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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It Happened Under Your Watch, Najib!

It Happened Under Your Watch, Najib!
M. Bakri Musa


“Don’t point the fingers at UMNO or anyone else,” so declared an angry Najib Razak, responding to a question on last Friday’s bombing of a church. It was pathetic to see him react thus, a body language that bespoke of a sinister kid whose bag of malicious tricks finally exploded in his face.

Najib would like us to believe that those acts of arson were spontaneous combustion. What a pathetic attempt at extricating himself from the ugly and dangerous mess he helped create! His performance was more to convince himself, for he could not possibly convince us.

Here he was after pouring the gasoline feigning surprise when someone finally lit a match. It was Najib who only the day before the incident declared that “Muslim groups were free to protest and express their views about the ‘Allah’ issue.” Just in case that message did not register, he added that the authorities would not stop groups from gathering at mosques and protesting there. Najib’s cousin and Home Minister, Hishammuddin, echoed the same sentiments.

Obviously somebody took them at their words. It is truly touching to see these two ministers belatedly becoming so protective of citizens’ rights to protest! The pair obviously do not appreciate the subtle but enormous difference between having those rights and the wisdom to exercise them appropriately.

Najib and Hishammuddin must think that Malaysians are a dumb lot not to see through their charade. It was Hishammuddin who first unhinged that dangerous religious wrecking ball with his banning of the use of the word Allah by that Catholic publication.

Contrast the words and deeds of these two very public purveyors of the “1Malaysia” fantasy to that of the leaders of Pakatan. In a statement issued through PKR, Anwar Ibrahim declared that “the wish of the non-Muslim community to use the term ‘Allah’ is a positive and welcomed development. We must not let that be an opportunity for those with malicious intent to seize the occasion to portray themselves as champions of Islam.” Amen to that!

Anwar realized only too well the potential dangers of stoking the religious fire. To emphasize his point, Anwar called for restraint and urged his followers not to participate in the planned Friday demonstrations. It was a particularly prescient call. Anwar must have read Najib, Hishammuddin and all the other characters in UMNO well; he knew their mischievous if not evil intent.

Anwar was not alone; leaders of PAS went out of their way not only to discourage the demonstrations but also to defend the rights of the Catholic publication to use the term “Allah.”

I do not know whether Malaysians, specifically Malays, are becoming more sensible or the restraint urged on by Anwar and the others had an impact, for come Friday the demonstrations were definitely muted. The egging-on by UMNO leaders fell flat; instead the rotten eggs landed on the faces of UMNO leaders.

The exemplary stand of the opposition leaders was a stark contrast to the mischievous if not downright dangerous antics of UMNO leaders. The contrast did not end there. Immediately following the tragic incident, Selangor Pakatan Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim visited the charred church. His was a much needed and comforting presence, as well as a deeply symbolic gesture. It was a spontaneous yet splendid demonstration of common sense and deep concern for your fellow citizens, as well as of leadership.

Najib was content to condemn the hooliganism from afar, and in the process found himself in an uncomfortably defensive position. He did not visit the damaged church until the next day, but not before he had launched his party’s People’s Champion campaign in preparation for the next elections. That was Najib’s priority.

The only UMNO leader who visited the damaged church right away was its Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin. He conveyed genuine empathy; his condemnation and expression of sympathy were genuine and heartfelt, a welcomed change from the hollowness of Najib’s.

Khairy’s presence made the absence of the other UMNO leaders that much more noticeable, and vulgar. These supposedly more seasoned UMNO leaders could learn a thing or two from Khairy on the importance of showing leadership in moments of crisis. You cannot teach that; either you have it or you don’t. Obviously Najib does not have it.

Najib’s bag of tricks was so crude that even foreign observers saw through it. “The real reason UMNO is politicizing the issue and pandering to its conservative base,” wrote the Wall Street Journal, “may be to deflect attention from its own political vulnerabilities.”

Najib had every reason to want to change the horrible headlines that were damaging his leadership, the latest being the jet engines stolen from a military base. The theft occurred during Najib’s tenure as Defense Minister but was only recently being made public.

That was not the only serious lapse of security during Najib’s tenure as Defense Minister. There was the spectacular and potentially devastating collapse of the naval base in Pularek just before its official opening. And to balance things out, there was the lethal attack on the army base in Grik, Perak, by a band of sarong-clad Al Maunah gang members. This recent revelation of the stolen jet engines was merely part of Najib’s trademark pattern of incompetent leadership.

Thus far Najib is determined to repeat that same pattern as Prime Minister, except that he has now progressed beyond incompetence to being sinister.

It is downright malicious for Najib, Hishamuddin and others in UMNO to attempt at dividing Malaysians by needlessly treading on our religious sensitivities. Najib’s “1Malaysia” campaign has barely begun and he has already made a mockery of the ideal.

Specifically, Najib’s attempt to split Muslims in the opposition parties was brazen, crude and potentially destructive. There were initial intimations that his dirty scheming would work, what with the mainstream media continually harping on the supposed differences among the leaders of PAS and Keadilan over this issue. Najib and others must have been licking their chops, savoring the ‘brilliance’ of their strategy while remaining oblivious of the dangerous forces that they had unleashed.

Thankfully this time around Malaysians are far ahead of their leaders; we did not fall for this ugly and dangerous ploy. I am heartened that even UMNO’s own New Straits Times felt emboldened enough not to defend the administration on this matter.

In a thoughtful commentary, Rehman Rashid not too subtly reminded us of the terrible mess we found ourselves in with this manufactured crisis. Left unstated is the role of our leaders in leading us to be where we are today. Of course it would be too much to expect the mainstream media, specifically NST, to explore that. Under the circumstance, Rehman has gone as far as he could, and I applaud him for that.

In his piece Rehman wrote, “Debilitating dogmas need to be debunked, political parasites purged, and Little Napoleons stripped naked and hounded out of town.” Strong words! At least he has demonstrated that sycophantic editors (or at least their toadying editorials) are out too!

I hope that the positive gestures by Khairy and refreshingly candid commentary by Rehman would move Najib, Hishammuddin and others in UMNO away from their dangerous games. If they do not, then it is time we take the match away before they burn down the country. It is also time we tell them in no uncertain terms that they are not only unfit to lead our great nation but they also pose an imminent danger to Malaysia.

The nation suffered terribly in 1969; that national tragedy was instrumental in elevating Tun Razak to the nation’s top post. We should never risk our nation to another tragic episode under the inept and sinister leadership of his son.

We must not let Najib and his UMNO cahoots continue their bag of dirty tricks upon us. The fire next time might not be so easily contained. The conflagration then could rip us all apart. Let us not even contemplate giving them another chance; we have had enough!

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