Sunday, July 3, 2011

THE CRUMBLING EMPIRE STRIKES BACK!

The euphoria that swept across the nation one day after the 12th general election created a ripple effect of unmitigated optimism that carried us through Anwar Ibrahim’s triumphant return to Parliament as Opposition Leader right after he trounced Arif Shah at Permatang Pauh on August 26th.

However, the road to Putrajaya appears perilously booby-trapped.

September 16th came and went and suddenly the political atmosphere just got denser and duller and heavier. How did I feel about 916? As an unabashed and unapologetic admirer of Anwar Ibrahim’s extraordinary intelligence, political savvy, oratorical skills, effortless charisma and, above all, his amazing wife Azizah and their lovely children (though I’ve only met Nurul Izzah thus far), I would have rejoiced wholeheartedly at Pakatan Rakyat’s successful takeover of the federal government – along with, I think, at least 25 million other Malaysians.

The actual date was immaterial. I believe Anwar came up with September 16th to emphasize and include our brothers and sisters in Sabah and Sarawak. As a meme, 916 has undeniable power because of its association with 22-karat gold, the purest form in which it can retain its solidity; the number also reads the same upside-down.

It’s been a little more than a month since the mammoth Malaysia Day Rally at Kelana Jaya stadium on the eve of 916. The seeds of hope and a powerful desire for genuine reform were undoubtedly planted amongst the 30,000 who attended – and the millions more who viewed the speeches on YouTube or read the blog reports. Anwar says he requested a private meeting with Abdullah Badawi to negotiate terms of a peaceful Pakatan Rakyat takeover but was refused. Instead we witnessed a spate of ridiculous and infuriating ISA arrests. Raja Petra, Anwar’s most outspoken ally, was forcibly removed from the scene, while 50 Barisan MPs were shipped off to Taiwan to experience earthquakes and typhoons.

Anwar then requested, as Opposition Leader, that the incumbent PM convene a special parliamentary session to establish if the Pakatan Rakyat had enough MPs to form the next government. Again, Anwar was rebuffed. All hopes now revolved on Anwar being granted an audience with the Agong. That didn’t happen. Instead, there was talk that the Agong was doing an umrah in Mecca.

October 13th was the day Parliament reconvened after a long break. We waited to see if anyone would propose a vote of no-confidence against the PM. Nobody did and Anwar himself opted to focus on Badawi’s 2009 Budget, criticizing it as irrelevant in the face of ongoing tectonic shifts in the financial world. At a press conference, Anwar insisted he still had the numbers to form a new government, but added that the Pakatan Rakyat had decided to move slowly rather than risk triggering a violent reaction from Umno loyalists who have mastered the martial art of pre-meditated mengamuk (running amok).

Anwar’s detractors would like us to believe “the moment has passed,” and that the window of democratic opportunity is once again shut tight. Just ban Hindraf and Makkal Sakthi will fade away. Arrest RPK and resistance to tyranny will wilt. This is the first time I’m doing it in print but I just have to go bwahahahahaha.

Meanwhile, things that resemble overfed maggots have been stirring within Umno. The hidden hand of Mahathir can be seen behind fractious factional splits (he’s not exactly a subtle despot). Former finance minister Daim Zainuddin is rumored to be quietly funding Najib’s bid for Umno presidency. Indeed, it’s safe to speculate that the Umnoputera billionaires’ club has rallied behind Najib, to protect their own vested interests.

And, going by the inscrutable utterances issuing from the Conference of Rulers, the monarchs, too, appear to be wary of radical change. After all, apart from having some of their constitutional powers pared down by Mahathir’s amendments, they have all been fairly comfortable under Umno/BN. Most of them have directorships in a variety of businesses and they never have to pay a single phone bill. Even so, they aren’t entirely immune from the vicissitudes of life. One was recently faced with bankruptcy proceedings.

The fact that the Agong meekly confirmed Zaki Azmi’s appointment as Chief Justice hardly reassures reform-minded Malaysians that any significant changes are about to occur. After all, Zaki is up to his eyeballs in Umno business - which doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from doing a laudable job as CJ, but given the murky circumstances surrounding Lingamgate and the absolute refusal of the grotesquely compromised Attorney-General to hang his head in shame and resign – this is yet another indication that “business-as-usual” is the only reality some folks know.

In effect, it would appear that the crumbling Umno Empire has struck back, and that the future is now bleaker than ever.

Is it? I’m not buying that perception at all. I’ll concede that the joy of witnessing a national rebirth and transformation may have been delayed somewhat – and the most painful aspect of this postponement is having to endure our feeling of helplessness and frustration over the fact that the ISA detainees and their families will be unable to celebrate Deepavali this year, perhaps not even Christmas, who knows about the Lunar New Year?

In our jubilation at the prospect of seeing a Pakatan Rakyat government with Anwar Ibrahim as PM, we have overlooked a particularly influential segment of society – the moneyed, privileged class (in effect, the Sadduccees, for those biblically inclined). These are the ones who live comfortably insulated from the nitty-gritty world in their gated cities and superluxury condos. Most have benefited from lucrative contracts or clever investments made during the Mahathir era – so they were never too bothered about silly things like the ISA and police harassment and water cannons. So why should they bother now? One despot behaves pretty much like another – whether his name is Herod Antipas, Constantine, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mahathir Mohamad, Saddam Hussein, George Bush, or Najib Razak. In any case, despots are known to throw lavish parties – they’re certainly funkier hosts than semi-ascetic leftwingers like Nik Aziz, Karpal Singh and Lim Kit Siang.

No doubt, most despots have blood on their hands (or they wouldn’t qualify as despots, would they?)

You and I may rankle and rant at the idea of a moral degenerate ascending to power as PM – but morality, as the privileged class knows full well, is all so very... relative, isn’t it? No vegetarian, non-violent contemplator-of-navels ever attained the world-conquering status of a Genghis Khan, as far as I know. So why make such a big fuss about a few billion ringgit vanishing into this or that offshore account, a few troublesome mistresses snuffed, a dozen greasy Indian heads bashed in by police truncheons, and a few hundred loudmouths locked away in dungeons of iniquity?

Well, I see these turbulent days as the build-up to a quantum shift into a whole new octave of being wherein our hardwired survival programs and reptilian fear conditioning will no longer apply. If you’re a devout Muslim or Christian you’ll probably call it Khiamat or Judgement Day. A Hindu might think of it as the end of the Kali yuga and the arrival of Maha Avatar Kalki (or perhaps the conclusion of the 7th manvantara); while a Buddhist may anticipate a Maitreya incarnation that will facilitate planetary enlightenment.

The more eclectic and esoterically inclined will call it the dawning of the Aquarian Age, the advent of the Water-Bearer - who symbolizes dissemination of true knowledge, leading to the decentralization and democratization of sovereignty and power.

In short, Ketuanan Rakyat as preached by Anwar Ibrahim.

Astrologer Stella Woods reports that Pluto moved into Capricorn on January 26th, 2008 – and will remain there until 2024. She believes “there will be a backlash and rebellion against [authoritarian] control, with people refusing to conform, leaving the system and insisting on the ethical use of power. Scandals and corruption in government and large corporations will come to light and the reputation of many of our cherished institutions will be tarnished. In fact many old forms of government and ways of doing business are likely to disappear altogether.”

Go on, Pluto, move your ass, good dog!

[First published 22 October 2008]

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