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A Ranking of BN’s Twelve Worse Political Disasters

March 8, 2010

By Malaysian Spring

Barisan Nasional is a natural magnet for scandals and self-inflicted public relation disasters, mainly due to its entrenched patronage politics (an euphemism for corruption) and its contempt for the public. The following is a ranking of one dozen worse political disasters which will drag BN down at the 13th general election in order of least to heaviest impact. This “dirty dozen” are selected on the basis of their deep effect on a wide segment of the population and the durability of their impact to last till the next election.

No. 12 – Death in Custody of Ananthan Kugan

At this level there are many competing scandals such as the theft of jet engines from the air force, the RM540 million commission paid for submarines and pointless ISA detentions of Teresa Kok and Sin Chew journalist Tan but none have the emotional impact of the death in custody of A. Kugan who was arrested as a suspected car thief in Jan 2009

A government pathologist performed an autopsy and proclaimed that he died of water in his lungs. Dissatisfied, his family members demanded another autopsy which revealed that Kugan died of horrific beatings and torture which caused his kidneys to fail. After a long delay of 9 months and much public pressure, a lowly Indian police constable was charged with causing grievous hurt although the victim died and there were suspicions of others involved. Can you say scapegoat?
Kugan will not be the last to die in custody but he is the most widely publicized and has become the poster boy of the numerous helpless victims who die with shocking regularity in the hands of our law enforcement agencies.

No. 11 – Shah Alam Cow Head Protest
Race and religious baiting is nothing new with a party which leverages on racial and religious tension to maintain its power. In this category are Ahmad Ismail’s and Nasir Safar’s racist outbursts. The Umno controlled Utusan Malaysia frequently goes on a racist rant without any fear of sedition laws.

But come next election, Ahmad Ismail and Nasir Safar will be largely forgotten. The event which sears itself into the minds of voters is the cow head protest held at the Selangor State Secretariat over the relocation of a Hindu temple to Section 23 in Shah Alam. To drive home the insult the protesters which were widely perceived to be linked to Umno brought along a severed cow head, an animal which is sacred to Hindus.

This wasn’t the most damaging act. What really disappointed the people was the police inaction during the protest although they have been known to be brutally effective in dealing with any anti-BN protests. To compound the damage to BN, Home Minister Hisahmuddin granted a meeting with the protesters and even defended their action. Although some of the protesters were charged for sedition the delay has earned the public’s ire and gave the impression that the religious sensitivities of minorities are secondary under the BN regime.

No. 10 – Refusal to Charge Al-Islam Journalists
Two journalists from the Utusan Malaysia offshoot Al-Islam entered a Catholic church to spy on the activities just in case the church is secretly converting Muslim teenagers. They took part in the holy communion but spat out and photographed the white bread which Catholics believe is changed to the body of Christ. Then they had the audacity to write about it.

Despite this highly sacrilegious act which is an insult to the Catholic religion the Attorney-General refused to charge them on the specious reasons that they were ignorant, no public disorder had been caused and it would not serve the interest of justice. One wonders whether such forbearance would be shown if a sacrilegious had been made against Islam. The magazine later apologized but the apology was 10 months late and only offered under public pressure.

At about the same time, The Star was slapped a show cause letter for a reasonable, rational and cautious article questioning the caning of three Muslim women on the basis that it had insulted Islam. The BN government’s double standard is clear. Minorities can expect little or no protection for any attacks and insults on their race and religion while it goes overboard to protect the dominant race and religion.

No. 9 – Refusal to Charge VK Lingam
The Lingam video affair rocked the nation with its expose of corruption and undue influence in judicial appointments. Due to intense public pressure a Royal Commission of Inquiry was appointed to probe the case and concluded that the incriminating video was genuine and there was unseemly interaction between Lingam and the ex-Chief Justice, Tun Eusoffe Chin in a New Zealand holiday.

The RCI recommended criminal action against the main actor Lingam and a few others. To date the Attorney-General has shown amazing reluctance to charge anybody over this documented proof of judicial interference while it goes after dubious transgressions against opposition leaders such as Karpal Singh’s sedition charge.
The judiciary is the pillar of a modern democracy and to restore its reputation is of paramount importance. Does the refusal to charge VK Lingam indicate the lack of political will to correct the rot in our democratic institutions? Correct! Correct! Correct!

No. 8 – The Altantuya Affair
The violent murder of a Mongolian girl whose body was blown up by explosives scandalized the nation with its audacity and rumours of high level involvement. A string of revelations by Raja Petra Kamaruddin and private investigator Balasubramaniam told a salacious tale of a Mongolian beauty, extra-marital affairs, meetings in Paris, secret commission on a submarine deal, jilted lover, blackmail, murder and allegations of VIP involvement including Najib Razak himself.

P.I. Bala made a damning statutory declaration but in an amazing turn-around, he retracted it the next day and disappeared. He resurfaced more than a year later with more riveting tales of how he had been offered RM5 million and forced to flee to India via Singapore and Bangkok. A long-winded trial ended in the conviction of two police commandos for her death and the acquittal of Najib’s associate, Razak Baginda but left many questions unanswered such as the obvious lack of motivation of the two killers.

The Altantuya affair will leave a long lasting impact in the minds of voters who are not convinced that all has been revealed or that justice has been done. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth that anything can be covered up in Malaysia, even murder.

No. 7 – BTN’s Racist Course
Biro Tatanegara has been conducting courses for civil servants, government scholarship recipients and others for umpteen years but it was only in Nov 2009 that controversy exploded over the racist content of the course when the Pakatan controlled Selangor government refused to send any more participants.
Denials that the BTN course was racist were dashed by testimonies by ex-participants that the course fanned racial sentiments and sought to teach its own version of history of the country’s early years. It also badmouthed opposition leaders and inundated attendees with dire warnings of what would happen if the opposition came to power. The public is given the impression that the purpose of the BTN course is nothing more than to help BN maintain power at the expense of taxpayers. Indeed, opposition stalwart Lim Kit Siang revealed that the government spends more on BTN courses than it spends to run parliament.

Isn’t this rich coming from a body directly under the office of the prime minister who has been aggressively promoting his 1Malaysia? Calls to scrap the course have only met with vague promises of “refinements”. Abdullah Badawi was kicked out by voters for not keeping his promise of anti-corruption; Najib Razak may be kicked out for giving the people false hopes of racial integration and fairness.

No. 6 – PKFZ Scandal
Financial scandals are nothing new to BN. The Auditor-General’s report of profligate bleeding of the public purse and common items purchased at breathtaking prices makes its round with monotonous regularity every year. We hear of Khir Toyo’s fabulous mansion which must be beyond the means of a mere ex-Mentri Besar and the RM10 million transfer to London by another Mentri Besar with a shrug and a sigh. Will things ever change?

But the sheer size of the financial shenanigan of the Port Klang Free Zone project makes even the jaded Malaysian gape in anger. A PriceWaterhouse-Cooper report said that potential losses could reach RM12.5 billion, a staggering amount for a small developing country. For all that only a few small fishes have been charged, the highest being the ex-general manager of Port Klang Authority. What about the big sharks including the ex- transport ministers who signed the illegal letters of guarantee? How about going after the owner of the Contractor who laughed all the way to the bank instead of his employees?

The public is not impressed with such tokenism. PKFZ will continue to dog BN as the hallmark of its plundering ways with the real sharks getting to enjoy their ill gotten gains with impunity.

No. 5 – Teoh Beng Hock’s Death
A DAP political aide went voluntarily to MACC’s office in Shah Alam to be questioned as a witness over a RM2400 allegation involving his boss and left through the window of the 14th floor in the early hours of the morning, his bruised body cold and lifeless. The senseless death of a young man who was only days away from getting married and had an unborn child shocked and outraged Malaysians who demanded that the culprits be brought to justice.

But justice in Malaysia can take a long winding road and be completely sidetracked at times. MACC denied responsibility and claimed Teoh had been released although his hand phone, wallet and car keys were still in their custody. Why was he relentlessly interrogated throughout the night over such a trivial case? Lengthy police investigation of this open and shut case drew an incredulous blank.

During the inquest, two government pathologists took medical leave at the same time. When they returned they sang a duet to try to convince the public of suicide although the lack of motivation is clear. A Thai expert appointed by the Selangor government testified that there is an 80% chance of homicide and pointed to injuries which are unlikely to be due to a fall including contusions on the neck, bruises on the thighs and a punctured anus. A second post mortem was held in the presence of foreign experts but a third government pathologist sang the same implausible tune of suicide.

The inquest has not been concluded but it is not difficult to guess which way the verdict is being guided to. BN can avoid serious political fallout by dispensing justice but is that likely? After all, the public are gullible fools who can be lied to with impunity can’t they?

No. 4 – The Perak Power Grab
In Perak democracy has been physically and psychologically shred to pieces with the power grab by Umno with the help of three morally tainted party hoppers. Two of the political frogs were facing corruption charges and there was a strong stench of corruption and coercion involved.

Despite widespread calls for new state elections to return the mandate to the people, Umno is genuinely puzzled why it should hold election when it already controls the state legislature, albeit by a narrow margin. The power grab was backed up with the physical force of the police and enforced by controversial court judgements which blurred the doctrine of separation of powers and the distinction between a constitutional and absolute monarchy. In a shameful act, police entered the Assembly to drag the legal Speaker Sivakumar from his chair to allow BN to install an improperly elected Speaker.

The Perak power grab will forever be remembered as an immoral and reprehensible act by Umno to whom democracy is just lip service and power is all that matters irrespective of how it is obtained and kept. In a nutshell this describes Umno perfectly.

No. 3 – Buying of PKR Elected Representatives
Instead of respecting the choice of the people Umno has never stopped attacking and trying to de-stabilize PR in any way possible including luring elected representatives to defect using the carrot ($$$) and the stick (MACC trumped up charges). In a vile attempt to regain its 2/3 majority in parliament to gerrymander constituencies a war chest of RM50 million of corruption money was set aside to buy opposition members of parliament.

Regrettably three PKR MPs succumbed to BN’s contemptible temptation. These MPs have ended their political careers but as they have probably collected more than they can earn in two lifetimes this could be the least of their worries. Yes, PKR should have fielded better quality candidates but in 2008 few good candidates wanted to stand under the banner of what they perceive as a sure loser. Hence low quality candidates were fielded in seats where they were not expected to win. But win they did and caused all the problems.

The public is intelligent enough to disregard the shallow reasons given by the defectors and zero in on the real reason – money and lot’s of it. They will punish BN at the next election for subverting democracy. This cleaning out of refuse from the party will in fact make PKR stronger.

One may be tempted to compare Anwar’s Sept 16 bid to topple the Federal government by defections and BN’s despicable acts. First of all, two wrongs do not make a right. Secondly, Anwar was appealing for good people to defect on principles to build a better Malaysia and not by dangling millions in front of them. Thirdly, Anwar pledged to hold snap elections after the BN government had been toppled. Lastly, Sept 16 did not happen.

No. 2 – The Allah Controversy
If ever there is a self-inflicted political disaster, this is it. For decades and even before the formation of Malaysia the Christians in East Malaysia had been using Allah for the name of God. No Muslim has objected or become confused; indeed there is a historical basis that Allah is not exclusive to Islam and is also used by many other faiths around the world.

Enter the gung-ho Home Ministry who decreed that Allah can only be used by Muslims and banned the Catholic Church from using the term in their internally circulated newsletter. The Church took the matter to court and won a High Court judgement lifting the Home Ministry’s ban. Umno leaders took it badly and criticized the court judgement roundly. Tacit approval was given for demonstrations by supposedly enraged Muslims. It turned out to be an ill attended tame affair.

What happens next shows that playing with religious sentiment is as risky as playing with fire. A church in Petaling Jaya was burnt down and eleven others attacked. When these failed to elicit any counter response boar heads were found at two Muslim places of worship.

The attacks on the churches brought condemnation from around the world and much bad publicity for Malaysia whose reputation as a moderate Muslim nation was in tatters. Umno was given a hefty slap when PAS stood with its allies and said that Allah is permitted to be used by other faiths.

The roles of the two Malay parties have been reversed. PAS which was once perceived as extremist is now seen as more centrist than Umno which is now perceived as pandering to extremists. The caning of three Malay women has not helped Umno’s image. What a boost for Pakatan Rakyat trying to win over middle Malaysia!

No. 1 – Sodomy II
Make no mistake, this is the numero uno, the number one in BN’s self-inflicted political disasters. In this day and age, an educated and literate population will witness an opposition leader dragged to court on transparently trumped-up charges and in all probability convicted. If you think sham trials were over with Stalin and Hitler or are the domain of brutal military regimes like Burma and North Korea, welcome to Malaysia.

The charge of consensual sodomy itself reeks of political persecution when the government has never been interested in enforcing this archaic piece of legislation against practicing homosexuals. Yet Anwar is charged with consensual sodomy while his alleged consensual partner has become the “victim” on whose behalf the whole apparatus of the Malaysian government is seeking justice.

The government saw fit to proceed with this dubious case despite two medical reports by one private doctor and 3 government specialists that there is no evidence of penetration on the accuser. Perhaps we will be the only country in the world to convict a man of rape when the “victim” is a medically certified virgin. Zimbabwe, watch and learn!

Even before the inevitable conclusion of Anwar’s trial, Malaysia has become the whipping boy and the butt of ridicule in the international press. When it is over our judiciary will become an international laughing stock. To proceed with this ludicrous case shows BN’s incredible arrogance and lack of political sense. Not only did they dig their own graves, they brought their own shovels, not only did they hang themselves, they supplied their own rope.
* * * *
No doubt in the 2 to 3 years to the next general election there will be many more scandals and controversies surfacing although they have already done enough. Given enough time, BN will do all the work to convince people it is the bigger devil so all that Pakatan Rakyat has to do is to stay as a cohesive coalition and survive BN’s relentless attacks. Of course it doesn’t hurt for PR to do the right things and give better service delivery to the people to leave no room for doubt that it is the better alternative.

Summary of BN’s dirty dozen
No. 1 – Sodomy II
No. 2 – The Allah Controversy
No. 3 – Buying of PKR Elected Representatives
No. 4 – The Perak Power Grab
No. 5 – Teoh Beng Hock’s Death
No. 6 – PKFZ Scandal
No. 7 – BTN’s Racist Course
No. 8 – The Altantuya Affair
No. 9 – Refusal to Charge VK Lingam
No. 10 – Refusal to Charge Al-Islam Journalists
No. 11 – Shah Alam Cow Head Protest
No. 12 – Death in Custody of Ananthan Kugan

(Malaysia Today)

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