Monday, April 14, 2008

Pak Lah’s Heroic Last Stand?


Of course, some of these steps will dry up the money supply of your party leaders. Your Umno “friends” will probably kill you politically for it. But they are already going to kill you anyway!

By Teh Taaa Rik

Dear Pak Lah,

The end is near. But how will you play your finale? Will you go out with a heroic bang? Or a whimper?

This is now a question of your legacy. How do you want to be remembered by history? As the man who quit in shame after causing Barisan to lose massively? Or as the man who – in a heroic last stand before he quit - finally displayed bold leadership and rescued Malaysia from corruption and cronyism?

In other words, do you want to go down with humiliation or with glory?

The Umno knives have been unsheathed. Caesar died the death of a thousand cuts on the floor of the Roman Senate. And you too face your political demise from 1,000 keris vote-stabs on the floor of PWTC.

Voices from Umno Kedah and Penang have rudely called for your departure. The party’s bastion, Johor, openly insists on a “transition plan” of leadership. Sabah Umno is seething too. You too must realise that you cannot hold on to power for long.

Yet, strangely, death can be refreshing and reenergising. When a doctor tells a cancer patient that he has only six months left to live, the sick man can suddenly gain insight into what truly matters in life. For instance, workaholics may suddenly realise that life is not about how many Mercedes and golf club memberships they can accumulate but how important family, friendships and charity are. And sometimes, with all that positive energy in them, they find that the cancer goes into remission.

Or take the political death of Anwar Ibrahim in 1998. He had been sucked into the Umno toilet bowl of money politics. But with his expulsion from the sewerage system he was cleaned by the rain and earth in the hardship of prison (as the book SHIT by Shahnon Ahmad puts it) and now look where he is: the hope of a fair and just multi-racial Malaysian future.

Dear Pak Lah, you have insisted that you want to stay on in office to “repair the damage” to Umno and Barisan Nasional. If you manage to cling on, your last few months in power will present you, and all of us Malaysians, with a golden window of opportunity to DO THE RIGHT THING. Because, as you face your political demise, you have NOTHING TO LOSE anymore.

As you prepare your exit, you paradoxically gain a peculiar freedom to become a Statesman and forget about narrow Umno political calculations. When you announced your grand reform plans in 2004, the Chinese community called you a “lone gunman” or lone ranger. While you were seen to have good intentions, it was felt that you did not have the power to break free from the sticky, clinging dodol (or molasses) of Umno’s money-grabbing ways.

But now, you have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to TAKE CHARGE. Show your strength - not by attacking Dr Mahathir as the one who caused the rot in his 22 years - but by cleaning the mess up.

You were our great hope for change in 2004 and you fluffed up your four years. But nevermind, better late than never. How about starting with the smaller steps? Set up the IPCMC to improve the police force. Replace the current IGP (who has been tainted with serious allegations of gangster links) with someone who will start combating crime seriously. Establish the Judicial Commission to ensure only competent judges are promoted. Clean up the illegal immigrants from Sabah and elsewhere.

Surely, these measures are not that controversial? Moreover, it would be your best rebuttal of Dr Mahathir - use the media to reveal the mess he created last time and show how you are finally cleaning things up and “listening to the people”.

Next, instead of pretending that it’s all the fault of the bloggers or of internal Umno sabotage, why not steal the thunder from Anwar? Nationalise the highway concession holders and announce that tolls will be reduced. Take RM5.5 billion (from Petronas’ RM80 billion profits) and reduce the price of petrol by 30 sen! Set free the Hindraf ISA detainees and have a reconciliation dialogue with them.

Admit that you made some mistakes last time. When it comes to a sincere bertaubat, insaf and kembali ke pangkal jalan - Malaysians can be quite a forgiving, soft-hearted lot.

Besides, you still have some residual image of a kindly and affable pakcik – just that people think you have been manipulated by an evil “tukang bisik” or whispering Minister Mentor. I still like to believe that, deep down, though you are prone to sleeping on the job, you are not an inherently evil man.

To be honest, if Dr Mahathir was in charge in 2008, some of the five Pakatan states may not have taken power so easily. We might well have repeated the 1985 drama of Sabah when mysterious bombs went exploding after PBS beat the Sabah BN in the “winds of change” state elections. Plus the disgraceful scenes where Pairin Kitingan was forced to wait outside the gates of the Istana for two days while the BN’s Haris Salleh was secretly sworn in despite losing. Not to mention that Dr Mahathir always threatened the voters – at every elections - with the possibility of May 13 erupting if BN should lose.

At least, dear Pak Lah, you are not “strong” in that devious, even violent, way. In that sense, your softness allowed the five Pakatan state governments to take over without a National Emergency. For that, I thank you.

So why not capitalise on your kindly uncle image? We Malaysians loved you to bits in 2004 for it. Goodness is your forte. You have shown that you don’t have Mahathir’s iron fist and manipulativeness to manage the tigers and sharks in Umno. But you have one last chance to lead through kindness and compassion.

Spiteful and childishly vengeful acts - like how Azalina the Tourism Minister is cutting off the five State governments from Federal tourism funding - do not reflect well on you. Is that how you want to be remembered by Malaysians after being forced to resign? As a sore loser? Compare that to the gentlemanly departure of Koh Tsu Koon.

Or you may want to project a strong and decisive image now. You tried to do that by attacking Dr Mahathir, Razaleigh, Umno saboteurs, critics of KJ etc etc. Frankly, that looked more like a desperate guy who, just before his own death, starts shooting a machine gun at everybody in a McDonald’s.

Dear sir, why not project strength and leadership in the right way, the Islam Hadhari way – through doing the right things even though a corrupt Umno doesn’t like it? I don’t know how far you can go but if possible, you might as well try to totally suck the winds out of the Opposition’s sails. Co-opt their agenda. Beat them at their own game. For example:

• Announce that all government projects will be given out by transparent open tenders (you can still reserve 30 per cent for bumis - the good bumis who are actually working).
• Set up an independent National Ombudsman to get tough on corruption starting from May 1 (forget about the past).
• Repeal the Printing Presses and Publications Act and allow for a free media.
• Replace the Official Secrets Act with a Freedom of Information Act – for all new government policies.
• Announce free education for all up to (local) university level.
• Commit your government to helping the poor of all races.
• Announce a National Inter-Religious Goodwill Council that will invite the one in Penang to co-operate.

Remember how you swept to triumph in 2004 with promises of reforms? I sincerely believe you can recapture some of the goodwill, trust, perhaps even adoration of the voters if you go for it. You know, and 25 million Malaysians know, that these are the right things to do. What are you waiting for? For Umno to dethrone and humiliate you?

Of course, some of these steps will dry up the money supply of your party leaders. Your Umno “friends” will probably kill you politically for it. But they are already going to kill you anyway! So why not take “revenge” on them before they do you in? Ha ha, that would be sweet irony no?

Umno, whose lifeblood runs on easy taxpayers’ money, will move to bring you down even faster for taking these steps. But you are still the Prime Minister. Surely you still have some power left. You are still holding aces in your hand, especially the corruption files on the Umno warlords. And there are rumours that you have some video on Najib’s wife? It’s the classic Mexican stand-off, where two people have guns pointed to each other’s heads - so both will have to back down quietly.

Dear sir, please don’t rehash the same tired old Umno formula again. Fear mongering against the non-Malays a la Ketuanan Melayu, control through ketua kampongs, threats of diverting Federal funds etc etc. Other grand old parties, such as the Kuomintang of Taiwan, also fell from power after 50 years of iron-fisted rule. And they have regained power after reinventing themselves as open, democractic parties, as we saw in the latest Taiwan elections.

Similarly, communism was defeated in Europe not through censorship and repression. The communists tried that for almost 50 years but they were finally defeated by the generous social welfare programs, liberal democracy and energetic open economies of Western Europe.

As things are now, it looks like you will be forced to hand over power – in disgrace. Surely, dear sir, you do not want to go down in Malaysian history as the man who failed BOTH the country and the party? So why not salvage some manhood? Prove that being jantan is not about waving a keris at the non-Malays but by courageously standing up for principles and fighting the vested interests of your own party.

With these bold reforms, the party may hate you but most Malaysians will love you. Because these reforms are about building good institutions – even after you quit, Najib or whoever else cannot easily backtrack on them without incurring a big backlash. In other words, it would be your greatest FAREWELL PRESENT to us. And we will forever remember you fondly for your legacy even if Umno pulls you down.

Besides, you can always declare that you are doing this because you have learnt the “real” lessons from the 2008 elections and are humbly undertaking reforms which you promised back in 2004. Your own party is deserting you. But by reviving the exhilarating mood of Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang, you have a chance to gain a powerful new ally – the people!

And what about Umno members? Surely there are some good ones left in the party who yearn for those idealistic days when ordinary supporters pawned their jewellery to support Merdeka? Surely, they will rise up to support you? By taking the high road and appealing to the members’ sense of fairplay, you will start that long journey to save Umno from its own greed and corruption yes? Unless all the good people have already left Umno and joined PAS and PKR...

Nobody, except greedy Umno and Barisan politicians or corrupt civil servants, can fault you for these reforms. In fact, when Umno warlords then move against you, it will look bad on them. You still control the media don’t you? You can portray yourself as a hero trying to reform ingrained bad habits to save the Malay race. Suddenly, you will find that the tsunami mood of makkal sakthi and people’s power will no longer be directed against you but against your enemies in Umno!

Dear Pak Lah, if you don’t undertake these reforms, your party is going to dump you anyway. So why not win back some respect and affection from the Malaysian public before your resign? And be remembered as the Prime Minister who – in a gallant last stand - saved our country from its mess?

Who knows, the voters may love you so much after this that Umno will not dare to force you to resign after all... In other words, as you save Malaysia, you may well end up saving yourself too.

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