As Malaysians go to the polls on March 8, 2008, political commentator Raja Petra Kamarudin says: "No, we can't directly change the government. Yes, they will cheat like hell to ensure that the government does not fall. But we can cut this win to the bone and give (PM) Abdullah (Badawi) a black eye which will prompt Umno to remove the albatross around its neck."

 

There is this Malay man who lives in the upper-class Kuala Lumpur suburb of Bangsar. Bangsar is not Malaysia. Bangsar is the Independent Republic of Bangsar. It has a life of its own. It has its own unique culture. It is the place you hang out if you want to psych yourself into believing you no longer live in 'Islamic' Malaysia.

But Bangsar does have its Islamic side as well, of course. You can sip your beer and eyeball the sweet young things in their mini-skirts to the sounds of the Azan, the Muslim call for prayer, reverberating through the air. Muslim men and women would rush to make up the congregation at the only mosque in the neighbourhood, the Masjid Abu Bakar Sidiqque, named after the First Caliph of Islam immediately after the death of the most revered Prophet of Islam, Muhammad S.A.W.

Amongst this congregation is a man who could easily be mistaken for Osama Bin Laden judging by his long Arab robe and turban. This Arab wannabe who imagines himself a Prophet Muhammad lookalike is none other than Rashid, the Chairman of Malaysia's now world-infamous Elections Commission.

Malays judge a pious Muslim by his attire and by the number of times a day he or she rushes to the mosque. Once or twice a day is not enough. Muslims pray five times a day. Waking up at 5 am to make the early dawn prayers is mandatory if one wants to impress fellow Muslims that one is a member of heaven (ahli shurga). Sitting cross-legged on the floor of the mosque chanting praises to Allah and the Prophet in-between prayers would be the mark of a good Muslim.

Rashid, however, can't fool the Bangsar mosque congregation in spite of his Bedouin fancy dress. In fact, the congregation sniggers behind his back and jokes about this Arab-looking member of the mosque who even the malaikat (angels) despise. Chua Soi Lek would probably gain more respect if he had somehow accidentally strayed into the mosque. We will have to wait until Rashid dies to gauge what Muslims think of him. The mark of how much respect a Muslim has gained would rest on the numbers who send him to his grave. And it is expected that Rashid's death would not create severe traffic jams in the city.

"We can't abolish postal votes. If we do, then not a single Cabinet member would be able to retain his or her seat," argued Rashid during one meeting that was held to discuss how to reform Malaysia's election system.

Postal voting was introduced at the time the soldiers spent nine months on end deep in the Malaysian jungles at the height of the Communist insurgency known as The Emergency. Of course, The Emergency has since ended with the signing of the Peace Treaty between the Malaysian government and the Communist Party of Malaya. But the postal voting system remains.

The assembly was taken aback and flabbergasted that such a bold admission would come out from the mouth of the head-honcho of the Elections Commission. At least lie. At least pretend. But to tell the assembly direct to its face that postal voting is not about allowing the security forces to exercise their right to vote but about ensuring that Ministers stay in office is like telling you to your face '**** you'.

"We can't abolish postal votes. If we do, then not a single Cabinet member would be able to retain his or her seat," argued Rashid during one meeting that was held to discuss how to reform Malaysia's election system... The assembly was taken aback and flabbergasted that such a bold admission would come out from the mouth of the head-honcho of the Elections Commission.

Is it not the job of the Elections Commission to run a free and fair election? No, said Rashid. The job of the Elections Commission is to ensure that the Malays do not lose political domination. With that second '**** you' to your face there was no point in continuing with the meeting. The assembly of opposition politicians just stood up and walked out of the room. It was clear that not only was the job of the Elections Commission to rig the elections and ensure that the ruling coalition stays in office, but they will do so boldly and will admit it to your face while telling you to shove off and go ***** yourself.

That is what this Arab wannabe, the Muhammad lookalike, this scum who hides in the mosque in an attempt to present himself as an ahli shurga is all about. And, just like all 'good' Muslims, he probably never eats pork or drinks brandy as well. But then pork is haram. Brandy is haram. Cheating 26 million Malaysians and denying them their right to a government of their choice is not haram. This is national duty. This is serving one's race, the Malay race. And one can always spend hours in the mosque every day to cleanse oneself and receive blessings from God, no matter what sin one may have committed.

Nik Aziz, the Menteri Besar of Kelantan, too prays five times a day and many times in between. But he will switch off the lights when he prays because his prayers have nothing to do with matters of state. So he does not want the rakyat (people) to pay the cost of his prayers. The electricity consumed during those few minutes he prays is cheaper than the cost of a cigarette. Nevertheless, it is still the rakyat's money so the lights must be switched off.

The Kelantan police are in a dilemma. Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers need to be escorted by a retinue of police outriders and bodyguards. Even Khairy Jamaluddin is flying around in a helicopter while campaigning in Rembau. And Khairy is just the son-in-law of the Prime Minister and holds no government post. But still he is surrounded by 50 Mat Rempit (motorcycle gang) who will not allow anyone close lest their boss gets in harm's way. Nik Aziz, however, refuses a police escort because it will be the rakyat that pays for it. At times, he walks around the kampong (village) all alone, unescorted.

"You can't do this," lamented the Kelantan Police Chief. "You are endangering yourself. Someone might harm you."

Nik Aziz just laughs it off and replies, "Who would want to kill an old man like me? What would they gain?"

The Menteri Besar of Kelantan is allowed an official residence and a government car. But Niz Aziz refuses to live in what he considers a lavish abode though the home of Raja Petra Kamarudin puts the home of the CEO of Kelantan to shame. He will, however, use it whenever he needs to entertain any guest that wishes to meet him. But this is more so that his guest can be comfortable than for his own comfort.

And if they insist he drives around in a government car instead of taking a bus to work then he insists it must be the cheapest and oldest car. Only when they managed to convince him that the oldest and cheapest car constantly breaks down and he would be keeping his guest waiting while they wait for a tow-truck would he consent to a new car. He would certainly not want to keep his guest waiting lest they think he had overslept like the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Desperate times require desperate measures. All is fair in love and war. And general elections - tantamount to war - so there is no such thing as fair or foul means. By hook or by crook Barisan Nasional needs to retain power. And they will do so, by hook or by crook.

Such is the character of the man who has ruled over Kelantan for 18 years. Even the gangsters love him. "Tok Guru will always remain in office as long as even people like us support him," declared one kaki gedebeh. These are men who for the price of a cigarette would 'send a message' to your enemy via the infamous Kelantan kapak kecik or small axe.

Yes, Kelantan is very much a replica of the Old Wild West, but when even the 'gunslingers' support you, then you can't go wrong. Sure, the kaki gedebeh don't pray. Mother Theresa was probably a better 'Muslim' than these people. But they still love their Tok Guru nevertheless and the 'Islamisation' of the state has not stopped those who live by the sword and die by the sword from showering Tok Guru Nik Aziz with love and respect.

On the opposite extreme is Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Since taking office five years ago he flies overseas every two weeks or so. He now even has his own RM200 million private Airbus so that he can increase his entourage to 100 close friends, cronies and family members. One such trip costs the taxpayers more than the cost of Nik Aziz praying five times a day for 1,000 years with the lights on. Nik Aziz would have to live to 1,000 to equal what Abdullah spends on one overseas trip. But Nik Aziz prefers to pray in the dark to save the taxpayers pittance.

Thirty hours or so from now we will know who is going to form the next government. Malaysia's intelligence agencies say that the opposition would probably take five states; Kelantan, Terengganu, Perlis, Kedah, and Penang. They feel that Selangor and Perak would see the ruling coalition's two-thirds majority in the State Assembly disappear. They fear that unless the ruling coalition bucks up, Perak might be the sixth state to fall to the opposition.

The opposition needs 75 seats to deny the ruling coalition its two-thirds majority in Parliament. At last count, the opposition has a good chance of securing 90. This is unsettling to those who walk in the corridors of power and the ruling coalition can no longer rest on its laurels. Desperate times require desperate measures. All is fair in love and war. And general elections - tantamount to war - so there is no such thing as fair or foul means. By hook or by crook Barisan Nasional needs to retain power. And they will do so, by hook or by crook.

More than 200,000 postal votes are already in. The military personnel and police can in fact vote twice - once using their 'service' card and again using their 'civilian' identity card. So assume that the ruling coalition has already won around 500,000 votes or so.

Sabah has published a list of one million 'phantom voters' complete with names, addresses and identity card numbers. The encyclopaedia-size book is available at RM200 a copy. Chinese and Indians who have been in this country for more than 150 years are still second-class citizens while these new immigrants are Bumiputeras by status and enjoy the rights and special privileges accorded to them via the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

More than 200,000 postal votes are already in. The military personnel and police can in fact vote twice - once using their 'service' card and again using their 'civilian' identity card. So assume that the ruling coalition has already won around 500,000 votes or so.

Yesterday, 'extra' ballot papers were discovered. In 2004, Dr Syed Azman and Raja Kamaruddin a.k.a Raja Komando were defeated when the voter turnout in their constituencies exceeded 125 per cent. In many countries all over the world, voter turnout can be as low as 50 per cent, or even less. Malaysia sees up to 75 per cent voter turnout, sometimes more. But anything above 80 per cent would certainly be suspect. In Malaysia, however, a 130 per cent voter turnout is considered normal and is still not enough to get the elections declared null.

The government is cheating. And the government knows that the opposition knows it is cheating. The government is not being open about its cheating because it wishes to be honest about the cheating. It is open about the cheating because it wants to provoke the opposition into retaliating.

The police are on standby in Kelantan. Riot police are everywhere. In Terengganu, opposition posters and flags are being torn down in full view of the public. All this is being done with the hope that the opposition will take to the streets. Then the government can act, declare an emergency, and abort the general elections while for the next six months Malaysia comes under martial law. Then Operasi Lalang 2 will be launched and 45 Malaysians whose names are on the ISA list can be detained without trial and sent to the Kamunting Detention Centre to join the HINDRAF 5 for an indefinite period of time.

But the opposition leaders have appealed for calm and called for mass prayers. The opposition supporters are being pushed to the limit but they must not retaliate, warn the opposition leaders. Yes, this election is going to be the dirtiest in the history of this country. But this election must almost be the most peaceful in the history of this country.

Sure, skirmishes may erupt in the Malay heartland of Kelantan and Terengganu. Sure, the skirmishes may involve only Malays and it is Malays against Malays. But any outbreak of violence the next 24 hours will send the Chinese running back to the ruling coalition and dash any hopes of Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor falling to the opposition, or at the very least of being able to deny the ruling coalition its two-thirds majority in the State Assembly.

Never before have the Malays been pushed to the limit. And never before have the Malays demonstrated such calm and restrain. It would be so easy to retaliate. But revenge and violence is not on the Malay agenda. The Malay agenda is to take five or six states and deny the ruling coalition its two-thirds majority in Parliament. And this target is achievable. This target is within grasp.

But this will not be achievable through bloodshed. Bloodshed would in fact have the reverse affect. It can only be achieved with the support of the Chinese and Indian voters and bloodshed would result in the Chinese and Indians abandoning the opposition out of fear.

MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress) has placed full-page advertisements in all the newspapers telling the Indians that if they vote against the MIC they will have to 'pay the price'.

The Malays are not stupid. They know that Malays alone cannot bring about changes. The Chinese and Indians too must clamour for change and support the move for change. So the Malays are making sure that nothing which will frighten the Chinese and Indians and sabotage the solidarity that has been built amongst the Malays, Chinese and Indians since November last year happens.

MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress) has placed full-page advertisements in all the newspapers telling the Indians that if they vote against the MIC they will have to 'pay the price'. This is no veiled threat. This is a promise. But the MIC has made many promises in the past. Poor Indians have parted with RM110 million with the promise of riches. That was 20 years ago. RM110 million 20 years ago is worth five times that today. Everything 20 years ago is worth five times that today. But the promise of riches was never delivered. Instead, the money disappeared into the pockets of the MIC leaders and the Indians are poorer today than they were 20 years ago.

Yes, HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Force) was triggered by the Hindu temple demolishing. But that was merely the trigger, not the cause. The reason for HINDRAF is the Indians have been given a raw deal ever since they came to this country in 1850. But HINDRAF is no longer just about the Indians. HINDRAF is now a Malaysian movement. There are as many Malays and Chinese who support HINDRAF as there are Indians. And this has frightened the government.

So they are telling the Malays in Kelantan and Terengganu that HINDRAF is dangerous. HINDRAF is about Ketuanan Hindu. HINDRAF is about the Indians linking up with the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. HINDRAF is about the Indians wanting to rise up and slaughter the Malays.

Unfortunately, not all Malays access the internet, in particular rural Malays and those in the FELDA land settlements. So some are troubled by this so-called 'revelation'. Some are concerned that there will soon emerge an army of Hindu suicide bombers who will blow up Muslims praying in the mosques. This has put the Malays in Kelantan and Terengganu in a dilemma. Do they support the opposition and which would in turn mean they are supporting Hindu extremists?

This is certainly a very clever move on the part of the ruling coalition. Clever, yes, but also dangerous. The ruling coalition might yet succeed in 'uniting' the Malays under Umno. But in doing so they will also increase the Muslim-Hindu divide. Is an election victory more important that racial and religious stability? Apparently so, as far as Umno is concerned.

The Malay opposition leaders must work overtime in convincing the Malays in the Malay heartland that the Indians are not the enemy. The Indians are in fact brothers and sisters. Those who are the enemy are the leaders in the ruling coalition who are attempting to divide us in the usual divide-and-rule race-based Malaysian politics.

Pahang is a safe state. Therefore, Pahang being his home state, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will emerge a wira melayu (Malay hero). He will also win hands down and with a comfortable majority in his own constituency. The same can't be said for Abdullah though. Not only is his home state, Penang, expected to fall, but he may win in his Kepala Batas constituency with only 2,500 votes from 9,000 in 1999 and 18,000 in 2004. And that will open a new can of worms for Abdullah.

The 2008 general election is not really the big deal as far as Umno is concerned. This is merely the testing ground for the main battle, the more important fight, the August 2008 Umno party elections. If Abdullah does miserably in his constituency plus loses Penang in the process, not to mention a few other states and the ruling coalition's two-thirds majority in Parliament as well, then Najib can make his move to oust Abdullah. But Najib will need a team-mate. And this team-mate could be Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. Ku Li is past 70 and could probably last another term at the most. So it would make sense that Najib teams up with Ku Li and lay the ground to challenge Abdullah for the party presidency.

The 2008 general election is not about forming the next government. It is about determining whether Abdullah (Badawi) stays in office and who is going to replace him.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wants Abdullah out. And he does not care how and who does it. Mahathir is quite prepared to support Ku Li in the move to challenge Abdullah just as long as Ku Li stays one term or so and hands over to Najib thereafter, like what he had planned when he appointed Abdullah his successor.

So the 2008 general election is not about forming the next government. It is about determining whether Abdullah stays in office and who is going to replace him. And Umno too wants Abdullah out. Of course, they do not want Abdullah out because he is weak or corrupt. They want Abdullah out because they know, as long as Abdullah stays on, the future of Umno will be very bleak. It is a matter of personal survival. Abdullah will sink the ship. So Abdullah must be jettisoned just so that the ship does not sink bringing them down with it.

Many within Umno, therefore, are leaving no stone unturned in the effort to undermine Abdullah. There are those within Umno itself who want a couple of states to fall. They also hope that the opposition gets at least 60 Parliament seats, not enough to deny the ruling coalition its two-thirds majority in Parliament but enough to embarrass Abdullah and send him a strong message that it is time to go.

Mahathir's son, Mukhriz, will be defeated in Jerlun. Of course, they have nothing against Mukhriz. But they want to make sure that Mahathir will have no reason not to back the move to oust Abdullah. And if Mukhriz gets into Parliament that may hold him back out of fear of jeopardising his son's career. So Mahathir must have nothing to lose. And if his son loses then he would certainly have nothing to lose. On the other hand, if Mukhriz wins, then he will be well-poised to challenge Khairy for the post of Umno Youth Leader. Either way a fight is in the cards.

Khairy will be allowed to win of course. If Khairy wins and Mukhriz loses, that would definitely give Mahathir all the more reason to oust Abdullah. Many of Abdullah's 'strongmen' too will be allowed to win. But those who will be allowed to win would be people like the Finance Minister 2 who do not have any grassroots support and therefore pose no danger.

Their win would, in fact, antagonise those who have been dropped and those who have been defeated in the elections. These people are warlords who have strong grassroots support and who can mobilise an 'army' against Abdullah. Abdullah will soon see a powerful resistance movement emerging that will have nothing to lose and everything to gain in removing Abdullah as party president and, in that same process, as Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The voters need to understand that at best the opposition can grab a few states and maybe deny Barisan Nasional its two-thirds majority in Parliament. Certainly Barisan Nasional will still form the government and Abdullah will still be Prime Minister. But that will be temporary because such a scenario would mean that Abdullah's days would be numbered. Umno can't afford a lame duck. And a president who does not have the voters' support is certainly a lame duck.

Only 2,500 Malaysians decide who becomes the President of Umno. These 2,500 Malaysians are Umno members and delegates to the Umno General Assembly. But 10 million Malaysians will be able to 'assist' these 2,500 Umno delegates in arriving at that decision and 'assist' in the removal of the Prime Minister who is bringing Malaysia down a slippery slope. And that 'assistance' will be delivered tomorrow when 10 million Malaysians go to the polls.

No, we can't directly change the government. Yes, they will cheat like hell to ensure that the government does not fall. But we can cut this win to the bone and give Abdullah a black eye which will prompt Umno to remove the albatross around its neck.

So that is what the 2008 general election is all about. It is about 'helping' Umno remove the Prime Minister. And that can never happen if the ruling coalition captures all the states and repeats its 2004 election performance. No, don't vote with intent to put the opposition into office. If that can happen then well and good. But that must be the bonus, not the agenda, and with how they are rigging the elections it is becoming increasingly difficult.

The agenda is to get rid of Abdullah and to get Umno to do that. That has to be clear in everyone's mind. Putting the opposition into office is of course ideal. But if we can't get first prize, then second prize will do. And second prize would be seeing the end of Abdullah's rule, or rather misrule.

Note: The above article was posted on www.malaysia-today.net (Your source of independent news). Raja Petra Kamarudin started the Malaysia Today website and his blog to facilitate open discussion on Malaysia's political and social scenes. A relative of a former Malaysian King from Selangor and known for his hard-hitting commentaries, which are often infused with humour, Raja Petra is also the author of When Time Stood Still and From Prince To Prisoner.

Related article:

Guarding An Empty Field, by Raja Petra Kamarudin







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March 7, 2008