THE NEW UMNO PARTY BUS IS BEING DRIVEN BY PEOPLE SO AT ODDS WITH REALITY THAT THEY LIKELY THINK DARWIN WAS A CHARACTER ON BEWITCHED.

AMANAH TENGKU RAZALEIGH HAMZAH HOLDS THE CARDS — IF HE WILL PLAY IT RIGHT, ELITISM RECKLESS UMNO PRESIDENT RISK DRIVING MALAYSIA OVER A CLIFF THE NEW UMNO PARTY BUS IS BEING DRIVEN BY PEOPLE SO AT ODDS WITH REALITY THAT THEY LIKELY THINK DARWIN WAS A CHARACTER ON BEWITCHED.

IT’S TOO EARLY TO SAY IF THESE RIPPLES OF REMONSTRANCE WILL SWELL INTO A CHORUS OF DISSENT. NEVERTHELESS, THEY ARE NOTABLE FOR THE EVIDENCE THEY PROVIDE THAT THINGS ARE NOT ALL A UNIFORM “AYE, AYE” FROM THE BN RANKS TO THE NAJIB RAZAK GOVERNMENT’S ACTIONS IN RECENT DAYS.

Sure, the doubts expressed by Saifuddin Abdullah, a deputy minister, about the government’s heavy-handed reaction to the Bersih issue, and the call by S Subramaniam, a full minister, that the ‘PSM 6′, or the ‘EO 6′, be charged in court or released are a long way from suggesting a growing schism within the BN ranks.

Still, UMNO-BN has been such a predictable monolith when it comes to matters to do with the repression of the opposition that even a pipsqueak of protest from within the ranks must jog the attention.

When you add Saifuddin’s and Subramaniam’s murmurs of protest to Khairy Jamaluddin’s challenge to the National Security Council to explain how they had come to view a progressive-seeming Islamic preacher as Wahabist, you begin to infer a wider scale to the reservations about government actions from within its ranks.
I write this as a Malaysian, as someone who, over forty seven years of political life, has had the privilege of playing some small part in the formation our country, the building of its institutions, and our achievement of a degree of economic sufficiency. I write out of deep concern about the present state of our country.
In the lives of nations as of individuals, there come moments of profound possibility, when the potential for self-transcendence and for self-destruction are simultaneously present.

As before some critical examination in our youth, we come to the daunting realization that we hold our future in our hands, when how we will fare many years hence, and whether we shall flourish or languish, will depend on how we conduct ourselves now, in this small window of time.
We are in a political impasse that threatens to metastasize into a Constitutional crisis. Political crises come and go, but the present crisis might well be the beginning of a cascade of failures leading to long-term instability and destruction.
1. Our impasse occurs at a time of heightened economic, political and security challenges. The global economy faces the prospect of a meltdown on a scale last seen in the Great Depression of the last century. As a trading nation, we are strongly exposed to its effects. Meanwhile, while we seem to have slept, the global economy is undergoing an epic transformation that we must either adapt to or are marginalized by.
2. This year’s ground-shfiting General Election result signaled a public sentiment that cannot be ignored. Malaysians want fundamental change, and they want it now, whether from within the ruling coalition or from outside it. The Malaysian demographic has changed dramatically over the last fifty years. We have seen the birth of a more sophisticated, demanding electorate that has rightly lost patience with incompetence and dishonesty.
3. The grievances of Sabah and Sarawak, which found only partial expression in the General Elections, remain unaddressed. This risks the very integrity of our Federation.
4. Misunderstandings over race and religion are ripe for political exploitation, with potentially disastrous consequences.
Post election promises notwithstanding however, the government now commands even less confidence than it did post March 8.
The public is in near despair over the prospects for change from within the ruling party. Rather than share the public’s sense of urgency, our present office-holders have redoubled efforts to frustrate renewal, cut off reform, and silence criticism. These efforts only underscore the weakness of the administration and its will to change.
We can no longer deny that in its present form, and under present leadership, the government, led by the party to which I have given my life, is now structurally and inherently incapable of providing the direction and confidence that the country needs, whether over the long or short term. The indications are there for all to see:
1. The government has been unable to respond to the economic crisis with even a basic plan of action. Business confidence has plummeted as capital flees the country. Our economic policy remains as uncoordinated and directionless as it has been in since the beginning of this administration.
2. The recommendations of two Royal Commissions of Inquiry have been ignored or watered down into insignificance.
3. In this context, Umno’s constitutional provision for the renewal of its leadership by triennial elections might have been expected to provide some hope of renewal. Instead of embracing this opportunity, however, the leadership of the party has retreated into the fantasy world of a “transition plan” which rides roughshod over the party’s constitution and the rights of its members. This risible attempt to treat public office and party trust as a private bequest between two individuals, one of whom wishes to hold office beyond his democratic mandate and the other to ascend without one, and the continuing effort to force feed the country with this notion, fools no one. Instead, and against background of rampant money politics, it kills the public’s hope of national renewal via Umno. Behind the babble about a “transition plan” the Prime Minister continues to be subverted by members of his own cabinet and subjected to thinly cloaked power plays to force his resignation.
This resort to a “transition plan” betrays a disturbing failure to grasp the meaning and purpose of public office. In the more mature society into which we aspire to grow, persons who demonstrate and moreover propagate such disregard for constitutional and democratic process would long ago have been disqualified from public life, let alone from national leadership. The news appears not to have sunk in that the public rejects leaders who shun the open light of democratic contest in favour of staged plays and backroom plots.
Given Umno’s core role in national politics, this is a dangerous state of affairs. Meanwhile the Opposition has made undeniable gains in the number of parliamentarians it commands. Beyond the hype and inflation, and regardless of whether Pakatan Rakyat now has “the numbers” to command a majority, what we cannot doubt is that support for the governing majority continues to erode, and that this erosion continues so long as there is no hope of real change in the type of leadership Umno provides. There is now a credible threat that the present government may at some time fall by a vote of no confidence, or by some otherwise constitutionally legitimate demonstration of parliamentary majority. After fifty-one years of rule by a single party, this is not a possibility that is well understood. It is justifiably viewed with trepidation. Neither sheer denial on the one hand, or inflated claims on the other, help the situation.
To all appearances, we are beginning to lose grip of the rule of law. The use of the Internal Security Act and of Sedition Laws to target particular individuals further erodes the credibility of the government. Our actions exacerbate rather than calm the fear that stokes civil and racial strife. In the present context of a leadership struggle within Umno and against a strong Opposition it is impossible to dispel the notion that these extreme measures are calculated to maintain certain individuals in power rather than to address verifiable threats to national security. Nothing does more to undermine the legitimacy of a government than plainly unjust acts. The ridiculous justifications given for some of these detentions has further undermined public confidence that the awesome powers of state are in safe hands.
We cannot afford to allow these disturbing trends to play out their destructive course while we suffer a de facto leadership vacuum, and while the rule of law is uncertain and the Constitution not upheld.
Against this background I appeal to all parties to come together in humility, beyond party politics, to hold an honest discussion, in the spirit of shared citizenship and with the gravest attitude of common responsibility towards a longsuffering rakyat, about what is happening to our country and how we might agree together on a peaceful way beyond our impasse. We need to come together to find unity and direction out of this dangerous situation. In doing so, we might turn our crisis into an opportunity and renew our unity and sense of direction as Malaysia.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
31 Jalan Langgak Golf
55000 Kuala Lumpur

It shouldn’t be surprising to those of us who physically restrain our gag reflex and endeavor to observe or participate in the American political spectacle that a trending topic on Twitter this past weekend was the combination of a four-letter word, the word “you” and “Washington.”
For a long time now, what goes on in the Beltway has ceased to serve the interests of the vast majority of Americans, in that shockingly most of us don’t have weekly passes to the Creation Museum, or attend performances at the David H. Koch Theater while monocle-clad and porting brandy snifters. But the current impasse, over an artificially created “debt ceiling” (an artifact of World War I) that’s been a non-event in the past, is pushing our political culture towards what was previously reserved only for Barnum & Bailey.
It is key to note, as I did in my last column here, that the Republican Party bus is being driven by people so at odds with reality that they likely think Darwin was a character on Bewitched.
Speaker of the House John Boehner is a ribald mobster whose brain – due to his oh-so-healthy lifestyle choices – has seemingly liquefied into a thick stew of sun block and Chattanooga Chew. House Majority Leader and Whiner-in-Chief Eric Cantor has shown all the temperament of playground time at my four-year-old’s pre-school, and an intellect to match.
And Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, almost literally in bondage to any corporate entity that can raise him five-figures-plus in legalised bribes we call campaign contributions, possesses such an inverted chin that I’m only left to conclude that it’s a Pinocchio-mirroring act. Each time he lies to avoid responsibility for the benefit of his corporate benefactors, it retreats one inch further into his jaw.
Of course, this is what President Obama and the Democratic leaderhip want you to see, to obscure the fact that it is his lack of leadership and a political team that should be fit to be drawn and quartered that has empowered this clan of kooks to determine whether the US economy takes a horse and buggy ride into Clayton Ravine, dragging the world economy down with it.
There are varying theories for why President Obama always punts on first down and negotiates by handing the opposition a paddle and saying “thank you sir, may I have another”. But any one of them is predicated on weakness, a man too feeble to stand up to Republicans and official Washington and do what he believes. Either that, or he is too weak of character to digest the fact that cutting taxes for billionaires while cutting Social Security cost-of-living increases for impoverished seniors is not what one might call a “moral” decision.
This is only more true when one runs a campaign during which they say, in the middle of a nationally televised debate with the opposition, “John McCain’s campaign has … suggested that the best answer to the growing pressures on Social Security might be to cut cost-of-living adjustments or raise the retirement age. I will not do either”.
Or when they promise to end mammoth tax cuts for the richest of the rich, put in place by The Great Unificator – George W. Bush.
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