For the benefit of those who can't afford or are too kedekut to subscribe to Malaysiakini, I'm reproducing this ribtickling and heartbreaking piece by one of my all-time favorite political columnists...
Dean Johns | Malaysiakini
December 2, 2009
Trying to make sense of the political scenario in Malaysia is always a surreal experience. But at times it all seems so far-fetched and flat-out fantastic that I think I must have lost the plot.
Or else that I've actually been asleep all this time, trapped in some bizarre nightmare based on replays of all those hair-raising old Hollywood horror movies I used to frighten myself silly by sitting through.
At times like these I get desperate for some kind of reality check. So you can imagine how grateful I feel to the likes of Barry Wain, with his new biography of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, for reassuring me that the doctor isn't some scary childhood movie memory or figment of my fevered imagination, but is actually, if incredibly, the former long-time prime minister of Malaysia.
And that the Frankenstein monster the doctor created isn't just some filmic fable, but a real-life political machine that's still rampaging around the country wreaking havoc wherever it goes and indulging its insatiable appetite by devouring whatever it can get its hands on.
If you'd believe Barry Wain, and why wouldn't you, as long as he works for neither the Malaysian nor Singapore mainstream press, the BN machine has swallowed RM100 billion of Malaysians' money in the past 25 of its 52 years in power.
And according to Time magazine, economist Daniel Lian of Morgan Stanley Singapore estimates it's consumed about three times the amount estimated by Wain, or US$100 billion.
Here, in case you missed them, are a few highlights of this saga of monumental theft, fraud and embezzlement:
* Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) swindle: US$1 billion
* Bank Negara foreign-exchange fiasco: RM20 billion
* Extra BMF bailouts: US$600 million
* Perwaja Steel bankruptcy: US$ 800 million
* Maminco tin market manipulation: US$500 million
* Bank Islam non-performing loans scam: RM2.2 billion
* Highway concessionaire bailouts: RM38.5 billion
* Mirzan Mahathir's MISC rescue: RM600 million
* Port Klang Free Zone scandal: RM12 billion
If that's not enough plundered billions to make you bilious, don't worry. It's just the tip of the iceberg. Or should I make that 'heistberg'? Whatever, it's a considerable quantity of loot for a government to steal from its citizens.
Heart-breaking human cost
How the Malaysian people have tolerated being robbed on such an epic scale for so long I can't begin to guess. Why so many millions of them never stopped voting for the doctor or his successors, or never chased any of them, King Kong-like, up to the top of the Twin Towers to his downfall and doom is a total mystery.
Unless, of course, that like me they've been assuming that the whole thing was so unbelievable that it must be just a movie, and gone on scoffing their popcorn and kuaci as though the horror would eventually end and they could safely return from this harsh reel world to an altogether happier real one.
Or maybe they were thinking that, as long it was only money the monster was after, they'd be safe if they let it have its fill, and that with luck they might score their share of any small change that happened to slip through its fingers.
What they failed to realise, however, is that the BN money-chomping monster's been in league all along with those other fixtures of this long-running Malaysian fright-flick, the werewolves of the police and MACC, the body-snatchers of the internal security ministry, the vampires of commerce, contracting and the civil service, and the droids of the mainstream media.
With a monster cast this creepy to contend with, it's no wonder so many otherwise potentially sentient citizens have been turned into such political and ethical zombies.
With the watchdogs of the law at their throats, thousands of blood-suckers with their fangs in their necks and hundreds of make-believe journalists busy blinding their eyes, deafening their ears and dumbing their minds, some people are bound to get somewhat confused.
Which brings us to the fact that the tragedy is not so much the amount of money, land and other public property that BN and its minions have stolen and continue to steal but the heart-breaking human cost of it all.
The financial toll taken by the police, MACC and judiciary in corruption is chicken-feed compared with the priceless protections and trust that they've stolen from the people, not to mention the countless lives they've stolen from 'suspects' in staged 'shootouts' and 'questioning' in custody.
Revenge of the voters
The billions looted and squandered by the government and its cronies are nothing compared with the human rights, educations, opportunities, hopes, dreams and futures they've stolen from Malaysians born on the 'wrong' side of the screen that the ideologues of BN have erected between the races and religions on which to play their wayang kulit of 1Malaysia.
And now, having skinned the Malaysians alive in every conceivable fashion from financial to spiritual, they've had the hide to introduce a goods and services tax, thus adding even more to the swag of oil and tax revenues that BN has traditionally siphoned-off from behind the impenetrable screen of the official secrets act.
They're also, I see, still paying Najib Abdul Razak's airfare and considerable expenses to go around the world robbing Malaysia of even more of its Mahathir-ravaged international reputation with remarks like his recent one in New York that "Malaysia's message of reforms and transformation must be told to foreign investors."
Who does he think he's kidding about Malaysia as long as it's still business as usual for him and his gang of BN bandits? Doesn't he realise that embassies and high commissions report the truth back to their home governments?
And that trade commissioners and reputable global financial media keep investors informed of the larcenies of national governments like Malaysia's?
Sometimes I think Najib's recited his script so often he's started to almost believe it himself.
I certainly hope so. Because the more over-confident that he and his coalition cronies become that their Attack of the Killer Kleptoids production is set to run permanently, the more shocked they'll be by its inevitable sequel, Revenge of the Voters from Hell.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I found out from my friend-in-exile a short while ago that Anwar Ibrahim has been listed by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the "Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2009."
Not too sure if that's really such a tremendous honor, since Anwar has to share the stage with a few dubious characters like Ben Bernanke (Chairman of the übercriminal Federal Reserve), Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger (the man who approved the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, an atrocious act that resulted in the leukemia deaths of at least 500,000 non-combatants and exposed 4.2 million Vietnamese to dioxin poisoning).
Nevertheless, Anwar is the only Malaysian on the list - along with other prominent Asian freedom-fighters like Amartya Sen and Aung San Suu Kyi - and that in itself deserves a hearty congratulation or two.
After all, I doubt Anwar had to pay RM20 million to some Jewish PR agency to upgrade his public image and make him look good in the eyes of the world.
Here's what Foreign Policy has to say about Anwar:
for challenging the Muslim world to embrace democracy.
Opposition leader | People's Justice Party | Malaysia
Two decades ago, it would have been impossible to imagine Anwar pulling together rural Malays, ethnic Indians and Chinese, and Islamists into a coherent political bloc. Back then, Anwar was deputy prime minister in a de facto single-party state that espoused preferential treatment for ethnic Malays. It was a policy that Anwar had pushed from his days as a youth leader right up until 1997, when he denounced his patron, then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, for corruption. He would spend the next six years in solitary confinement on trumped-up charges for that political betrayal. And he would leave jail in 2004 with a bold message for change in a country now at the forefront of the struggle for democracy in the Muslim world. Today, Anwar's political career is blossoming, despite a new, politically motivated indictment. Abroad, he has become an outspoken advocate of religious tolerance.
He sat down with Foreign Policy to talk about his big ideas:
On Muslim countries and the West: You can't just erase a period of imperialism and colonialism. You can't erase the fault lines, the bad policies, the failed policies, the war in Iraq, and support for dictators. That to me is the reality. But what is the problem? When you … apportion the blame only to the West or the United States. They want to deflect from the issue of repression, endemic corruption, and destruction of the institutions of governance.
On his time in prison: I spent a lot of time reading. I decided to focus on the great works and the classics. Friends from around the world were sending books, but it takes months for [the prison] to vet them. There came a book on the Green Revolution at that time. The officer said, "Anything revolution -- out!" even though it was about agriculture. But the books kept coming. The officers were not even graduates, and [the books] were in English. They would say, "Anwar, out of 10 books, can you send back one?" So I would select something I had already read or something I was not interested in and say, "We should reject this."
On politics: Of course, you simplify the arguments [for politics], but the central thesis remains constant. People say, "Anwar, you are opportunistic. How can you talk about Islam and the Quran here, and then you talk about Shakespeare and quote Jefferson or Edmund Burke?" I say, it depends on the audience. You can't talk about Edmund Burke in some remote village in Afghanistan. Then you go to Kuala Lumpur and you quote T.S. Eliot. If I quote the Quran all the time to a group of lawyers, [they will think] I am a mullah from somewhere!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
[NOTE: I just got back from a rare visit to Melaka where a 3-day Art & Performance Festival has just been concluded, featuring a friendly and vibrant troupe of artists, mostly Melbourne-based, brought in by dancer-choreographer Tony Yap, an illustrious prodigal son of Melaka who went to Australia in 1976 to further his studies - and ended up becoming a dance sifu to a brilliant new generation of dancers. More about this piquant but inadequately publicized event when I've caught my breath. Meanwhile, thank heaven for the engagingly lucid and outspoken RPK, who can always be counted on for some political edification - and who happens to be my favorite prescription for a badly constipated body politic.]