“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”
– Franklin D Roosevelt
BN strategic communications chief Abdul Rahman Dahlan’s latest attack on DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang is the reason why Umno is a morally and intellectually bankrupt political party that should be benched in the coming elections.
What does Abdul Rahman know of political strategy? The only strategy Umno knows in winning elections is gerrymandering, using outsourced thugs, jailing political opponents, restricting freedom of speech and assembly, vote malfeasances and vote purchasing, demonising political rivals using race and religion, surveilling dissidents, controlling the media, and the numerous other dark arts practiced by would-be failing democracies the world over.
Mind you, this is not hyperbole on my part. Even an establishment figure like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah knows the game is rigged – “(Bagaimanapun) jangan memandang rendah kepada kerajaan kerana mereka ada kuasa, ada televisyen, radio, duit dan media. Mereka juga ada alat-alat risikan dan sebagainya. Media dia lebih tahu pada kita. Dia tahu kita belum tahu lagi. Sama ada dengan kekuasaan itu, parti yang berkuasa akan kalah saya tidak tahu.”
In commenting on this, I wrote – “Here is an establishment politician admitting that the state controls nearly every avenue of expression and uses its intelligence services as a means of securing political victory. In any functional democracy, this would be verboten but here in Malaysia and perhaps South-East Asia, this normalising of authoritarian measures as a means of political victory and a tool of economic and social stability is considered par for the course.”
Meanwhile over the years, Kit Siang has been subjected to the worst excesses of the Umno state. He has been incarcerated, vilified as a “Chinese chauvinist”, as racist, as a usurper to Malay power, as a Rasputin behind oppositional Malay voices, as the instigator of May 13, as an economic saboteur, as a traitor to the country, as a Singapore intelligence operative, as a stooge to the PAP, as anti-Islam and a host of charges and allegations which have never been proven.
Over the years, this Malaysian has had to endure mendacious attacks carried out by the state merely because he is a dissenting voice in the Malaysian political landscape. While establishment politicians were getting rich and winning elections because Malaysians chose to subscribe to the Umno agenda, Kit Siang and his comrades – “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” – had to work in the margins, lost in the wilderness and suffered electoral defeats that lesser people would have packed it in and joined the Umno mainstream.
In defending Umno information chief Annuar Musa’s rather juvenile – and I would argue seditious – essay writing competition, Abdul Rahman made the rather feeble justification – “I believe his intention is to expose what he had said against Lim Kit Siang, that he is a racist, anti-Islam, and so on.” Which is just another way of saying that since Annuar could not offer any tangible evidence that Kit Siang was a racist, Umno was willing to pay people to libel Kit Siang and openly engage in the behaviour that would land most people, and certainly opposition personalities, in jail.
Umno is so desperate but lazy that they are now willing to clumsily outsource their hate speech to the public in an attempt to discredit and vilify their political opponents. Well, I suppose this is one way of generating jobs.
Abdul Rahman’s contention that Kit Siang’s “racist agenda” needed more “exposure” to the public is an admission that Umno propaganda organs are predictably ineffective in attacking Kit Siang. Umno’s attempt to make the public complicit in their political attacks against a member of parliament is an extremely dangerous tactic and indicative of the desperation of this regime.
While my views on the grand opposition alliance are public knowledge, I do acknowledge that the circumstances are extraordinary and while we may differ on what the existential threat is, Kit Siang as an opposition leader understands the complexity of political compromise.
In my interview with Kit Siang, he acknowledged the importance in keeping faith with principles but finding new ways to connect with the greater Malaysian polity – “Nobody is suggesting that we betray or compromise or sell out our principles, ideals and objectives. What we need to change drastically is our modus operandi, and not our ideals and principles, to be more inclusive to appeal to all Malaysians. We have always been a constitutional secular social democratic party fighting for all Malaysians based on the fundamentals of freedom, justice and solidarity.”
I would argue that the Umno state views this realignment of political cooperation between establishment and oppositional political veterans as a clear and present danger to their hegemony.
The fact they would stoop so low and pay the public to be part of their propaganda tactics is indicative of how the propaganda warlocks in Putrajaya know that their methods are not gaining traction with the majority of Malaysians – Malaysians who may not necessarily support the opposition but who are aware that the economy and our political system are in a state of failing.
I understand why the BN strategic communication director targets Kit Siang. It is the same reason why others in Umno target former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. These two old foes are a powerful symbol from the past that could inspire a diverse voting block to halt the excesses of the current Umno regime. Both politicians represent a possible new restatement of the power-sharing formula that Umno abandoned decades ago.
In ‘Umno and the fascist state’, I wrote – “The rejection of traditional Mahathir-era politics and policies and the internal Umno checks and balances that was essentially a ‘do not kill the goose that lays the golden egg’ ideology is Najib reshaping Umno in his own image.
“All this has been replaced with the existential threat that Malay political power needs to be preserved by working with traditional Umno enemies like PAS and the introduction of the National Security Council (NSC) Act that would ensure the safety of Malaysians by possibly overriding the power of the Agong.”
What Umno has to understand is that people who already hate Kit Siang do not need to be convinced that he is everything that Umno claims he is. Who they have to worry about (and they are, I am told by reliable sources) are those people who see a former prime minister and his political nemesis working together to save a nation and wondering if there is something to those allegations that there is something seriously wrong with Umno and the way they are running this country. Thus, a Malaysian tsunami is inevitable.
No amount of lies, propaganda or spin, could stem that tide when it happens.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.
Source : @ Malaysiakini