Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dean Johns is 1 Helluva Funny Guy!

1 picture tells the story

By Dean Johns | Malaysiakini Oct 21, 09 | 10:35am

If ever there was a picture worth 1,000 or 10,000 or any other number of words, it was the humongous number 1 on the stage at last week's Umno general assembly.

The party's leaders, supporters and propagandists clearly intended and perceived it as a towering symbol of pride in their sense of unity and supremacy.

But to those of us who inhabit the real world, that monumental illuminated numeral was a glowing declaration of Umno's megalomanic determination to dominate Malaysia by means of Barisan Nasional.

And the tilted BN 'balance' or 'scales' logo was a reminder, as if we needed one, of how heavily and one-sidedly the nation's institutions are weighted in Umno/BN's favour.

The speeches that I've read spoke volumes too.

Not in their actual words, which were as platitudinous, self-serving, conflicted, confused and confusing as we've come to expect from Umno orators, but in what they omitted to say about issues that everybody knows cry out to be addressed.

PM and Umno President Najib Abdul Razak, for example, proclaimed that the party aimed to reform itself into a "progressive, dynamic and responsive" party, whatever such mush might mean, and later urged its members to "move away from the negative culture of money politics so we could become a clean and respected party."

No mention of the fact that BN won the recent Bagan Pinang by election with a candidate mired in money politics, and that presumably other Umno office-holders, including himself, are beneficiaries of the party's traditional money-politics culture that he claims to so eager to reform.

Later in his 70-minute speech, "Uphold tradition, and fostering change", Najib attempted to push his patently false 1Malaysia proposition by portraying Umno as a a party for all. "Umno must not be seen as representing certain people, the party must be seen as an inclusive party which puts the people's interests at the forefront, and not oneself," he said.

Hang together or hang separately

This flies in the face of the self-evident fact that, as Najib said elsewhere in his speech, Umno is "the Malay nationalist party", forever ferociously advocating and defending Malay rights to special privileges and advantages over Malaysians of other races.

Nevertheless, he pressed on with his myth of inclusiveness, claiming that Umno is and will remain "centrist", and is "neither a leftist nor a right-wing party".

I must confess I've never thought about Umno in terms of what political "wing" it seems to be on.

But now that Najib's raised the issue, I realise that, given my perception that Umno has seldom, if ever, shown signs of running the country right, I'd categorise it as not so much left-wing or right-wing as wrong-wing.

But Najib, apparently undaunted by such criticism and opposition, and even by setbacks like the 1969 general election, the Coalition's near loss of which provoked the May 13 riots, and BN's wake-up call in the 2008 electoral 'tsunami', remains supremely confident.

"If we remain united, work towards our common goal and put in the effort, we will climb the highest mountain and go down the deepest ravine and swim the deepest ocean. We shall overcome the odds," he said.

Calls by Najib and other Umno figures for unity always put me in mind of Benjamin Franklin's warning to his co-signatories of America's Declaration of Independence that their British rulers saw as treasonous: "Gentlemen, we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Doing whatever to maintain power

Because Umno/BN is arguably fast running out of rope and living in fear of retribution too.

Not for offences against some foreign power, like America's founding fathers were party to, but for 52 years of crimes and injustices committed against the Malaysian people.

Mongolian people too, recalling the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, but let's keep it to locals for now.

What Najib and his ilk are terrified of is the fact that, just as any sign of good governanace over the past 52 years is to the credit of Umno/BN, every bad administrative decision or act is also by definition their fault.

And they're haunted by half a century of crimes and misdemeanours that they have committed or condoned, from rampant corruption, the mismanagement and embezzlement of public funds and the perversion of public institutions like the press, judiciary and electoral commission, to the susected murder by the police and MACC of 'suspects' in their custody.

And there's mounting evidence that the people, Malay and non-Malay alike, are increasingly at one in their disgust at this disgraceful record, and in their eagerness to see the guilty thrown out of office and brought to justice.

Hence the calls to the forces of Umno/BN to "remain united" towards the "common goal" of saving their necks, be it by daring feats involving mountains, ravines and oceans or less athletic activities like bending the judiciary to their bidding and employing the police as their enforcers.

For all Najib's talk about the "reform" since he succeeded the somnolent Badawi as prime minister, he's yet to put so much as a sen of his money where his mouth is. Quite the opposite, in fact.

As human rights watchdog Suaram has reported on his 200th day in office (and, coincidentally, the 3rd anniversary of the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu), he's shown a "blatant disgregard" for human rights, and permitted "serious violations" including continued use of emergency laws, racial and religious intolerance, crackdowns on peaceful assemblies and protests, continued curbs on media freedom, attacks on alternative media, and abuses by law-enforcement agencies.

I could go on and on giving instances of Umno/BN's clear determination to do business as usual despite all its rhetoric about reform.

But that's enough words for me for now, and in any case you get the picture.

The big, blue 1 with Malaysia down below and the crooked BN scales in the middle on stage at the general assembly didn't, as we were supposed to believe, mean one Malaysia for all Malaysians.

It meant that Umno/BN stands united, as always, to say and do whatever it takes to retain enough popular support to continue the only activity for which its leaders, members and cronies have ever shown any appetite or aptitude: looking after number 1.