Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stunning Incompetence – And Proof That Nothing Has Changed

ALIRAN

If we thought that dealing an electoral blow to the Umno-led BN would serve as a wake-up call, we’d better think again. Far from learning anything from the rebuke, the new cabinet is proof that not one thing has got in those thick skulls, observes Tingang.

First, it would be a normal assumption that there is consultation before announcing a cabinet. But the two instant rejections show the arrogance behind the appointments. The assumption is that people are so hungry for cabinet positions that you don’t have to consult them.

Second, the huge disappointment of the Dayaks in Sarawak pushed even the usually subservient James Masing, disputed leader of the Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), to voice his disappointment.

Now, if one wants to know what the NEP really means to today’s Umno, Sarawak is a great place to learn about it – and the cabinet appointments only serve to underline that.

This is a state whose bumiputera – a majority non-Malay bumiputera – have seen the favoured grow rich while first the forest and now the land is literally being taken away from them. For these bumiputera, there is no NEP, instead lectures about changing their mindsets while their sources of livelihood are handed over to the well-connected, mostly apparently Chinese companies, but who knows the ultimate beneficiaries.

So, a first-term MP, son of the Chief Minister of Sarawak, is immediately given a deputy ministership, while long-serving Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu MPs are left out in the cold. Now, if anyone is interested in how politics and business are intertwined in Sarawak, just look up the Annual Report of Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMSB), a company laughingly referred to as Chief Minister & Sons Bhd.

Go along most major roads in Sarawak and you’ll see signs proudly announcing that the road maintenance is under CMSB. The proposed USD2 billion aluminium smelter is a joint venture with CMSB – and we can guess why Rio Tinto picked CMSB as a partner. The concrete and cement and steel for Bakun is from CMSB. CMSB’s tiny Bank Utama was allowed to do a reverse take-over of much larger RHB Bank – but unable to turn a profit out of it, it’s now sold to EPF. CMSB owns the former JKR construction arm. And so on – to the tune of doing business amounting to 10 per cent of Sarawak’s GDP. One company, owned by the Chief Minister’s family – and our Mr Clean had no problems appointing the first-term MP son to the cabinet.

Well, it should be interesting to see Suleiman Taib Mahmud’s asset declarations. But if the government means what it says – who believes that anymore – then it should insist on asset declarations covering the extended family of parents, siblings and nephews and nieces.

But it gets worse. The new environment minister is from Sarawak, as is the plantations minister. Guess which state has done more deforestation in the past ten years? Right, Sarawak. And for what purpose? Right, for plantations. Check and balance? Or, green light to go ahead and further dispossess the bumiputera of Sarawak, handing over the degraded forest to the same people who degraded it with terrible logging practices, so that they can plant acacia and oil palm? Look at the timber companies. Now look at the ones in plantation. They are the same – the Big Five – they call them. And the economy of Sarawak is being handed over to them: forests, plantations, shipping, hyper-malls, hotels, real estate, etc.

Rafidah Aziz deserved to go. But by all accounts she was a competent international trade and industry minister – she deserved to go not because she couldn’t do that job, but because she got too good at some other jobs.

Whover has replaced her, it should be fun. But even more of a joke is the deputy minister, a long-serving Orang Ulu MP, also from the CM’s party, whose only knowledge of international trade and industry is staring at oil palm and acacia plantations coming up all over the Baram. Now this is a man who dare not even talk with his constituents when they want to talk about the land issue. And he is going to represent us in those international forums facing the sharks?

If Mr Clean had appointed him to the works ministry, it might at least be understandable. After all, he is MP of an area where, after more than twenty years, the government road remains unfinished, and is in worse shape than even the logging roads! They used to blame Samy Vellu. Now we don’t have Samy to kick around any more, it would have been good to let Jacob Dungau prove himself and finally get the road completed.

Come to think of it, maybe we should present the whole cabinet with pillows. Things might actually be better if they all went to sleep.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Al-Hajj's Guantanamo cartoon banned

Reprieve reproduced Scream for Freedom from a description provided by al-Hajj

The US army has banned the publication of four cartoons drawn by Sami al-Hajj, the Al Jazeera camera held in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, according to his lawyer.

The pieces, called Sketches of My Nightmare, include a drawing depicting al-Hajj, who has been on hunger strike for eight months, as a skeleton being force fed by US guards.

The drawings were submitted to the military censor but they would not permit their release.

However, detailed descriptions of the sketches were allowed through the censorship process and Lewis Peake, a political cartoonist, was able to recreate one entitled Scream for Freedom.

Al Hajj described the way he sees himself being force fed in the so-called "Torture Chair" - the restraint chair into which they are strapped twice a day to have a 110cm tube forcibly inserted into one nostril so that liquid food can be administered.

The tube is pulled out after each feeding and the prisoner is left in the chair for up to two hours so he can be force fed again if he vomits.

'Torture chair'

"The first sketch is just a skeleton in the torture chair," he explained.

"My picture reflects my nightmares of what I must look like, with my head double-strapped down, a tube in my nose, a black mask over my mouth, with no eyes and only giant cheekbones, my teeth jutting out – my bones showing in every detail, every rib, every joint.

Sami al-Hajj was seized as covered
the Afghan war for Al Jazeera

"The tube goes up to a bag at the top of the drawing. On the right there is another skeleton sitting shackled to another chair.

"They are sitting like we do in interrogations, with hands shackled, feet shackled to the floor, just waiting. In between I draw the flag of Guantanamo – JTF-GTMO – but instead of the normal insignia, there is a skull and crossbones, the real symbol of what is happening here," he said.

Cori Crider, one of the Al Jazeera cameraman's lawyers, said that he first showed her the "very gruesome and incredibly detailed sketches" when she visited him on February 1.

"He explained he felt compelled to express the nightmare that he and the rest of the hunger strikers in Guantánamo have been suffering. Sami's sketches spoke volumes about what he goes through every time they strap him into that chair for forcefeeding," Crider said.

Free speech

The cartoonist is also reproducing the other three sketches which show other aspects of the prisoners' treatment in US custody, Reprieve, a British charity which provides legal representation to Guantanamo detainees, said.

"You have to question, I have to question as an American, why the US government thinks that free speech in the form of this picture is a somehow a threat to US national security," Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, said.

He suggested that the US military was censoring the images to keep details of the treatment of Guantanamo detainees out of the media.

"I have seen plenty of evidence that is extremely embarrassing to the American government, and that's because this sort of picture gives you a visual image of what poor Sami goes through twice a day.

"I think a picture sometimes paints a thousand words, and I think that is what the US government is afraid of," he told Al Jazeera.

Al-Hajj was seized by the US military while he was covering the war in Afghanistan for Al Jazeera's Arabic channel and has been held as an "enemy combatant" without trial or charge since 2001.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Abdullah’s Bible

The Hikayat of Abdullah was unique for its pointedly frank observations about all that was wrong with the world he lived in then, though perhaps one of the most interesting and touching episodes in the Hikayat is where Abdullah describes his quarrel with his father, who was afraid that his son might be tempted off the right path by the ‘deviant teachings’ of the English missionaries he was working with.

By Farish A. Noor

For a country that is not exactly known for its reading habit, we seem to be grabbing a lot of books lately. Or to put it more accurately, we seem to be confiscating and detaining an awful lot of books.

For reasons best known to themselves, the benighted authorities in this land of ours have been vigilantly manning the outposts on the frontier lest we, while sleeping, are caught unawares by the legions of dog-eared tomes that are – at this very moment – surreptitiously on their way to this country to ‘pollute, corrupt and confuse’ our minds. The list of banned books grows ever longer; and the outrages continue unabated. The latest fiasco was when thirty-two Bibles were confiscated by customs officials from a Malaysian Christian on her way back from the Philippines, to be submitted for inspection by the Ministry of Internal Security. Strange that Bibles are now seen by some as a potential ‘security threat’ that need to be confiscated upon entry into the sacred precinct that is Malaysia. But Bibles? A security threat? To whom?

All this talk of ‘dangerous’ texts and potentially dangerous Bibles in particular reminds me of one particular edition of the Bible that caused quite a stir when it first came out. In fact so controversial was this particular edition that it almost never came out at all. For here I am talking about Abdullah’s Bible; or rather the translation of the Bible by none other than Munshi Abdullah Abdul Kadir, who is universally regarded as one of the forefathers of modern Malay literature.

Now those of you who remember what you were taught at school (and believe me, as an academic I am all too familiar with the phenomenon of selective amnesia among students), will also remember the name of Munshi Abdullah. He was the Peranakan Muslim scholar and translator who served both the early British colonial administrators in Singapore and Malacca as well as the various Malay courts during the opening stages of the 19th century.

Abdullah wrote his ‘Hikayat Abdullah’ which stands until today as one of the most honest accounts of the state of the Malay world at that crucial juncture in the history of this region. Abdullah was of course a key figure in the exchange of letters between British colonial administrators like Raffles, Farquhar, Minto, et al. and the Malay nobles and kings. The Hikayat of Abdullah was unique for its pointedly frank observations about all that was wrong with the world he lived in then, though perhaps one of the most interesting and touching episodes in the Hikayat is where Abdullah describes his quarrel with his father, who was afraid that his son might be tempted off the right path by the ‘deviant teachings’ of the English missionaries he was working with.

The thorny issue that was being debated between Abdullah and his peers at the moment was his role as translator for a particular text that many of them were reluctant to touch: The New Testament.

Abdullah had been approached by some English missionaries and commissioned by them to translate the New Testament into vernacular Malay, which was to be used at Church as well as the modest missionary efforts among the colonial subjects of the Crown Colonies. As Malay was the lingua franca of everyone who lived in the straits then (including the Peranakan Chinese, Indians, Eurasians and even the British and Dutch), it was deemed appropriate to have the Bible translated into Malay as well.

Munshi Abdullah who regarded himself primarily as a professional translator was prepared to do the job that scared off all other contenders; until his father came into the picture, spewing steam and hot curses, and swearing that his son would never be converted by the heathen missionaries. In a touching passage of the Hikayat Abdullah describes how he appealed to his father’s own sense of values, and in particular to his father’s own love for knowledge and languages in general. His father was further persuaded by the appeals of the priests Milner and Thomson, who promised that they would respect his father’s wishes and refrain from offering any religious instruction to Abdullah. In the end, Abdullah notes how the appeals eventually won over his father’s consent and he was allowed to continue his study of this foreign language called English. The result of Abdullah’s efforts came in the form of one of the first vernacular Malay translations of the New Testament, the Kitab Injil al-Kudus daripada Tuhan Esa al-Masihi.

Now contrary to the fears and doubts of his friends, Munshi Abdullah was not secretly converted to Christianity as a result of translating the Kitab Injil al-Kudus. No magic Christian pills were plopped into his tea behind his back while he was working in the missionaries’ quarters; nor were there any reported attempts to lure him to the Church by offers of money, promotions or package holidays. As he stated from the outset, he was professional through and through and he carried out his translation work in a scrupulous and objective manner, to the satisfaction of all.

Today one can only wonder aloud about the fate of such a text, should it find itself before the customs officials or immigration desk at KLIA or the Golok crossing up North. If Bibles from the Philippines can be detained upon arrival, what then would be the fate of Abdullah’s Bible, born and bred (or translated and bound) right here, in our dear ‘ol Malaysia? And how would be take to Munshi Abdullah, ‘father’ of modern vernacular Malay literature, pioneer of the vernacular autobiography and realist writing; who also happens to be one of the first translators of the Bible? Or have we, in denying the religious complexity and pluralism of Malaysia today, also closed the door to Malaysia’s past where Muslims seemed less easily spooked by books of whichever tongue.

Dr. Farish A. Noor is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore; and one of the founders of the http://www.othermalaysia.org/ research site.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dissenters Calls for Malaysia PM to Quit

By SEAN YOONG
Associated Press Writer

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Some Malaysian ruling party members are mounting an Internet campaign demanding the prime minister's resignation after massive losses in national elections over the weekend.

The initiative is an indication of brewing dissent against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who has repeatedly insisted he will not step down and that he commands the loyalty of most members of his dominant United Malays National Organization.

A popular Web site called Maya Kmu Dot Net sought support this week for a petition urging Abdullah to "resign voluntarily as prime minister and UMNO president." Although anonymously run, it is known to be widely read by UMNO members because it features criticism about the party that cannot be aired in regular party forums.

The site says it has conducted a poll in which some 90 percent of more than 2,500 respondents so far say Abdullah should quit.

Mohamad Noh Zainudin, an UMNO grass-roots official who pledged support for the petition, said Thursday that Abdullah must shoulder the blame for "the government's poor image, which caused the bad results" in Saturday's general elections.

"At the grassroots level, there is a feeling that the prime minister should step down," Mohamad Noh, an UMNO branch official in northern Perak state, told The Associated Press. "The senior leaders cannot express this because there is a culture of not speaking out."

Top party leaders have backed Abdullah, saying no one is solely responsible for election results that saw the long-ruling government lose its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time since 1969 despite winning enough seats to remain in power.

UMNO, whose members are from the ethnic Malay Muslim majority, forms the backbone of the governing National Front coalition. The election results were the worst ever for the 14-party coalition, which only retained control of eight of Malaysia's 13 states.

Abdullah took his oath of office Monday to remain prime minister for another five-year term. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said this week that UMNO leaders would reject any calls for Abdullah to resign, adding there should not be "any speculation or effort to change leadership."

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Malaysian Revolution of 2008!


There is a lot of work to be done in the area of social justice, education for multiculturalism, and development for the people, by the people, for the people. There is also a lot of people that must be brought to justice – those who have been for decades protected by a corrupt regime. The rakyat is demanding to see such process of justice executed.

Dr. Azly Rahman
http://azlyrahman-illuminations.blogspot.com/

"We've lost, we've lost" --Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, quoted in Malaysiakini, March 9 2008

Kesilapan besar Abdullah antaranya walaupun beliau mempunyai anggota Majlis Tertinggi Umno dan Kabinet sebagai penasihat utamanya, namun beliau tidak mengambil pandangan mereka kerana dilaporkan beliau pernah berkata I trust the young one. --- Harakah Daily.Net, March 9, 2008

Are you surprised by (ISA detainee) M Manoharan's victory?
This has happened before in 1959 or is it 1964, when PAS used to go from village to village carrying the candidate's shoes and he won….

Has Umno become irrelevant?
For the moment, yes. It's not always so. If Umno serves the country well, and looks after all the different races, then Umno will be relevant again.
-- Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysikini interview, March 9, 2008

Malaysia's 12th. General Election must now be a possible topic of a hundred Ph.D dissertations. It is about a revolution of a country trapped in the excesses of hypermodernity. The revolution was aided by the power of cybernetics and the daulat of the rakyat. It was fueled by the ruling regime's abuse of the ideological state apparatuses. It was also a rude awakening for a leader snoozing in Sleepy Hollow. While one slept, the rakyat engineered a usurpation—a quiet and unique revolution.

On March 9, 2008 many must have exclaimed these: "What a tsunami of a win". "Malaysians did the Obama!", "We have taken the giant leap forward." "Thirteen days that shook Malaya" the headline should be. "Secure the state documents." "We need to begin a chapter in which transparency and accountability rules." "This is a victory of Radical Marhaenism – and ethnogenesis (birth of a new culture) of hopefully a more sober and sensible Malaysia ready to work together regardless of race, color, creed, national origin."

What next?

There is a lot of work to be done in the area of social justice, education for multiculturalism, and development for the people, by the people, for the people. There is also a lot of people that must be brought to justice – those who have been for decades protected by a corrupt regime. The rakyat is demanding to see such process of justice executed. We have seen so much violation of the UN Declaration and Charter of Human Rights of 1946 of which Malaysia is one of the signatories. We have seen many who voiced their opinion on matters of social justice and freedom thrown into jail and detained without trial for as along as the old regime likes. We have seen, especially since the Abdullah administration the rise of Malay politicians whose leit motif is arrogance and perpetuation of dangerous divisive politics.

Back to the Malaysian Revolution of 2008. It is like the storming of the Bastille. Malaysians saw the fall of the four states and the rise of a new 'cybernetic' fourth estate. The broadcast media of the old regime gave way to the new, subaltern media of the revolutionary forces. There was no need to storm and take over Angkasapuri. Revolutionary ideals and notions of social justice were disseminated far fast, far, and wide through the Internet. Bloggers, columnists, members of MUD (Multiuser Domains), street artists, intellectuals, social activists, and the man and woman on the street were the revolutionary soldiers. The process began since the beginning of the last General Election – the one that saw the old regime's landslide win. Now, we have a tsunami. A specter haunted Malaya.

The hegemony of the ruling party have made many skeptical of such a miraculous win. "Materials, machinery, and media", as the eminent anthropologist turned politician Syed Husin Ali would say, 'is the foundation of authoritarianism and hegemony'. But I would add another one 'mind' and how it is controlled as a both a disabling and enabling factor in the tsunami of a win in this decisive election. The mind of Malaysians have quietly processed what constitutes truth and justice. Silently the revolution was already underway; revolution of the mind aided by digital communication technologies spearheaded by bloggers that evolved into "blogo-ticians" inclusive. The victory of Jeff Ooi and Elizabeth Wong attested to the rise of the 'blogotician'

What an analysis to made in Malaysia's most exciting and mind-boggling general election. We are tasting a mandate of heaven and seeing truth and justice allying with those that patiently seeks. We saw virtue, instead of vultures being voted in.

Newer paradigm

The people of Penang, Kedah, Perak, and Selangor will now be shifting to a new paradigm. Tanjung II is now a reality. Lim Kit Siang's dream has come true. Kedah, home of Universiti Utara Malaysia will need to be in smart partnership and make intellectual adjustments to a new paradigm as well. The university faculty will need to read The Blue Ocean Strategy to exist in harmony with the new Kedah's ruling party. This is exciting for many. Any progressive change is exciting, as long as the revolution is a peaceful one. Any effort to free the universities from the shackles of political domination is good. Selangor, the advanced state will move a new level of sophistication but one founded upon sustainable development the meets the needs of the people. The same goes with the paradigm of development in Perak.

We are seeing a new dawn of changes if we continue to work for the total alleviation of poverty, improving the intellectual climate of the universities, and working towards true religious and racial harmony. Kelantan's prayers against the takeover of Barisan Nasional was answered. Some say that truth and justice will always be allies of the righteous. Essentially, Man proposes, God disposes.

Not even a regime's control of the mind, machinery, media, and materials could stop a "mandate of heaven" from running its natural course. Not even phantom voters nor candidates yelling "when "Qiamat'/Armageddon comes only the Dacing/scales of the Barisan Nasional remains standing" can win. For Muslims this is a blasphemous statement to the max; blasphemy even to the roughest and foul-mouthed of all the Mat Rempits!

Who would imagine that Nurrul Izah would beat Shahrizat Jalil, Zainuddin Maidin would lose, bloggers Jeff Ooi, Elizabeth Wong, and Tony Phua would have a field day. What is amazing—who would believe that even an ISA detainee would also win! Or check this out—the amateur videographer of the famed 'correct.. correct.. correct' soap opera, would also win. PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim managed to successfully get the progressive parties and interest groups to harness their energy into making this giant leap. It is hard work. It is a mind game. It was an endgame for the old regime. The old regime made a wrong move.

Full credit goes to Malaysians of all walks of life. They are the real winners and they are not to be betrayed. Their children need a better life, through education as a means for social, economic, moral, ethical, and intellectual progress. The are much more intelligent now after fifty years of independence. But for the National Front in this fateful revolution, what is its lesson before dying?

Divine intervention?

It is all these, that Divine Justice intervened, amongst many factors, against:

  • Massive corruption
  • Rampant abuse of power
  • Creation of arrogant leaders
  • Alleged Lies and deceit by the Election commission
  • Outdated abuse of racist arguments
  • Inability to engineer equitable and sustainable development programs
  • Cronyism and nepotism
  • Creation of alienated and disposed generation
  • Conspicuous consumption
  • Failure to control rising prices
  • Rampant abuse of the Ideological State apparatus
  • Inefficient management of resources
  • Blatant disregard for human rights
  • Suppression of the rights of the individual
  • The exploitation of the dangerous concept of "ketuanan Melayu"
  • The protection of corrupt leaders
  • The overstaying of leaders and the continuation of the syndrome of the 22-year political itch
The next step for the four new states is to work phase out the vestiges of the old regime and to document what did not work during the reign of the old regime. How did the process of underdevelopment of the rakyat happen in those decades? Documents need to be secured and analyzed to prove what went wrong and how we must move forward based on the principles of total accountability.

The new states

Each state run by the new order of governance must showcase what an ethical just system look like and how the creativity and problem solving skills of the rakyat ought to be developed in order to teach us what development based on needs relative comfort means instead of one based on greed and conspicuous consumption. The latter has destroyed this nation. The latter was the trademark of the old regime – one that need to be destroyed.

The new regime need to bring power abusers to justice! That would be an honor to the rakyat who voted them into power. The universities need to be freed, the education system need to radically improved, good health care plans made affordable, the Mat Rempits and Alongs stopped from being reproduced, cultural pride restored through schooling that improves higher-order thinking skills, poverty eliminated, the independence of the judiciary restored. Each child is a Harvard, Columbia, Cambridge, or even Oxford material. Each child is a gift—not a utility to be cleverly abused in the form of Mat and Minah Rempits.

The party's over but The revolution continues. Malaysians must make Malaysian Malaysia a reality.

This revolution is made possible by the daulat of the rakyat -- the Makkal Shakti of Malaysia's Radical Marhaenism, conceived by many Shao Lin masters and one whose zeal transmitted through cyberspace!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Tale of the Rattlesnake

Even Prime Minister Mahathir was fooled by Abdullah to appoint him as Mahathir's successor. At least Mahathir recognised his error of judgment (albeit belatedly) and is now working hard to remedy his greatest mistake.

M. Bakri Musa

Spring comes early in my part of California. Already there are exuberant splashes of dancing daffodils on the hillsides. Soon the colorful California poppies will pop up. With the weather becoming warmer, the rattlesnakes too will soon emerge from their winter slumber.

Talking of rattlesnakes, I am reminded of the story of the kindly lady who saw one such weakling that was dying from the long cold winter. Taking pity on the poor critter, she took it home and nursed it back to health. One day while she was feeding the now robust creature, it took a swipe at her hand and bit her.

As she lay dying she asked the snake why it had done that. “You should have known better, lady! You knew I was a rattlesnake, you should have killed me back then!”

On March 8, 2008, Malaysia will have a general election, with Prime Minister Abdullah seeking a second term, having secured an overwhelming mandate back in 2004. This will be the voters’ collective judgment of what Abdullah did with that mandate.

If Barisan Nasional retains its supra-majority and Abdullah remains as Prime Minister, rest assured that he will continue the pattern he set in his first term. He will once again reward his cronies and family members with sweetheart mega billion contracts san competition, just as he has done during his first term. His excuse then was that he did not know that he was doing it! He will continue dozing off during meetings in the mistaken belief that Malaysians approve of such mediocre performances. Also, expect the bureaucracy to become even more bloated. This self-styled “number one civil servant’s” answer to every problem is to spend more money and employ more staff.

For Malays, expect more books on Islam to be banned and more raids by moral vigilante groups intent on keeping us on the 'straight path'. And expect this Imam of Islam Hadari to lead even more prayers in public, with the television cameras rolling on, of course.

For non-Malays, expect more temples to be torn down to make way for “community development,” more cash demands from their insatiably greedy Ali Baba partners, and more reasons to take their children out of national schools.

In short, Malaysians would be like that innocent lady who took pity on the emaciated rattlesnake. Malaysians took pity on Abdullah and gave him another chance. Unfortunately, true to form, this rattlesnake Abdullah Badawi will bite us back with a vengeance.

Who Should We Blame?

There is a little bit of that kind lady in all of us, of wanting to be helpful, and yes, also to be forgiving, of wanting to give someone especially our leaders another chance. We believe in the basic goodness of our fellow human beings. We are generous and believe that goodwill begets more goodwill. In short, we are not rattlesnakes.

Unfortunately, there are the small minority amongst us who are indeed rattlesnakes. No matter how kind we are to them, their basic instinct is to bite back.

When I find a rattlesnake near my house, I remove it away back to the hills. If it returns, then I will not hesitate to kill it. I give that critter only one chance; it is too dangerous to have a rattlesnake crawling around near my house.

Malaysians have been too kind and for too long to this rattlesnake of a leader, Abdullah Badawi. He interprets the huge mandate he received in2004 not as a trust given by citizens to lead them to greater heights, but as a license to indulge his private fantasies. He is not at all embarrassed by being endlessly feted, or of him and his adult family members jetting off to far away destinations in his newly acquired (at taxpayers expense of course) luxurious Airbus. Where and when did this grandson of a pious and humble village imam acquire his extravagant tastes?

When Abdullah was appointed Deputy Prime Minister back in 1998, this is what I wrote in my book The Malay Dilemma Revisited: “Abdullah is not known for his intellect or sense of mission. Nor is he very inspiring. . . . He would be Malaysia’s Jimmy Carter, an honorable enough man but totally ineffective leader.” I was wrong about the honorable part.

I also wrote, “Abdullah’s only redeeming quality was his humility; a fine enough tribute for a friend but an overrated quality in a leader.” As we now know, Abdullah has a lot to be humble about, to borrow Churchill’s quote.

Democracy: Self Correcting

The mistake Malaysians made was in giving Abdullah that massive mandate in 2004. That, however, was understandable, prompted no doubt by the kind lady instinct in us all. Unfortunately, it cemented in Abdullah the delusion that his many inadequacies were indeed virtues. Our intellectuals and pundits too were also taken in, mistaking Abdullah’s silence for substance, his humility for wisdom. Had Malaysians been less generous and our intellectuals more critical, Abdullah would have a far less inflated sense of his own capabilities and virtues. Who knows, we might be spared his vulgar excesses.

Even Prime Minister Mahathir was fooled by Abdullah to appoint him as Mahathir's successor. At least Mahathir recognised his error of judgment (albeit belatedly) and is now working hard to remedy his greatest mistake.

The beauty of democracy is that citizens can (or at least are given a chance to) correct our collective mistakes, or even those of our leaders. In this upcoming election, voters in Kepala Batas could do a great national service if they were to boot Abdullah out. That would effectively remove him as Prime Minister. More significantly it would trigger a seismic shift in UMNO's leadership. With the party's ban on contesting top posts effectively circumvented, it would get a chance to preview many other candidates.

If Kepala Batas voters were shy in exercising this historic opportunity, then Malaysians could still teach Abdullah a lesson by substantially reducing his coalition's victories. That would also trigger a challenge to his leadership and we would have the same effect as the first scenario.

We Malays have a saying that sometimes we have to be unkind or even cruel in order to be kind. We may think that we are being kind by giving a five-ringgit note to a starving drug addict, but then he would just as quickly use that money to get his next fix.

In the social sciences there is the concept of an “enabler,” specifically referring to the battered wife syndrome, of the wife whose toleration of her husband's abuses encourages him to be even more abusive.

In this election voters will have to be cruel in order to be kind to our leaders, ourselves, and our nation. Malaysians must be wise enough not to be inadvertent enablers of corrupt and incompetent leaders. We must get rid of the rattlesnakes among our leaders before they bite us.

If Malaysians were to continue on with business as usual with this election, then we have only ourselves to blame. It would not be the fault of the rattlesnake if it were to bite us back, as surely it would.