Sunday, August 02, 2015

From Jho Low To Low Yatt, A Nation In Leadership Crisis Well Before #1MDB

The Tragic Irony Of 2 Lows
Even before the 27 July 'pogrom' which saw the sacking of our Deputy Prime Minister, a senior Minister critical of the #1MDB scandal and the Attorney General actually investigating the same said scandal, our country was already at a low. This was exemplified by the 2 Lows that has had a hand in showcasing this, the first being Jho Low, the man who led the #1MDB experiment down a path of destruction, the second being Low Yatt, the iconic shopping centre that is the site where the illusion of our racial harmony under 1Malaysia has been laid bare over the space of 1 evening in Ramadhan!
Leadership is about many things, among them, moral courage, the realisation of ideas, and for a leader to be seen as successful, it is the results of his actions that is judged. And so we see 2 great ideas that have been the cornerstone of the Najib government in judgement in the week Ramadhan came to a close. The first, 1Malaysia, is deserving of its prominence, the second, #1MDB, has the distinction of being elevated now as a tragedy of an unwanted child from the 1Malaysia concept.
The basics of 1Malaysia are pretty straightforward, and with racial disharmony being felt in the undercurrents leading towards the fall of the previous Prime Minister, Pak Lah, one would be forgiven that with it, DS Najib had brilliantly chosen an easy aim of reuniting the nation as the cornerstone of his first years in power. However, in the great excitement of pursuing 1Malaysia, its notion as a spirit or guiding principle for the next stage of nation-building somehow got lost in the 'branding' of it. It was almost as if 1Malaysia got away from DS Najib such that it was...
And so when the results of the 13th General Election or PRU13 rolled in as one of the most polarised since 1969, one would be forgiven for thinking that was the death of 1Malaysia even as a concept. Unfortunately, 1Malaysia and its many 'acronyms' had been so synonimous to DS Najib's administration, more so than the economic transformation program which continued to prove unpopular with UMNO's core Malay support base, the loss was explained away as due to a 'betrayal' of Chinese voters or a 'failure' of BN Chinese component parties.
And so DS Najib persisted with 1Malaysia post-PRU13, only the slogan or brand now rang hollow as a cry for unity, and its 'acronyms' marched into greater prominence. Regretfully, it is not BR1M or PR1MA that has since grown to such prominence as to likely now be the one that define's DS Najib's legacy, but 1MDB... readers will not however that this posting is not about the great scandal being the potential demise of the Najibite regime, but that it was already doomed even before...
Weaknesses Post-PRU13 Not Addressed
Months have passed since the 1MDB scandal gained prominence in the minds of Malaysians. It is interesting to note that issues of 1MDB was first raised by Malaysia's opposition, but failed to gain traction. To many observers, including this blogger, the lack of response by the Rakyat to PR's attacks on 1MDB was just confirming our view that the PR opposition's strong performance was not due to its strength but as a result of BN's continued weakness under DS Najib's leadership. In the end, it took the attentions of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to spark concern.
It would be worth noting here that whilst PRU13 showcased the failure of the 1Malaysia concept as DS Najib's cornerstone agenda, DS Najib's subsequent reaction to its results strengthened the hand of none other than Tun Dr M! BN and UMNO was saved in that elections by a firm return swing of the Malay vote to a majority of its MPs. This was exemplified in the state of Kedah in particular where Tun Dr M showed his enduring love for the party, campaigning harder that leaders half his age to return BN to the state capital. Was it not UMNO though that drove Malay voters back to BN?
It was not! If anything, the 'Asal Bukan UMNO' or ABU campaign had taken root among many  younger middle-class urban Malays. This was at the root of surprise losses by leaders like Dato' Raja Nong Chik at Pantai as well as many parts of Selangor that did not seem to benefit as greatly from the Malay swing. The swing though was much stronger in the rural Malay heartland where pro-Malay and Muslim NGOs such as Perkasa and ISMA were highly influential. There UMNO benefitted as the NGOs decided to support BN in order to reject Anwar Ibrahim's bid for Prime Ministership.
And so the one part of the UMNO strategy that worked was the demonisation of Anwar Ibrahim, where at long last, even many of his old friends from his younger ABIM began denouncing him for his loose morals and inconsistent as well as compromising political stands. However, it was the Malay NGOs that held the greatest sway in convincing Malays that BN was still worth voting for if anything to protect Malay rights from the risks of Anwar's immorality and political ambition, despite many Najibite policies prior to PRU13 being decidedly no longer pro-Malay.
A political strategy based on demonising your greatest enemy of course is not sustainable and became outright defunct the moment Anwar was convicted for another substantial jail term that effectively marks the end of his political career. Rather bizzarely, despite the support of Malays and their NGOs as well as the rejection of Chinese voters, DS Najib's government continued to pursue policies that moved away from the 'Malay Agenda', with only token almost rhetorical crumbs thrown their way. UMNO's mainstream was also then encouraged to alienate Perkasa, Isma and co as potential rivals!
It is this persistence of a failed strategy that has continued to weaken UMNO and BN's position under DS Najib's leadership post-PRU13, added to it the botched implementation of the GST, PRU14 was a sure-lose proposition! In desparation, many BN strategists talk of a major win during PRU14 due to the apparent disunity in and among the opposition Pakatan Rakyat parties. However, this is a false hope as firstly, as mentioned above, BN's losses over the last 2 elections have been more about its weaknesses rather than PR's strength and secondly, one this unites the opposition always, hate of BN!
The False Hope Of Peace At Ramadhan
Of course, DS Najib now continues to contend with the #1MDB scandal. There was much hope in his camp, apparently partly fueled by premonitions by bomohs and gurujis believed by those by his side, that his #1MDB problems would be over by the end of June or come mid-Ramadhan. Even as this was being predicted, DS Najib himself did not believe it, and so the plan to quash any internal opposition or any risk of conviction of him or his close allies on #1MDB was hatched.
Ironically, despite Tun Dr Mahathir honouring his word to his close associates to be less provocative and be more reflective in Ramadhan, other parties stepped into the breach. The attack by WSJ for instance, despite the belief of pro-Najibite social media activists, have noting to do with Tun Dr M, but has more to do with certain parties in the United States wanting to keep the pressure up on DS Najib in order to compell him to sign the Tran Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)... or at least that is what this blogger believes.
And so no peace has settled in the Najib camp, but this should not surprise anyone. DS Najib's government was well on the way to losing PRU14 anyway before #1MDB. His 27 July progrom will at best help him to survive UMNO's efforts to topple him till the general elections - and even that is not a sure thing as calls to reject the posponement of UMNO elections gain voice at UMNO Division meetings. And one then wonders, why bother at all with all these political shenanigans if in the end he will lose his Prime Ministership with little to no dignity left to his name?
And will Malaysians ever forgive a Prime Minister that has showcased such selfishness to retain power even as we continue to suffer his leadership? ...

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