With Penanti, Najib tries to avoid Perak polls

By Wong Choon Mei, Suara Keadilan

Even as Prime Minister Najib Razak says he may back down from contesting the Penanti by-election in Penang, political pundits are warning that it is a trick and he is trying to hoodwink the nation once again. There is also fear that his advisers may plot a reprisal of the May 13, 1969 incident as its 40th anniversary approaches.

Najib’s real objective, the pundits said, is to prevent snap election in Perak at all costs, although three-quarters of the people there want a fresh mandate to determine who they really want to lead their state.

After all, they reasoned, what is Penanti to Najib anyway? A mere state seat with an electorate of just 15,421 and located deep in the Malay heartland to boot. Victory for Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan Rakyat is already a foregone conclusion.

But Perak is different. The former tin-mining state is a matter of ‘face’ for Najib. There is where on Feb 5, with the help of the Palace, he schemed a power grab that toppled the Pakatan Rakyat state government.

By abusing the might of the federal apparatus and bullying institutions like the police and the courts, he convinced the Sultan to ignore the Pakatan’s request for fresh state-wide polls and thereby, got his Umno-BN line-up made the new state administration.

This despite both coalitions having an equal 28 seats in the legislative assembly, with the status of three dubious independent assemblymen in still question. Perhaps this is also the reason why till now, his hand-picked chief minister Zambry Kadir has failed to gain the acceptance of the Perak people, even though the Sultan has tried to help by lavishing state decorations on him.

Because they lacked the legitimacy that can only come with being chosen by the people, Zambry and Najib have resorted to all ways and means to stay in power in Perak. Even to the extent of using foul means to fend off the barrage of legal suits filed against them by the Pakatan and vice-versa.

At one point, they actually dared to stoop so low as to try to deny the Speaker of the assembly, V Sivakumar, the right to appoint his own counsel to represent him in the courts.

How to regain the respect of Malaysians if you keep on bluffing

It is no surprise then that public confidence has wore thin and few believe what they read in the BN-controlled media anymore. The series of declarations that Najib and Zambry have squeezed from the Federal Court were slammed left, right and centre by the legal fraternity.

Little better than cheating, their moves have made the entire national legal system a mockery, plunging it into such disrepute that it will indeed take long years and major repair before Malaysians can bring themselves to trust local laws once again. What more overseas investors?

“Out of desperation, Umno may say anything except the truth. What are the core truths of the Federal Court’s decisions?  Let us share the truths which have been conveniently buried by Umno,” said prominent lawyer and PAS leader Hanipa Maidin.

“The truth is that out of 10 court orders sought by Zambry and his six exco members, only two orders were granted. The truth is that the Federal Court did not grant the other eight orders prayed for by Zambry and his six exco members in their summons against Sivakumar. These eight orders have been hidden from the public knowledge.

“The truth is that, despite the fact the court invalidated the decision of Sivakumar in suspending Zambry and his six exco members from attending the assembly for a period of 18 months and 12 months, respectively, the Federal Court also at one fell swoop refused to grant a declaratory order allowing Zambry and the exco to attend and participate in all of the proceedings in the assembly.

“Without this crucial court order, one fails to understand the basis on which Zambry’s lawyers have formed an opinion that Zambry et al could enter the assembly without any legal impediments blocking their entry.”
Zambry needs to reconvene the state assembly by May 13, the deadline he has to conform to after the assembly adjourned sine die in November. Otherwise, the assembly will be automatically dissolved, paving the way for what the Perak people have been praying for – fresh polls!

And this is what Najib does not want. Thus, his bold-faced bluff and those by his Umno lawyers. Sadly for them, few – not just in Perak but the rest of the nation – believe in what they have to say anymore.

Theirs has actually been the dumbest of strategies – to think so poorly of the public’s intellect, or that they can keep bulldozing their way through with persistent abuse of the federal apparatus without sparking nationwide resent and distrust.

Even Najib’s mentor Mahathir Mohamad believes he blundered in the northwestern state. And as Pakatan Menteri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin said soon after the infamous Feb 5 coup, Perak could well be Najib’s political grave.

Will Najib reprise May 13?

As the 40th anniversary of May 13 approaches, rumors are rife that Najib and his advisers are plotting to reprise that black day, when Chinese and Malays clashed in the streets of Kuala Lumpur. But this time in Perak.

Hundreds had died in 1969, although the official count was a suspiciously low 196. Many of the dead had been quickly buried in the KL General Hospital grounds in unmarked graves.

At that time, Umno leaders led by Najib’s father – the second prime minister Abdul Razak – used the riots to impose emergency rule.

Again quickly to mask what was essentially a power grab, they introduced aggressive affirmative action policies favouring the Malays. The New Economic Policy, which was intended to eradicate poverty among all ethnic groups, was abused by the Umno regime and used as a cornerstone for their race-based politics.

“I hope Najib won’t be so foolish as to try to repeat what was a grave mistake of the past. It will destroy his 1Malaysia concept overnight,” said Ramon Navaratnam, the former president of Transparency International and government servant who helped author the NEP.

“Times have changed. Umno is no longer in sole control of the Malays, there is PAS and Anwar. If May 13 happens again, it will be the Malays who will lose the most, not the Chinese or the Indians. The Malays are now the biggest stakeholders in the economy and they actually stand to gain the most if the democratic process is further developed, allowing growth to continue.

“The only thing that is holding our nation back is the government’s refusal to recognise and respect the will of the people. We must get rid of this Ketuanan mentality – not just Ketuanan Melayu but Ketuanan Umno or Ketuanan BN or even Ketuanan Pakatan Rakyat.

“The people must be allowed to choose and decide which government they want and our institutions must be fiercely independent and developed to the point that they can take with ease the change of political governments – just like Japan, the US, Britain.”