From the embarrassing case of the missing jetfighter engines to the morally degenerating but politically opportunistic 'Allah' issue, it appears that Najib's administration could do nothing right at least not in the ends of those who hold the real power - the people. Comparatively speaking, Abdullah Badawi when in power seemed far less scandalous. Furthermore he did win a General Election with an overpowering mandate; something Najib has yet to be able to prove he could match.
Ever the incessant fiddly kingmaker, former PM Mahathir was quick to interject that his young protégé Najib was probably in a fitter state of mind to rule the country since he doesn't sleep on the job - a proverbial but blatant jibe at Badawi - but his obviously fading memory must be finding it hard to remember that the current playboy PM's most tainted accusation has not rested well with the country and abroad. For someone in his position to take power as the country's most powerful individual with the conscience of a murdered Mongolian looming as large as his scheming wife's complicity couldn't be easy.
That being said, Mahathir's typical self-serving and self-important nature doesn't allow anyone to question his failures much less any allegations that he might have corruptibly enriched his own family for 22 years. And so when claims were made that he had squandered RM100 billion worth of taxpayers' money during his despotic rule, he was obviously annoyed but when looked at from Barry Wain's claim, he fell somewhat short of a full denial, preferring instead to level the accusation at Badawi for being 'even more wasteful.' Surely if there is any hint at all, this is the best one that underscored his own tacit admission that he isn't the angel that he had long painted himself to be. Oh how politicians are all such pathological liars...
With such fine examples on parade - from Mahathir to Najib, Khir Toyo and Hishamuddin and so many other - nobody should ever be surprised at the languid effortlessness that UMNO can defraud the entire nation. So languid that even when blatant corruption is revealed, there isn't any panicking from the perpetrator. Under the able wings of Najib's administration, he has the pickings of the best judiciary, best anticorruption agency, best military, best police and best media to shield him and make sure that he can go into hiding for a while just to cool the heels of his pursuers. Once matters die down enough, he can then return from a self-imposed 'exile' and continue his merry way. Despite opposition outcries to investigate him, it would be case-closed amounting to a judicial acquittal usually based on 'insufficient evidence.'
Much as all of us know - it is unworldly to even suggest that, like others before it, the current UMNO-led ruling government is incorrupt. Tell that to even a market vendor and he'd laugh at our face. No thanks to Mahathir, corruption has become the number one telltale cultural signature of Malaysian society and there are no signs of it abating. From the bottommost to the top rung of society, corruption festers at deepening levels so worrying that foreign direct investments have been in steep declines for many years now. Transparency agencies have long criticised the corruption crisis at government levels in Malaysia but no one seems to want to take notice.
If you're someone visiting Malaysia as a tourist, you won't see anything too unpleasant. If you have been here for sometime, you'll understand that there are 'certain ways' to do things and for all intents and purposes, these are ways to 'work around' issues where money is inevitably involved in buying favours, squirming out of premeditated problems or fast-tracking permits and licences. Even foreign companies have learned that Malaysia 's modus operandus involves a strong dose of questionable morals in order to get things done.
Now that we're into the second year fresh out of the previous General Election, the tremor of the shock might have begun to settle. Najib's administration would be very quick to gloss over that patch of history and scheme to undermine the opposition in bids to recover lost territory. However the problem is far larger than he thinks because the prospects of returning Barisan Nasional to its past glorious days are rather quite gloomy. In fact everything points to the ruling alliance's first ever wholesale defeat in the next coming general election. At the rate that the ruling politicians are plundering the country, corruption is slated to worsen before it could get any lesser. Given that there is no good news to tell the people at large, what would Najib's administration do?
Simple. Loot more!
Knowing that there isn't much time left to rake in the money leisurely, every current minister, deputy minister and their secretaries and all high-powered government official aren't wasting time anymore. Instead - as you can see from the unfolding news - scams and scandals are emerging at breakneck speeds as everyone in government is filling up their pockets before there is nothing left to fill. Everyone knows that when the opposition marches in and takes over, their days are gone. What needs to be done now is to steal as much as one can, apply for permanent residence in a safe country for the whole family (including the mistress I suppose), pre-book your open airline tickets and go on a standby status ready to take off at a fleeting moment's notice.
Knowing that voters empowered by the Internet are fast seeing the real picture, the days of pulling the wool over their eyes are long over. Of course it's not game over yet. While the federal government is examining all sorts of ways to undermine the opposition's inertia, the worse has yet to come. Be that as it may, even the most ignominious BN/ UMNO politician now realises that there is no guarantee that the government's efforts to neutralise the opposition will work as before. And with that thought, the plundering this time will proceed at warp speed!
Against the backdrop of the obvious, the ruling government has not given up. In many ways they cannot afford to give up. Scrounging as much as possible is one thing - getting hauled to the courts and jailed for life is quite another. Najib's pirates are actively conjuring anything to swing back some percentage votes. So if you think you have seen everything yet, brace yourself - as the new trade winds blow your way, hold on tight because the storm is about to rock and the sea is about to get extremely choppy.
Here are some of the things they are likely to do:
1. Pre-register soldiers as early as possible and do a multiple deployment at various election points during election day - these are used instrumentally in crucial safe seats and must-win electorates
2. Don't discount gerrymandering because this is one way to weaken traditionally strong electorates for the opposition - if they can force the mergers of certain neighbouring seats of power, they may be able to manipulate the chance of winning to their advantage
3. Employ foreign expertise ( India anyone?) in Internet security and pay them handsomely to hack into opposition blogger sites, ruin their database servers, destroy their login management and generally cause costly havoc - this is chiefly to thwart Raja Petra Kamarudin's influence
4. Further undermining of the PKR-based Selangor state government by dividing PAS allegiance - central to the government's agenda is to win back the premier state at all costs including lives (as we have now seen)
5. Heighten more MACC hits on opposition leaders and politicians - this is aimed to discredit the opposition political power and shame them in public
6. Nail Anwar Ibrahim's ass once and for all, chuck him in jail, cripple him and throw the key away - so long as the status quo amongst the opposition remains the same, putting him away for good is key to nullifying the main threat to the government
7. Continue the pogrom of deliberately damaging their own mosques - this is to continue the bid to get Malays to believe that these are the works of non-Moslems (principally targeting at Chinese Christians)
8. Persistently play the religious card amongst the rural Malay population and to force PAS to show its hand of allegiance to Islam and hopefully force them to leave the Pakatan Rakyat alliance - it is obvious that the integrity of this alliance will be broken if they can compel - not PKR or DAP - but PAS to abandon
9. Build larger and more opulent palaces for the Sultans as a way to bribe them into owing favours (to the government) - in any case, most of the Sultanates continue to play into the hands of the government due to their own corruptibility and criminality
10. Secretly buying up favours with various pockets of influence amongst the Chinese communities by way of promising lucrative projects with profitable returns in return for votes - the government always believes that the Chinese are the easiest to corrupt because of their relative material greed
It is all too obvious that good governance is an alien concept to Malaysia 's ruling government. By the same token, efforts to restore popularity have continued. Najib's poorly conceived '1- Malaysia ' concept has been mocked at derisively not just in Malaysia but elsewhere around the world. Critics see it as no better or worse than previous attempts such as Mahathir's cynical 'Malaysia Boleh' or Badawi's banal 'Gemilang' nonsense. In the face of the country's anti-Israel lobbying, it might be surprising that Najib has courted a marketing company in America run by powerful and influential American Jews to develop and run the government's '1-Malaysia' theme. There you go again - liars, liars, pants on fire...
Whether or not any of these will bear good fruit for the government remains to be seen. The question is whether people see in Najib efforts that are sincere or more of the same cynical ploy merely to win votes but not to permanently change the mindset.
These efforts are best seen in Najib's decision to follow in the footsteps of his late father in the visit to China and his recent decision to call on the Indian state of Tamil Naidu.
In China , Najib hopes to repeat his father's success in wooing the local Chinese communities. Something tells me the Chinese are not that stupid that they cannot see through this veneer. Certain things are just not that easy to forget and the Chinese are continuing to wait for the right answers to come from the government (knowing they won't come). By visiting Tamil Naidu where some 85% of Malaysia 's Indians hail from, Najib hopes also to drum up support and restore the damaged Indian vote. In both cases, it's a lost cause for the government.
While all that might sound worthwhile - after all Najib badly needs to repair his deteriorating reputation - but in the final analysis, this use of taxpayers' money is yet another example of money not well spent. Najib believes it's a brilliant masterstroke but come the next general elections, the people will remain on track to send a resounding vote of no-confidence especially after his public endorsement of mass demonstrations in protest against the court decision to favour the Catholic weekly Herald in the use of the word 'Allah.' It's like taking two steps forward but ten steps back.
There is not a single person in the country whose vote is worth something who doesn't believe that the attempted arson attacks on the churches were none other than the work of the darker sinister princes at UMNO. Najib did not do himself any favours by denying this. He would have looked a whole lot better to the voters if he instead said he would get serious and flush them all out. Without a doubt, Hishamuddin and Najib were both toying with fire, with the possibility that another 'May 13' would calamitously trigger another race-related riot.
It is possible that they believe this would be the best course of action to retrieve power from states lost because curfews tend to do that by nature - as the military forces roll in, state powers are frozen automatically. Military generals then take over and in the end, powers of governance are returned to the federal government. Should that be the case, all hell will break loose. But no one can deny this is a distinct possibility. Remember, in politics, anything can happen..
What the government did not see coming was the passivity of the Christians' response to the arson attacks. Instead of retaliation - verbally or otherwise - the country's 9% minority Christian community responded by forgiving the as-yet-unseen perpetrators and went all out to conjoin with the rest of the non-Christian population in a scene unprecedented and unthought of by UMNO and/or Barisan Nasional. In a massive show of affection, understanding and accommodation, Christians throughout the country not only underplayed the seriousness of the attacks but showed a level of maturity that diffused any possibility of a riotous response. And in so doing, much to the dismay of the government and its UMNO machinery, they had to think of something else. And that something else was to hurl abuse at their own mosques. That is called, 'political expediency.'
UMNO believes that by doing so and within such a short time frame, people around the country will align the mosque attacks with Christian Chinese and force a few things to unfold - firstly to win back the exclusive use of the word 'Allah', secondly to corner PAS into leaving the opposition alliance and joining UMNO and thirdly to secure the electoral promise that they are better than anyone else at quelling violence and restoring peace.
Frankly UMNO can't be bothered with the word 'Allah' - most of them aren't that godly to look into the semantics. The ploy has always been political and not religious. If the authoritative Islamic scholars at Al-Azhar University in Cairo already see no issue with the use of the word by other religions, why should it matter in Malaysia ? The whole basis behind this debacle is purely to politically undermine the stability of the opposition powers at federal and state level. This is a good example of politicians selling out on God but putting up a godly face.
The problem with blaming the mosque attacks on Chinese Christians is that it doesn't stick well. It is not that easy to unsettle the Chinese Christians into doing something this violent. Furthermore a closer study of the mosque attacks reveals a few clues that these weren't the work of the Chinese Christians or anyone else but the right-wing UMNO factions. By the nature of such an attack and to really push the confrontation beyond repair, the perpetrators would have been far better to use pigs' heads rather than those of wild boars but to do so would have broken their cover since only the Chinese - and no other communities - sell pork in this country. Given that therefore, the identity of the perpetrators would have been easy to reveal.
Getting and killing wild boars, on the other hand, is a relatively easy task since most of the forest rangers are Malays themselves. So getting the cooperation to ease into the jungles would have been as effortless as shooting the wild boars and cutting off their heads. Out in the jungles, visibility is minimal and it's not so easy for anyone to see. That is the idea anyway but some people theorise that while it may not have provoked the Chinese Christians, perhaps others might have had a hand in these incidents. So what about the Chinese Buddhists then?
Chinese Buddhists have no direct argument with anyone; not yet anyway. They have not come out to demonstrate the way the centrist and moderate Malays and the Indians have. The Buddhist communities are far larger but more resilient. They're not that easy to budge and since none of the attacks provided them any reason to retaliate, it just doesn't make sense. Perhaps this might pave the way for UMNO to start targeting Chinese temples - we'll just have to wait and see.
If it weren't the Chinese Christians and/or Buddhists, maybe it's the collective Indian population but this also doesn't make a lot of sense. Indian Christians are an extremely small minority and they generally coalesce with the Chinese Christians in a unifying sort of way. Indian Hindus may have had altercations with UMNO, resulting in right-wing Malays brandishing the infamous cow's head but this issue is now up with the courts and no decision is available yet.
The Hindus do not have any reason to foment things because of the lack of court decision. Furthermore the attacks weren't against Hindu kuils (temples) but churches, which then leaves us to consider that the dispute is a civil inter-Malay problem with the right-wing radicals in one corner and the more logic-prevailing moderates in the other. This isn't something that the government had wanted in the first place but in the bargain, that's what they ended up with.
UMNO's decision to toy with the Malay sentiment is simple - to create confusion and then point the finger at those who raise race and religious issues and from there, they believe they have the wherewithal to regroup all Malay-ethnic votes in time to face the elections. Obviously they felt wise to start all these early and not wait but doing so also gave the public plentiful opportunities to realise the government's game plan.
Part of the prize money that UMNO hope to earn from all these is to wrestle back power of the premier state, Selangor. Allegedly they have caught the 'perpetrators' but I'm willing to bet that this is a complete ruse. Let's see if the so-called 'perpetrators' would then 'admit' under questioning that they staged the arson attacks under the instructions of a certain Anwar Ibrahim. From thereon a few things will take place. Even if Anwar's legal counsel wins his day in court, he'll still land up in jail for the arson attempts. Then the so-called 'perpetrators' are sentenced to death, which means the public won't be able to get to see their faces anyhow. On the day of their execution, prison authorities will switch prisoners so that instead of these perpetrators ending up at the gallows, it would be other convicts on death row. They get hanged. We don't see the bodies or the faces. Everything gets hushed up but importantly for the government, Anwar is in jail. Now wouldn't that be interesting!
Najib's 'art of war' doesn't work today. It might have back in 1969 with the May 13 race riots but in this new millennium, this ethnic divide-and-rule policy is fairly limiting because it's no longer Chinese-versus- Malay. As much as UMNO and the federal government are hell bent to repeat history to their advantage, consensus on the ground tells a diametrically different story. Rather today's political complexion is a tripartite ethnic conflict against a monobloc political entity called UMNO. Hence it is the Malay-ethnic, Chinese-ethnic and Indian-ethnic railing against an incorrigible and belligerently corrupted UMNO-ethnic.
The government basically cornered itself on its own doing because today, the major source of conflict is no longer racism but corruption. Moderate Malays no longer cared if they're fighting fellow Malays who are in political leadership and/or walk the corridors of power. What they have awoken to is a realisation that they have to team up in a dynamic with fellow Chinese and Indians in a mass fight against corruption that has gone utterly out of control. And since corruption is synonymous with everything that UMNO represents, Malay or no Malay, that fight is no longer ambiguous.
And if the government is still having its head buried in the sand, it also means that they have not been questioning why serious and sensitive information keeps getting leaked out to the media and public. We had the Altaantuya murder not too long ago. Then there were the Scorpene submarines. Other than that we now have the missing two Northrop F-5E jet engines, which were then followed very quickly by news of the completely missing jet fighters from where they were parked in California . We also know that for whatever banal reason, the sales receipts are missing.
So who has or have been fast-tracking these news out to the public? Would they be inside people who support Najib's administration and UMNO or would they be like us - people who are just sick to the back teeth with the corruption - and therefore see all these as opportunities to equip the public with the means to topple the government? I'm willing to bet that even at the top levels of Najib's government, there are people who share our grief, who are just as angry about the corruption and who are empathetic with the commoner. These are the people who feel that it is in their patriotism to show up a corrupt government once and for all.
Remember one thing about UMNO - not everything is well inside that party. There are some seriously polarising factions at deadly power play in there. Najib is propped up by Mahathir's faction of influential kingmakers but when they deftly cut short Badawi's tenure, they also truncated his son-in-law's ambitious roadmap as well. What that did to Khairy Jamaludin was to incense him enough to plan his own personal revenge. Although it is fair to say that his circles of influence aren't anything like Najib's and Mahathir's, there are always political swingers who pursue where the smell of money goes.
So long as you can follow the money, there's always a trail that leads to interesting discoveries and one of these is Khairy and his bitter determination to now undermine the faction that humiliated him and his father-in-law. From what we know of Khairy and his self-centredness, I don't think he cared much about Badawi's reputation although he is enraged enough to now want to pull the carpet from underneath UMNO's top mandarins all the way to the old cantankerous pimp himself.
There are a lot of theories bandying around concerning how Khairy will be orchestrating his moves and strategically unfolding them in the years to come. We all know we haven't seen the last of someone as ruthlessly ambitious as he is. We have a theory circling the Internet that he could be working covertly with Anwar where he sees his best hopes for Prime Ministership lie. No doubt if this were true, that means in a post-Anwar period as Malaysia 's future PM, Khairy could step up to the plate. There is another theory that involves Khairy moving in the undercurrents of UMNO's political turmoil, looking to seize the advantage, sight unseen, as and when the opportunities arise. With his political career and aspirations in tatters, he can no longer rely on the UMNO Youth faction where he was once quite powerful. With Hishamuddin offering rearguard defence for his inept playboy PM cousin, Khairy doesn't have a lot of manoeuvrability - at least not yet.
Whichever of the two is more plausible, there is no denying that there is no love lost between Khairy and his immediate enemies as well as those of his father-in-law's. Either way, Khairy will be poised to dismantle Najib's administration since everyone in the cabinet has played him out including those who had sworn allegiance to back him in the heady past. However since everything in politics is about money, he'd soon realised that even his political amigos could so easily be bought over.
The bad blood between Khairy and the rest of Najib's administration has long been downplayed but in the run up to the next General Election, it will be instrumental. As a balancing act of power, Khairy holds a very important pivotal sword that could either raise Anwar Ibrahim to premiership or the other way around. He holds the sword (or keris as it were) that will indefinitely spill blood.
The question is whose blood will it be