the context was different then, necessitating those laws or acts being reviewed or removed. Those were terrible times, with many enemies of the people and nation, hence those laws had been promulgated. But as the argument goes, times has changed, so must our laws.

They had been rendered obsolete, irrelevant, meaningless, dysfunctional. Good times had been ushered in too, development and progress had been good if not spectacular, making those laws sort of less necessary now. Malaysians are better educated, with the assumption then they are now more matured politically.

Are all the assumptions made therein correct or accurate in relation to the place of those laws in our history? Are the ISA, the various emergencies, the checks on freedom of the press and publishing, freedom of assembly etc relevant only in times of under-development and in times when the people are less educated? This is a dangerous assumption to make in my opinion. The simple truth is that a well to do person, of the highest class, excellently educated or superbly qualified, can well nigh be a chauvinist, religious bigot, racist, terrorist or slimy rabble rouser of various moulds. Furthermore the very assumption that we had ‘developed’ and ‘progressed’ due to diligent ‘planning’ is an assumption which we should carefully scrutinized. Had we resolved all our developmental problems which had been our ‘fault lines’ in terms of ethnic relations continually?

Its rather stark that the only personality mentioned in the speech was the late Tun Abdul Razak, father of the speech maker. Tun Abdul Razak was caste in the mould of a freedom lover who had by circumstances to preside over the suspension of freedom. But the love of freedom prevailed at the first opportunity to restore democracy, when the late Tun chose to give up power when he could well cling to it.

When only one solitary personality is cited, and conveniently, concerning a crucial period in our history, when scores of personality, social groups, various parties, all had their role, were silently passed over, it raises questions or even suspicion. It gives a sense that this is the ‘crafted’ part of the speech which links to the role and script PM Najib has cast for himself in the speech. It conjures the picture of a ‘dynastic’ love of freedom and zeal for reforms and transformation. It gives a sort of ‘tradition’, ‘roots’ to what PM Najib is about to announce in the later of the speech. It evokes the image of a ‘great son’ continuing the great work of a 'grea father'. Is it effective in profiling great leadership with tradition, roots and national history behind it? I leave it to the Malaysian public for their assessment in this respect.

The speech and the political intents it foreshadowed raises many other reflections, queries. If the drift of the speech is that laws like ISA is irrelevant , obsolete or dysfunctional, why abolish it, and replace it with two other laws in due course. Does not this in a way indicate it continues to be relevant in some respect? Why not tweak the ISA to constitute necessary adaptation and contextualizing? Incidentally Singapore is maintaining its ISA, but has long modified it to smoothen some of its alleged ‘draconian’ aspects, like shortening the period of emergency detention, and instituting reviews and checks, involving legal opinions, advice and presidential decision. Frequent objections to our own ISA had been over its abuse or potentials for it. Why not then check abuses or opportunities for it, rather than abolishing the law and then having new ones in its place. If the concern is over abuses, laws are always open to abuses, old or new.

Concerning the law pertaining to freedom of assembly, the speech promised review, presumably towards greater leeway. But almost in the same breadth it emphasized strong principle against street demonstrations. Now we all know, this is precisely the context of recent contention on the issues of freedom of assembly. Given this fact, it does look like the issue would remain contentious even after the new law is put in place. Clearly the public seems to clamor for greater freedom to demonstrate (always professed to be peaceful in intention by them). Anyway, will the’ new freedom’ soon to be ushered in under PM Najib’s watch make street demonstrations an integral aspect of our Malay way of life?

Concerning the law on freedom of the press and mass media, on the circulation of ideas and publication, some formal changes would be ushered in, the essence of which is really quite strong in continuity rather than radical transformation. Annual renewal of license is no longer required. License is to be deemed granted, in force until revoked. Hence administratively it has been tidied, no annual work required or necessary, but the control is still in force, in place. The difference is really between the possibility of ‘license being denied’ and ‘lincense being revoked’ As to the substantive change between the two, it is for the public to assess.

The PM’s speech is heavily laden with liberal rhetorics, as many of his speeches are. As for their contextual relevance to today’s situation, especially our own nation, much had been said and written about by critics of classical liberalism as to their contextual or historical inadequacies for contemporary situation. ‘Philosophy of the people, by the people, , for the people’? Who are ‘ the people’ within the particular context of the speech? What is ‘will of the people’ functionally and operationally speaking? What is ‘development’ or ‘progress’ ? What is ‘developed ‘ and ‘modern’ nation aspired for? What is ‘freedom’ ? Checking carefully for the overall justification for ‘reforms’ in the speech, I discover that the ‘reforms’ of the laws is really meant to be in harmony with the change in economic policies announced years ago. The change in law is intended as ‘political change’ that ‘completes the economic changes’ announced. In other works it is all towards the declaration of Transformation, twinning political and economic changes really under the ambit of Transformation.

One notable feature of the speech to me seems to be the lack of personal conviction, or even party conviction in the speech and its ‘vision’ of Transformation and Change. The speaker adopts the voice of the compromising or accommodating personality. It is in the voice ‘this is what the people want’, ‘this what the nation desires’ and the like. The speaker speaks of ‘risks’ he is willing or has to take for ‘survival’ . The speaker touches on the question of ‘trust’ in people as the motivation for accommodating them? There is little to indicate the speaker's position or conviction on the issue of freedom, liberty, change. The speaker does not argue for freedom but 'grants'it to the people, puts the burden on the people or citizens to rise up to the occasion in uniting and forging a nation based on freedom granted.

I think it is this lack of personal conviction, combined with the tenor and style of thinking of the speech, peppered with rhetorical liberal concept of progress, development, people’s will, freedom, of unity, transformation and change, which colored the responses of the public. They sense the speech as an electioneering one, on both sides of the divide. They see the speech as either scoring points for BN or taking the wind of the opposition’s sail. But the issues raised is more vital to our nation and its survival, beyond election.I hope both the ruling party and the opposition see and understand this clearly. Freedom, its institutionalisation, checks and balances is by no means to be treated as dices in a political gamble.

Monday, May 16, 2011

PAS Passage to Paradise

Recently, in connection with the sex-video 'exposure', PAS leader Nik Aziz made a declaration to the effect that those out to 'mengaibkan'( to shame, disgrace) Anwar Ibrahim will have the gate of paradise closed to them, not unless they kiss the feet of Anwar and beg for pardon. I think this is the height of arrogance on his part to appoint himself the gate keeper to the door of paradise. Given his party position, which fuses theology with politics, he is virtually saying he has the authority and power to determine who should be the dwellers of heaven or hell. What is worse, his pronouncement is tantamount to abusing religion for a crude political ploy  to safeguard PR vested interests. Such political move really exposes our public life and politics to dangerous trends. We all know that the approach of narrow and partisan orthodoxy and religious extremism is quite basic to PAS politics, and that Nik Aziz's pronouncement is by no means a departure from the past. However, the latest attempt to wield his theological influence over the sex-video issue takes it to a new level altogether, which I believe would violate the feelings of many PAS members and supporters.

Incidently, it should be noted that the issue of the sex-video is by no means confined to a question of the personal weakness of an individual. This is what distingushes the position of a public figure and the man on the street. When the man on the street indulges himself in this respect, we tend to view it as a personal weakness, or moral failing. In the case of a public figure, or a leader, it assumes a different meaning and significance altogether for us.

Now besides the issues of authenticity or the identity of the perpetrators, the sex-video raises many other crucial and significant questions. Going by the facts revealed surrounding the exposure, there are issues of concern. In all the cases accusing Anwar, a pattern seems to emerge. There has always been a middle man, a functionary of sort, who takes care of his sexual needs. Someone who makes the arrangement, who fixes things, who picks up and delivers so to speak In short, who acts as the pimp. We had someone in the first sodomy trial or in his other liasons. In a revealing video, Nurlia ( if I am not mistaken) with whom Anwar had had sexual relations, in a recorded conversation with Anwar, referred to ' your friend who always picks me up and bring me to you'. I think in the latest scandal, Eskay performs this function too. The question is this. Has this been going on for a long time, from the time when he was the Deputy PM to being the leader of the opposition.? It does conjure an image of an influential leader set in his ways and lifestyle, who seems to be predispose to using his resources to this end. I leave it to your imagination the consequence of such a figure leading the nation.

Then there are many other questions. Consider for instance the queries raised by Eskay for public consideration. How many times Anwar visits Thailand in a year? Who greets him and see to all his needs? In whose house does he stay? What does he do in the house? Who pays for all these facilities and comforts? These questions do suggest a poser who is in the know. And the questions are of very serious charges. It raises the question is Anwar a leader with a particular life style of decadence? And such weakness seems to place him under the control and manipulation of certain vested interests.

Putting it all together, we have a disturbing picture of Anwar Ibrahim ( of course subject to further public introspection) On the one hand we have the image of a leader with a powerful hold on a credulous and fanatical supporters, and on the other hand a leader who has personal weaknesses, very much in contrast to his messianic public image,  and who on that account is easily controlled or manipulated by vested interests.

I am not naive not to know that many other politicians are similar. Neither am I saying that Anwar would be an exception in this regard. All I am saying is that the public be vigilant and subject all our leaders to the same scrutiny and critical examination, and not be blinded by theatrics and antics of all shades, including the theological and the millenial kind. This posting is nothing more than an earnest plea that we preserve and maintain the dignity of our democracy and defend it against its enemies 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Politics and magic

Ordinarily, politics is roughly defined and understood as the determination of power for decision making and the distribution of values in society. Hence politics is also perceived as the process of choosing or selecting leaders. In this regard therefore, the political domain is very much part of the natural world, anchored in the pragmatic domain of living.

What is magic as commonly understood and believed in from primordial time till today? Magic refers to a belief system and a general world view. Magic has its own ways of perceiving nature, the world and life. It has its own structure of mind, certain characteristic ways of functioning or 'thinking'. Basically magic operates on principles 'off' the natural world, oblivious of scientific or objective facts, always referring to the 'supernatural', 'invisible', extra-logical world ( not in the religious sense but in forces such as ghosts, demons, witches, black magic etc.) Basically magic is incapable of objectifying the world, seeing things naturally or scientifically. Hence facts matter little to it, for the mind is bent upon brushing facts aside in preference for some other arbitrary and unverified explanation. For example, when a road accident happens, magical thinking is not interested in the facts of the case, such as the conditions of the road, the vehicle, the actual circumstances or material facts leading to the accidents, but instinctively turns to the notions that the location is haunted or jinxed, divine retribution befalling the victims, or that someone had effected black magic or witchcraft on the casualties.

Given the above, politics and magic would appear to be structurally different, the one very much anchored in the natural world, the domain of facts (though it can be disputatious), while magic is off the natural world and oblivious, or at least indifferent, to facts and empirical evidences. But are politics and magic all that different, at least in our Malaysian context? Observing the development of some of the major issues today and the various political responses of the public, I do not think the distinction between magic and politics is all that clear. It would seem that there are strong parallels, structurally speaking, between magic and politics.

Where political responses run along the structure of magic, we note the type of unshakeable conviction or illogical faith which runs counter to all manner of hard evidences or empirical facts. No measure of rational or logical discourse, scientific facts, technological arsenal like biometric, photographic and forensic scrutiny can make a dent on such outlook concerning matters which otherwise would be easily resolved by these approaches. Hence it is rather futile to appeal to such inclined members of the public on the basis of rational, empirical or scientific discourse. This phenomenon has led to the frustration of a great many who presume that politics simply runs on the basis of the rational, logic and the scientific, judging by the discourse on the internet. They soon discover that whatever evidences they advance, there will always be groups who have no use for such evidences, who instead will look for some anonymous, mysterious forces behind the facts, in an arbitrary fashion with no regards to the chain of cause and effects, or requirement of meaningful discourse pertaining to the matter.

What needs to be understood is this. It is not really a question of having enough or more evidences, but more the question of the nature and value of evidence itself. To those magically inclined in politics, they are not looking for evidences to establish the truth or the fact of a case, but merely to feed their emotion, faith and conviction. Hence anything that shakes or threatens their stand would be readily set aside, in favour of more satisfying elements which feed and reinforce their unshakeable belief. Instead of giving due consideration to the hard evidences, the magically structured would rather look for mysterious forces behind the evidences, very much like magical beliefs looking for wizards and witches whenever confronted by misfortune or life adversities. It is an integral aspect of magical culture to look for sinister forces lurking in the dark, working evil on individuals or groups in the society concerned. In short the idea of conspiracy in an all-embracing manner in disregard of natural or rational evidences is a basic element in the structure of magic.

Rational politics and magic run on different premises and appeal to different idea of ‘evidence’ and ‘truth’. Confusing the discourse of one for the other is to fail in distinguishing between differences of opinion and the difference between two diagonally opposed mental structure altogether. These two different minds or mental structures run parallel in politics, but will never ever have a meeting point anywhere. For this is the truth concerning magic. If indeed magical beliefs can be persuaded otherwise by rational discourse and hard evidences, both sharing the same premises in discourse, sharing the same idea of truth and measure of contradiction, magic would have disappeared long ago. Magic have survived for thousands of years, and will survive for thousands more, simply because it is a belief or faith which is impervious to the evidences of rationality and the objective world, and runs on its own premises or ‘logic’ (illogical or irrational to those outside of it)

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The Star 21 April 2011 reports a rather interesting development in the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the death of Teoh Beng Hock. The gists of the report include: 'the business man told..his company WSK Services used bumiputra companies as fronts to facilitate claims for projects and programmes carried out in the Seri Kembangan constituency'; businessman acknowledges that 'the bumiputra companies received between five and 10% of the contract sum as payment'; he admitted 'most of the contracts to carry out small projects and programmes in the constituency were awarded to the company'; he disclosed 'Teoh was the conduit between him (businessman) and Seri Kembangan state assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah with regards to discussions related to pricing of projects in the constituency''. As we know Teoh was Ean Yong's political aide.

Now this is very serious, raising many questions concerning the DAP's integrity. The DAP gained much ground in the last General Election riding the anti-Dasar Ekonomi Baru or the New Economic Policy. The much maligned aspect of the DEB was of course its so-called 'affirmative action' perceived as favouring the Malays or bumiputras, and discriminating against the non-bumiputras. One of the earliest act of the PR Penang State Goverment upon coming to power was declaring that it would not adhere or implement the DEB or NEP, sparking much political controversies. Now it is rather ironic, going by the disclosure in the RCI, that the PR Selangor state goverment would seem to be practicing a principle of the DEB, that is giving consideration to bumiputra companies in the award of projects.

It is even more ironic, if we reflect on some of the main causes of the failure of the DEB to restructure the economy meaningfully or justly ( we won't go into the issues over the policy aspects of DEB here) One of the main cause was certainly the farming out of business licences, contracts, tenders etc to non -Malays by bumiputras who then become 'sleeping partners' in the classic 'Ali-Baba' practice, or even the earlier ' Pembesar-Kapitan Cina' tradition. It is rather significant to note that the DAP seems to pay homage to this practice. Hence the DAP seems to be caught in not only 'implementing' the DEB, which it denounces as a major platform, but also its abuses of the past, which corrupted and sabotaged it. So plain speaking: what's this about! The DAP has a lot of explaining to do!

It is even more mind boggling, bordering on comedy, if we add to all this the fact that the BN has abrogated the DEP and ushered in the NEM, with much fanfare and political fireworks. Will the BN , like the DAP, make a distinction between pronouncement and practice, between 'policy'and ' implementation'? Will it also revert to the croony- ridden practice of the past?

Coming back to the RCI and the DAP, the disclosure raises many questions. In the first place, is it true?If so, is it a case of the corruption of an individual assemblyman, or is it 'systemic'? Is it a deviation of one, or a party mechanism, an institutionalisation of a practice, a tradition in the making, so to speak? If it is a case of an individual's corruption, the DAP would have to come clean in appropriate measure. Silence would be construed by the public as conspiracy or complicity.

The disclosure also prompts some reflection on our part. What with all the slogans and rhetoric in our politics! I hope it is not simply in obeisance to the imperative of power for the sole purpose of getting a piece of the action in corruption, regardless of public pronouncements and solemn promises. It is meaningless to the public if politics merely come to mean a change of syndicate commanding corruption and its beneficiaries. Politics would then degenerate into the quest for power and the monopoly to dip into the till at the expense of the public!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Anugerah atau Anu-ghairah? ( Saint or Sensous? )

Thought I would have a quiet weekend and forget for awhile (at least for the weekend) so many matters troubling our nation, what with a second death under mysterious circumstances concerning MACC, corruption cases (the arrests and court cases are good news, auguring well for our nation, but as indications of the prevalence of corruption they are most disturbing) involving the Immigration and the Customs, the Bible or religious issues, and many many other ethnic relation, issues portentous of serious conflicts in our nation. But no! way of shutting them out. It's all over in the news, as they say there is no escaping them. Might as well make some notes and impressions.

There is now this 'quest for truth',the identity of a man in a now infamous video clipping. If anyone can have the copyright or even just the physical master copy, he could make millions. It is that hot! But then we all know, that is not to be, right..given the circumstances. The circumstances and the development of the issue is as interesting, instructive as it is baffling in its twist and turn. As I had argued in an earlier posting, perspectives would greatly differ depending on how we defined the video basically, pornography or political document. As it turned out, even this basic starting point is not as simple or clear cut. Like everything else in our Malaysian politics, the lines are drawn by partisan views or political divides. The development is clear now, the opposition would define it as pornography, while for the establishment it is a political document on the action of a political leader , caught in 'the act'.

The basic definition held by the opposition, crying foul of 'porno', allowed it to use the law against those behind the video (away from the one 'in' the video), and to check the circulation of the video, or even public discussion of it, in short to will the video out of public consciousness, all under 'production', 'posession', 'disemination' under the law. This would make it much easier for categorical denial of the content. How is the public to judge then? What will come through is just plain, pure denial, appealing to faith or dogmatism, with no recourse to materials for verification or authentication. Of course this opens the way to the usual political stand simply based on ' he is not capable of such act', 'out of character' or ' yet another conspiracy'. Such faith has been somewhat dented lately when the 'abridged version' of the video had been circulated or publicised, taking care of the 'pornograhic' character of the document, omitting ' the act' as such, merely showing the build up, the preparation before the act proper. While disappointing many interested in 'the act', those interested in identification have enough to go by, towel or no towel.

But still the opposition remains steadfast in its charge of 'porno', denial of identity of main cast, with a political counter charge of the usual 'conspiracy'. The position taken, like all other issues, may be summed up in the maxim ' your word against mine' and ' your words are however lacking credibility, legitimacy or moral authority'. Hence if the public expects 'truth' in the form of admission or confession, or acknowledgement of facts, they are somewhat naive, I have to say. Given its basic formula, this is never forthcoming of the opposition.Even if there had been four live witnesses to the issue, it will be maintained that 'somehow' the person is 'not him'. Hence the public should reconsider its notion of truth, or their expectation of it, in this case. With or without RCI, their basic 'formula' will not change, neither would be 'the truth' entertained.

What about the BN or the establishment? Initially it was caught by 'porno' argument. Now it has wised up to the distinction of 'porno' and 'political'. It is on the counter charge. Minister Hishamuddin as custodian of the integrity of the police force is suing those crying 'conspiracy'. Minister Nazri Aziz is pushing for RCI, regretfully for the wrong reason to the effect: ' since they deny the truth, and blame the BN, the BN has to defend itself'. Now this would have the effect of making the issue of RCI a partisan one, a BN initiative or 'project', and an interested one. Wouldn't this feeding or playing into the hand of the opposition? Wouldn't it gives credibility to the accusation that the proposed RCI is 'politically motivated'? There are so many, much more credible reasons from the national perspective for so constituting an RCI, but the BN seems to be too 'BN centric ' to see or advance them. What about the rational of public accountability, national security, public interests, public right to know, and many more?

The issue is clearly taking a partisan view, hence the notion of truth, and the nature of the quest for it, expressed in the debate between 'anugerah' and 'anu-ghairah'. How will it end? Will the aura and near-saint cult survived the BN endeavor to transform 'anugerah' into 'anu-ghairah'? Will the RCI be instituted and will it change anything? I guess we the public will have to keep an open mind and see if indeed Truth will prevail!