A couple of days back I woke up to Indian newspaper reports which quoted you as saying that India’s democracy is a hindrance to its development and if we did away with the nuisance of democracy we will be become developed (1).
Well Sir, it is heartening to see your concern about India’s future. Especially now that our own elected government has orphaned us, someone from the outside caring about our development sounds so very nice. But you see Sir, your (apparently) good intentions notwithstanding, your advice to Indians is, well how should I put it…ill-advised. I’m not really sure if you know much about the history of our nation. Don’t get me wrong.
Know Your Facts
Going by facts like the general absence of news from Malaysia’s newspapers; the absence of anything but song and dance in your electronic media; the absence of bookstores that sell knowledgeable books (for example, the ones from which you can learn about history and not how to get rich in six steps); the abundance of malls and the stark absence of libraries; the abundance of coaching centers that can make masseurs, air hostesses and a host of quick fix technicians and the relative absence of centres of higher learning especially in the social sciences; and above all the fact that this insanely consumerist and hedonist Malaysia was made under your tutelage, makes me doubt your knowledge of the history of India or any nation for that matter.
Understand the Story of Indian Independence
So allow me to apprise you of the story of our Independence. We won Independence from colonial rulers waging a long and torturous battle. A battle that sought to replace a discriminatory, unjust and violent regime that had enslaved huge populations with one which was based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity.
India was home then, as is now and as will always be, to an immense diversity of people who spoke different tongues, prayed to different Gods, wore different clothes and had different political beliefs. These diverse people said to each other that – we, despite our differences, will strive to live and flourish together and make a sovereign nation which will be democratic, socialist and secular. We did not anywhere say that we want to be Malaysia or for that matter China or the USA.
India treats all its citizen as equal
We want to become a nation with a system that treats all its citizens as equal unlike your country that officially accords special rights to Malay Muslims calling them first class citizens while relegating thousands of people of Tamil, Chinese and other ethnic origins. Despite the fact that they have known no other land other than Malaysia as their own, you denigrate them with the tag of being second class citizens.
Meritocracy and Hard Work, Not Identity-based Cartelisation
We try to work towards having a system wherein a person will grow according to his merit and hard work earning what he has rightfully earned. You may be surprised to know that here in India making cartels based on identity, even if under the name of bumiputra or son-of-the-soil, is called cartelisation and is looked down upon by most of us.
Here promoting the selective interests of one’s self or that of his kin is called corruption and nepotism and not, as you call it, development. We are in fact fighting tooth and nail to arrest the scourge of corruption and (you’ll be shocked to know) get the guilty punished.
In India, No One is Above the Law
Here in India no one is above the law and many a times powerful public figures go to jail for being corrupt or subverting the law. Now that we are at it, Sir, I’m sure it would be interesting to know what the minorities of you countries have to say – especially the jailed and beaten ones – about the development-democracy debate.
In fact Sir, your idea of development is largely at odds with many of us here. What you did to the tropical forests and water-bodies of Malaysia (that is raze vast acres of them into oblivion making way for big bucks palm oil plantations and piggeries and so on) would cause huge outrage amongst many of us who are looking for sustainable development.
We are yet to be unanimously convinced that making cemented roads – however broad, lining them with buildings – even if glass covered and glossy, putting cars on them – however fast they are– is a substitute for our valued bio-diversity. Many of us are very convinced that displacing huge populations of native people for useless things like world-class racing tracks is a blot on the word ‘development’.
There are many of us who find it a shameful and cruel hypocrisy that in your country can have abundant openly advertised sex tourism and still whip women for being licentious! Thanks to the culture of reading here, many of us know of your penchant for cruelty in your personal career. A career during which you enacted despotic and violent acts at times in the name of (your contorted version of Islam) and at times in the name of security and national interest.
Malaysia’s Internal Security Act, 1960
We could recount how you rose to power annihilating huge numbers of your opponents and stayed there for over two decades continuing your devious rule using tactics and schemes which are far beyond Machiavelli. Many of us know about your vile Internal Security Act 1960, which you used to crush political opposition jailing and killing them with impunity and putting in place a frail and near sham democracy placing the entire nation under a one man rule of the UNMO for over two decades.
You will note that in the essay above I have used words like “most of us” “many of us” and have tried to stay away from absolute claims. Besides the age old Indian practice of accommodating different opinions, it is meant to recognise that there are people in this country too who think like you and will have applauded you for saying what you did.
They too think that roads are all that are important and not the humans which walk on them or the ones that sleep beside them. They have misconstrued the word development as development of personal wealth and that this ‘development’ is a holy cow and everything including the rights and lives of fellow humans is a lesser priority. Their money power helps them buy a lot of print space and electronic bandwidth so they may appear like the majority, but thankfully the truth is they aren’t.
Development through Increasing Democracy
The majority of us recognise and are willing to admit – and even discuss at length – that there are problems in our nation – including bad roads. But they’ll quickly add that we intend to solve those not by lessening democracy but by increasing it.
There are many people who are very unhappy with Prime Minister Najib Razak and for so many reasons. Some may not be happy because Najib was not the elected prime minister and feel that he is not up to the job in being the top decision-maker for Malaysia, and Malaysia has not been any better since he took office.
Perhaps at this point in time, it is those within UMNO who are the most worrying for him because they are the insiders. They could be genuinely dissatisfied with Najib’s bad performance in the economic sector because that in turn has shrunk their gravy train. The huge and generous slice of UMNO cake has never been so dismally small. UMNO members are also dissatisfied because Najib only wants his own people in the list of 'winnable candidates'.
In the November annual assembly, Najib thought he scored a coup by forcing a resolution out of delegates to let him be the final decision maker, but oddly did not recognize they were just dishing out the same sort of hypocrisy that his administration has become famous for. Take Idris Jusoh, who was the first to leap to endorse Najib's resolution, assuring he would gladly give up his state assembly seat if that would help UMNO win the GE-13 war.
Now with just a month past, Idris is singing a new tune. Idris has just days ago warned that if his arch rival Ahmad Said was allowed to contest, UMNO would lose the Terengganu state government. Does anyone believe infighting no longer exists in Terengganu UMNO as it claims? More pertinently, does any one believe UMNO members really trust Najib to be fair in allocating seats to rival camps and that the party is still one huge happy family!
Perhaps, above all Shahrizat is still the UMNO member with the potential to hurt Najib the most. Like Idris Jusoh, who is hell-bent on not letting any other UMNO leader be the next Menteri Besar of Terengganu except himself, Shahrizat is stepping up for war. She is busy marshallng her resources to ensure that Najib and his advisers do not throw her to the wolves while using the RM250mil NFC financial debacle as a battering ram against rival factions. These include the camps led by deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and former premier Abdullah Badawi.
NFC takes on a different virulent life-form in UMNO
Since the NFC quagmire was exposed by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's PKR party, it has acquired a life of its own within UMNO itself. It has become an enormous bargaining tool used by Najib to squeeze his party mates and nip in the bud a widely-expected challenge from Muhyiddin for the presidency in2012. To other Malaysians, NFC is about the decadent state the country has reached after decades of rampant corruption but tellingly, to the UMNO folk, it is just another internal battle, albeit a major one which has already escalated into Phase One of a Mother of All Civil Wars.
A 'Plan B' which has all the unscrupulous trappings of another clumsy Najib maneuver, involving a relative of the Shahrizat family alleged to have been bribed to turn against her, is unlikely to succeed since it is no longer easy to convince a cynical Malaysian public, who were thoroughly disgusted by the Datuk T sex DVD sprung against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim earlier this year.
Another reason is of course, the GE-13 or 13th General Election, is too close by.
Civil war has begun
Meanwhile, as Najib braces for his duel with Muhyiddin, their supporters have begun firing buckshot at each other. Najib's close aide and deputy minister Awang Adek has been exposed as having accepted 'contributions' which he insists are funds meant to finance his UMNO division, but which could very well turn out to be part of some sort of money politics.
The same sort of information has been revealed about Muhyiddin’s senior private secretary, also receiving money, with Muhyiddin promising to investigate. However, it is an open secret that funds collected by the senior aides are ultimately on behalf of the top leaders, prompting many to ridicule Muhyiddin for his "false assurance".
In Shahrizat’s case, it is going to be very complicated because if she is compromised, so too would UMNO be. First, with Shahrizat still in UMNO the NFC quagmire will be connected to UMNO, which is too bad. Then if Shahrizat was to be side-lined, dropped, forced to quit or even sacked, Shahrizat and her sympathizers will feel that Najib has been unfair and failed to do his presidential duties well.
Shahrizat weighs options
Shahrizat has several options. Being an insider she knows many things and she could easily engage another whistle blower to write in the blog complete with facts and evidence of whoever she is up against at this point in time.
The trend has been set and the impact of using bloggers has sent shivers down the spines of many UMNO leaders. Shahrizat could just wait and see but she might as well make a pre-emptive move because she has nothing to hide now and she just want to save her family.
This bloggers war is bound to create further dissatisfaction in UMNO against Najib, who recently launched a multi-million ringgit cyberspace 'station' complete with cyber-troopers and bloggers using government funds to attack the opposition. His rivals in UMNO can be sure that they too will be at the receiving end and will wonder why public money is being used to further Najib's interest.
Obviously, to aggravate Najib, those unhappy with him will begin alliances with Shahrizat. Party insiders say Muhyiddin has already made contact as far as this issue is concerned. The DPM, who is also UMNO deputy president, has already told the reporters that no decision has been made on Shahrizat.
As for former premier Mahathir Mohamad, who despite urging Shahrizat to quit before she is chased out, might also help Shahrizat - not for her sake but for the Machiavellian purpose of putting more pressure on Najib to ensure that Mahathir 's people including his son Mukhriz is on the list of winnable candidates.
All bets are off, a free-for-all has begun
Effectively, the crafty UMNO chieftains and warlords have with one stroke of the NFC scandal torn to shreds Najib's prized 'winnable' candidates list. All bets are off. None of the PM's men can be assured of contesting a seat. A free-for-all power grab has been declared and it is now open season in UMNO, Malaysia's oldest and largest pirate ship!
As such, Malaysians can expect to be astounded by shocking revelations. Khir Toyo, Altantuya, Scorpenes, over-priced arms procurements, corruption in the Iskandar region involving the Badawis, perhaps even First Lady Rosmah Mansor's US$24 million diamond ring might make a comeback in the media headlines in the months leading to snap polls, widely expected in March 2012.