Saturday, May 17, 2008

As They Play The Final Curtain

“If Najib wants to take over he must do it before the end of May,” said one Umno veteran who would rather remain anonymous. “Najib must make his move on Pak Lah by next week. If Najib waits and does not do it next week he might as well just forget it because most likely by June Umno will be out of power anyway.”


Raja Petra Kamarudin

In 1988, Umno was split into two. From the ashes of the old Umno, a party created on 11 May 1946, emerged two new parties, Umno (Baru) and Semangat 46. A few days ago, on 11 May 2008, Umno celebrated its 20th Anniversary. The backdrop in the main hall of the PWTC, however, said that Umno was celebrating its 62nd Anniversary. That is the trouble when you switch to teaching Maths in Bahasa Malaysia. The Umno people no longer know how to count properly.

We can forgive them if they missed the date by one or two years. But 20 and 62 is a very wide miss indeed. Let me repeat that. On 11 May 2008, Umno celebrated its 20th Anniversary, not its 62nd Anniversary, never mind what the backdrop said. Let us not get confused between the figure 20 and the figure 62. Rahim Thamby Chik can be forgiven for thinking that an underage girl is actually 18 judging by the size of her boobs, as what he claimed. After all, 18 and 15 is not much difference when using boob sizes as the yardstick. But to mistake an underage girl for a woman of 62 would not be accepted as a valid excuse, whatever the size of her boobs may be. 62 would certainly be too far off the mark and Umno too can’t be forgiven for celebrating its 62nd Anniversary when the party is only 20 years old.

The Umno Secretary-General is the main man behind Umno’s ’62nd’ Anniversary celebration. And the whole thing was staged to take everyone’s mind off the third Umno split looming over the horizon. 1988 was the first major catastrophe when the old Umno closed down and in its place emerged two new parties. 1998 saw yet another spilt when Anwar Ibrahim was kicked out and sent to jail and the birth of Parti Keadilan Nasional managed to finally unite the opposition into a coalition called Barisan Alternatif. Is it any coincidence that after the 1988 and 1998 splits we are going to see the third split in 2008?

Yes, Umno seems to suffer splits every ten years. And there is no reason to believe that after the 1988 and 1998 splits we shall not see another one this year, 2008. And the Umno Secretary-General’s wayang of organizing a 20th Anniversary celebration disguised as a 62nd Anniversary celebration is not going to prevent the coming split that will happen any time now.

They say a drowning man goes down three times before he goes down for good. If you want to save a drowning man you have to save him when he surfaces the first or second time. If you allow him to go down the third he will never surface for the fourth time. The Chinese say that four means die and after the third time consider him dead. And will the same apply to Umno? Umno is going to go down for the third time this year. Will it be able to resurface and re-emerge for the fourth time? I doubt it. I think when Umno goes down the third time it will be for the final time.

“If Najib wants to take over he must do it before the end of May,” said one Umno veteran who would rather remain anonymous. “Najib must make his move on Pak Lah by next week. If Najib waits and does not do it next week he might as well just forget it because most likely by June Umno will be out of power anyway.”

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Sarawak has been part of Malaysia since 1963. Yet each time I visit it feels like a very different world than Peninsular Malaysia. For one thing, the girls of Sarawak are not only delightfully friendly, they're also impossible to resist. The tribes have mingled genes over the centuries - not only amongst themselves, but also with a wide spectrum of European adventurers. And Chinese genes are evident almost everywhere one goes - testimony to the far-reaching influence of the Ming Emperor in the 15th century when master navigators like Admiral Zheng He commanded enormous fleets that sailed more than halfway around the world, establishing diplomatic, economic, and genetic links wherever they dropped anchor.

However, until the political paradigm shift of March 8th, 2008, I noticed that few Sarawakians were inclined to openly discuss politics. The impression I got was that their long-reigning Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud, had inherited the mantle of quasi-divine power established in 1841 by James Brooke (right), the young English sea captain who planted the Union Jack in Borneo and crowned himself King. In effect, political power has been jealously guarded by the Chief Minister, his family, and his close business associates for decades. Anybody who wasn't happy with the situation had only three options: keep their mouth shut, go to jail, or leave the island.

Since GE12, however, things have changed dramatically. I noticed that almost everybody I bumped into in Sarawak was subscribed to Malaysiakini - or else was an avid reader of political blogs like Malaysia Today. Although no one expressed any rebellious views, they all seemed a great deal more relaxed and ready to embrace inevitable change. The general feeling was that Taib Mahmud's time was almost up - and that what Sarawak needed wasn't more of the same old feudal patriarchy and its politics of patronage but a quantum jump into participatory democracy.

There's been a great deal more political gossip after the March elections than ever before and one juicy morsel I picked up during my recent stay struck me as something I ought to blog about. I can't disclose my source, but I have no doubt that the information is reliable. Apparently, a great majority of Sarawak politicos are keen to realign themselves with the Pakatan Rakyat - and the Barisan Nasional is acutely worried about this. To deter Sarawak MPs from crossing over, BN has resorted to blackmail.

Recently, the Attorney-General (left) was despatched on a secret mission to dissuade potential party-hopping frogs from taking the leap. He was armed with incriminating evidence culled from years of Special Branch dossiers on a few prominent Sarawak politicos. They were told: "Hop and you will land yourself in hot water!"

Now this is bad news for everybody, no matter how you look at it. First, it only reinforces the popular perception of politics as a truly dirty business; and reveals the SB and the AG as totally partisan tools of the BN (which is evident anyhow to any impartial observer). Secondly, it indicates that BN will use any and every means at its disposal to cling on to power indefinitely. No trick is too foul, no crime too dastardly, and no option too outrageous - BN simply will not accept defeat!

So the only recourse left is to declare a blanket amnesty on the political past of any BN leader who crosses over to Pakatan Rakyat. No matter what accusations of corruption or scandal the BN throws at them, the Rakyat will offer them the Chua Soi Lek option - that is, admit your past misdeeds, apologize for them, and declare your willingness to start on a totally clean slate. Nobody I know thinks ill of Chua Soi Lek (pictured right) because he handled his sex scandal with aplomb and dignity. He acknowledged that the guy in the video was indeed him, apologized, and resigned. By so doing, Soi Lek successfully maintained his integrity and established himself as one of the all-too-few honest BN leaders. If Chua Soi Lek chooses to revive his career in politics, he would do well to quit the moribund and meaningless MCA and join either DAP or PKR. Everybody I've spoken with has only positive things to say about his track record as Health Minister.

Speaking of Soi Lek, I picked up an interesting tidbit about the people behind the sex video sting. Apparently, they had links to pharmaceutical and medical suppliers who used to enjoy lucrative wheelings and dealings with Soi Lek's predecessors. However, Soi Lek took over the Health Ministry and decided to put a stop to the hanky-panky. Obviously, there are lots of sore losers around whose knee-jerk reaction is to resort to dirty tricks.

Folks, we really are left with no option but to dedicate our efforts to accelerating BN's demise as a political force. To allow such unevolved and unenlightened entities to continue to misrule Malaysia for even another six months would be entirely ruinous to our national destiny.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Aya Honda (Oma Sound's manager), Isao Suzuki (bass-player extraordinaire), and Antares at the Miri International Jazz Festival, 9-10 May 2008 (photo by Yong Pik Sieng)

Just got back from Miri, Sarawak, after a full-on few days at the Miri International Jazz Festival as its new Artistic Director. This being my very first time getting involved with organizing a major music festival, I had to learn the ropes pretty damn quick. As the bands began arriving, followed by media guests, preparations went into full swing and the excitement began to build up. It was during the first sound check that the magic began. Watching 75-year-old Isao Suzuki coax the most passionate melodies from his cello bass, accompanied by some of the youngest jazz virtuosos I've ever seen, I knew this was going to be a memorable event. And, for sure, it was!

Closing the first night's program was Oma Sound, led by the immortal god of music, Isao Suzuki who is a true wizard on his instrument. Isao told me he was in New York in the early 1970s and performed with Sun Ra (left) who really liked his approach to bass-playing. The admiration was mutual and Sun Ra became a major influence on Isao Suzuki. Although a few in the audience seemed initially bemused by Oma Sound's "free jazz" they were soon spellbound by the pure musicianship, especially the expressionist piano stylings and sublime bass solos. During the encore Oma Sound transported the hushed crowd to a entirely different dimension - it was a truly a sublime and transcendental experience!