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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, May 02, 2010

Coming Back Swinging!

Coming Back Swinging!
M. Bakri Musa



It is the mark of a great leader that having encountered an obstacle, would bounce right back to plan the next offensive strategy. The results of the Hulu Selangor by-election have yet to be officially ratified, and already Zaid Ibrahim has come out swinging to challenge the legitimacy of the election process and the validity of the outcome. A flawed process produces flawed results.

In springing right back, Zaid demonstrates an admirable ability to focus on winning the war and not be distracted by the loss of a battle. That is the measure of a great general.

Lesser leaders would have taken the easy path out. Those with shaky integrity and even shakier commitment would readily switch sides at the first tribulation, with or without sweet promises. There were many such examples in the recent Hulu Selangor by-election.

Not Zaid. He is suing the Elections Commission alleging that it “allowed intimidation, false information, and unfair and illegal electoral practices by the Barisan Nasional machinery.” Additionally, Zaid is suing Utusan Malaysia for libel.

I hope Zaid would also sue those irresponsible and malicious bloggers who posted doctored pictures of him for the sole purpose of offending Muslim sensibilities. A few such suits would reduce the stench that has descended lately on the Malaysian blogosphere, and do it far more effectively than all the whining of Information Minister Rais Yatim.

Those scumbag pseudo commentators need to be reminded, forcefully if need be as with a libel suit, that freedom of speech does not mean freedom to slander. Even in America where freedom of speech is a religion, you are not free to indulge in false and malicious gossips, at least not publicly, and certainly not on the Internet.

Thus far Zaid has restrained himself on the grounds that those whoring bloggers are anonymous, and that there are too many of them. And like real whores, those bloggers are also being paid for their ‘services.’ I would argue that those are compelling reasons to go after them. Zaid would render the nation a great service if his lawsuits were to reduce the number of these prostituting bloggers. At the very least he would establish case laws on this new medium.


Get to Know Your Leaders

As Zaid rightly reminded us in his post-election press conference, “Every citizen has a fundamental right to vote. But this right is meaningless if he is not able to exercise it because his name is removed from the electoral roll without his knowledge; or if he is intimidated or bribed or given all kinds of inducements to influence his choice.”

Even if Zaid does not prevail in court, his lawsuit would expose the pathetic incompetence and willful negligence of our election officials. That would be educational as well as entertaining. I would love to see them squirm with their repeated “I was directed ... !” or, “It is not my job!” responses during cross examination.

Apart from exposing the corruption of our electoral process, Zaid’s lawsuit would also highlight the ethical lapses of our leaders. If future elections were to be cleaner and fairer as a result of his legal actions, then Zaid would have done a great national service.

He should view those legal expenses as an investment towards a better Malaysia. Although it is within his capacity to fund the endeavor, I would suggest that he form a non-profit entity for the sole purpose of using the courts and legal challenges to expose corruption and incompetence, and to seek public support for that purpose. Model it after the American Civil Liberties Union. The response should be overwhelming; the public is fed up. This would also be a productive way for people to channel their anger and help rid the pestilence of corruption in our society.

Zaid is not limiting his battle only to the courtroom. He has extended it into the far more consequential court of public opinion, in particular Malay public opinion, with his “Get To Know Your Leaders” campaign.

Now that UMNO leaders like Mahathir has lowered the bar on what is fair and permissible in an election campaign, Zaid should not hesitate in exposing the hypocrisy of these leaders. Before the election he assured his former UMNO colleagues that their secrets would be safe with him and that he had no intention of following the polluted path they had plunged into. Now that they (and voters) have deemed those details legitimate campaign material, Zaid owes the public a duty in exposing the hypocrisy of those leaders.

In labeling them as hypocrites, Zaid was deliberate in his choice of word. That label has deep Quranic references and thus profound emotive implications with Muslims. It is the most contemptuous condemnation.

There are indications that this label may stick, with Malays responding strongly to it. God knows, Malaysians are already immune to such labels as “corrupt,” “immoral,” or “incompetent,” as reflected by such individuals being repeatedly re-elected. Isa Samad, Chua Soi Lek and Abdullah Badawi are ready examples.

Take corruption. Through their animal greed and perverted ethics, our leaders view the bounties of bribery and hogging of the public trough as Allah’s blessings; hence their ready acceptance of both, as with our ‘humble’ Imam of Islam Hadhari accepting the ‘gift’ of millions worth of prime public land to build his grandiose istana. The label “corrupt” or “breach of faith” is foreign to such leaders, but only the label though, not the deeds.

We are already seeing intimations of the severe sting of this new “hypocrite” label. UMNO Youth’s Khairy Jamuluddin became unusually defensive and hostile when questioned on whether he had ever imbibed alcohol. He never did answer. Home Minister Hishammuddin was quick to disassociate himself from his party’s indulgence in this latest litmus test of alcohol abstention. He knows that this one could strike close to home.

In responding to a reporter’s remark that Mahathir had denied ever drinking alcohol, Zaid pointedly called him a hypocrite. To a Muslim ear, that is a serious allegation; it is not enough for Mahathir simply to dismiss it. He should sue Zaid for such a contemptuous and libelous statement. For Mahathir to do anything less would be an admission that he is indeed a hypocrite. Mahathir already had to defend his son’s directorship of a major brewing company.

During the campaign Mahathir tried to draw the distinction with his owning of horses which were for riding versus Zaid’s, which were apparently for racing. I am sure that those poor folks in Hulu Selangor, consumed with their daily survival, could now appreciate the differences in the two bourgeois hobbies.

Zaid is determined to “out” these hypocrites among our leaders, as well he should. I would go further and assert that Zaid owes the public a duty to do this. As one who aspires to the leadership of our nation, he owes us a solemn obligation to play his part in cleansing our nation of this putrid mess.

Zaid promised to “reveal which casinos they [UMNO leaders] go to, [and] which mistresses they keep.” I sincerely hope that Zaid would not limit his exposé only to our political leaders but also to others, especially our royal rulers and their very public shenanigans.

I hope Zaid’s initiative would open the floodgates for Malaysians who have solid evidence of these high-level chicaneries to come forward a la the Lingam tapes. These leaders deserve our scorn.

Zaid might just encourage some to ruffle through the public records in Las Vegas for those high rollers who have overestimated their skills and their assets. There will be a few Malaysian names.


Premature Jubilation

Judging from the drooling editorials in the mainstream media, you would think that this recent event was an exercise in the overwhelming endorsement of Najib instead of a by-election of a rural constituency with no consequence on the national political balance. Najib’s ministers too joined in with their chorus of cooing. Never mind that despite the big guns that included Najib and Mahathir, and the millions spent on buying votes, all that Barisan could manage was to squeak through!

Najib should heed the fate of his immediate predecessor, Abdullah Badawi. He secured the greatest parliamentary majority in the 2004 elections, only to be humiliated with the greatest loss four years later, and then booted out shortly thereafter. Far from being chastened by this narrow victory, Najib and his gang are already giddy about reclaiming Selangor and securing a two-third majority in the next general elections.

A cautionary note was sounded by Ahirudin Attan, aka Rocky Bru, no critic of the administration. He reminded those Barisan folks of the Ijok state by-election of 2007 that saw another MIC kid defeating a Pakatan big wig, Khalid Ibrahim. Less than a year later in the subsequent general elections of 2008, that kid was sent into oblivion and the whole state fell to Pakatan, with Khalid becoming its chief minister.

Coming back swinging, Zaid Ibrahim is determined to let Barisan win only the battle but not the war.

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