THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
by Raja Petra Kamarudin
by Raja Petra Kamarudin
“This ship in unsinkable, even God Himself can’t sink it!” screamed the newspaper headlines just before the Titanic sailed off on its maiden voyage.
The sinking of the Titanic was certainly a great tragedy. They were so confident that even God Himself could never sink it they did not provide enough lifeboats for every passenger because they never thought they would need them. While the higher-paying first class passengers faced no problems finding a seat in the limited lifeboats, the poor rakyat who could not afford the luxuries accorded the first class passengers only had one choice; a watery grave. But it was not a tragedy for everyone though. Decades later they made a movie about the incident and grossed hundreds of millions while Celine Dion made tons of money from the theme song.
Anyway, what does this whole episode teach us? First, the poor rakyat is always at the bottom of the food chain. Second, never tempt fate. Fate just loves challenges and will never shy away from proving you wrong. And this is something Umno should learn. But Umno being Umno, it will never take advantage of lessons of the past. It will keep repeating history to the detriment of the party. And today Umno is saying that even God Himself can’t sink the party.
On 15 October 2007, the Chief Minister of Melaka, Mohd Ali Rustam, officiated the People’s Progressive Party’s state convention and he sang the same old tune, Umno is unsinkable and even God Himself can’t sink the party. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit what he said, but this was what he was telling the assembly of PPP leaders and members in a very long-winded manner; one and a half hours to be exact.
Ali Rustam, the self-proclaimed ‘Senior Vice President’ of Umno -- actually there is no such post but he likes to address himself as such -- stood on stage in front of the entire hall filled with PPP leaders and members and with fingers pointed said that PPP can leave Barisan Nasional. Leave today, or even tomorrow, said Ali Rustam, just don’t wait for the next election before leaving.
The PPP President and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk M. Kayveas, fidgeted in his seat, as did the entire hall. Ali Rustam was going berserk. He was reminiscent of Adolf Hitler jumping up and down, ranting and raving like a dog foaming at the mouth that had gone mad with rabies. Nobody reacted. Nobody could react. They were all too shocked to react and just sat there for the next one and a half hours as Ali Rustam told PPP and the entire non-Malay population of Malaysia that they are insignificant and Umno does not need them.
Ever wonder why Nazri Aziz told the Agong off and declared that he is nothing more than the Prime Minister’s clerk? The Prime Minister decides and the Agong just signs like a good little boy or else he will get sent to bed without any ice cream. Such is the arrogance of Umno. And if there were any doubts before this, 15 October 2007 laid that matter to rest once and for all when Ali Rustam repeated numerous times, “I was with Najib yesterday,” as if to send the message to all and sundry that he has Najib’s blessing to tell the Indians and Chinese that they can go back to India and China for all Umno cares.
Umno has ruled Malaysia for 50 years, said Ali Rustam, and they can rule for another 50 years more. And Umno does not need PPP, MCA, MIC, Gerakan, Sabah, Sarawak or anyone else to do this. Yes; and even God Himself can’t sink Umno like He could not sink the Titanic.
Ali Rustam should not tempt God or fate or whatever it is that he believes in. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is fond of relating the story of the mistake he made in 1969 when he told the Chinese he does not need their votes. 3,000 Chinese swung to PAS, said Mahathir. And Yusuf Rawa won that seat while the Grand Old Man of Malaysian politics was sent into temporary retirement. Even the great and very confident Mahathir will caution you about telling the non-Malay voters that you don’t need them. And surely Mahathir is a bigger man than Ali Rustam.
Well, that is probably what we think. But Ali Rustam does not think this way at all. He thinks he is the Chief Minister of the greatest nation on earth. Melaka is not part of Malaysia, said Ali Rustam, Malaysia is part of Melaka. This may sound strange to a student of history, and to ensure that you get a new twist to history, Ali Rustam warned the assembly that Melaka was once a great empire that included half of Thailand and half of Indonesia.
I thought that maybe in my old age my memory was beginning to fail me so I flipped through the pages of Joginder Singh Jessy’s and D.J. Muzaffar Tate’s ‘History of Malaya’ but could not find any reference to this. Maybe it is true, as they say, history is written by the victor, not the vanquished. But I was reading the history books written by Malayans and not those written by the Orang Puteh such as Stamford Raffles, R.O. Winsted, Barbara Watson, Leonard Y. Andaya or J. Kennedy.
Anyway, that just goes to show I am not really as clever as I thought I was. There are still many things about Malayan history that I am not aware of. And one thing that I was not aware of was that Melaka had once upon a time colonised half of Thailand and half of Indonesia. I suppose this is why Ali Rustam is the ‘Senior Vice President’ of Umno and I am not. In fact, Ali Rustam is so clever he can become the ‘Senior Vice President’ of Umno even when no such post exists.
Umno does not need any of the component members of Barisan Nasional, Ali Rustam went on. Umno has four million members and it can win the elections without the help of the rest of the component members of Barisan Nasional. Umno has been strong for 50 years and it will continue ruling this country for the next 50 years as well, Ali Rustam assured the assembly of PPP leaders and members.
PPP had better not ask for any seat in Melaka, Ali Rustam warned the assembly. If Perak wants to allow PPP a seat then that is up to the Perak Menteri Besar. That is his own decision and the party does not support him on this matter. After all the Perak Menteri Besar is a kaki bodek, said Ali Rustam to the shocked audience who could not believe they were hearing all this.
Maybe PPP was once a strong party, Ali Rustam added. When it joined Barisan Nasional it had four Parliament and 14 state seats, but that is an old story. Why bring up an old story? It is like Lee Kuan Yew talking about old stories. Now Ali Rustam was shifting his aim to the Island State south of the border, across the Causeway. Lee Kuan Yew is an old man, argued Ali Rustam, insinuating that the Grand Old Man of Singapore was getting senile, and he is illogical. And to emphasis the point, Ali Rustam repeated, “Yesterday I was with Najib,” as if to drive the point home that Najib is with him on this.
The punch-line that Ali Rustam wanted to deliver the assembly of PPP leaders and members is that the party is not going to be given any seat in Melaka. And to demonstrate that he meant business he asked PPP to leave Barisan Nasional. Leave now! What are you waiting for? Leave now! You want a seat is it? No seat for you! Who says Umno needs the component members, especially PPP? PPP means nothing to us. Leave now.
And as if what he had said thus far was not shocking enough, Ali Rustam took a swipe at the Pahang Menteri Besar. If the Pahang Menteri Besar wants to give you a seat in Pahang then that is his problem. He is crazy and he does crazy things. He can give PPP a seat in Pahang. Why ask from the other states? And the icing on the cake was when Ali Rustam said that if the Prime Minister gives PPP a seat then he has no balls (pengecut). Tak boleh ikut cara dia, Ali Rustam boldly declared. Yes, since Malaysia is part of Melaka and not Melaka that is part of Malaysia then this would certainly make sense.
Until today no one knows what triggered Ali Rustam’s outburst that 15 October 2007. It was as if the message to the Indians and Chinese is that Umno does not need them anymore. The latest poll shows that the non-Malay support for Barisan Nasional has gone below 50% while the Malay support is still above 70%. This would mean that the non-Malay parties in Barisan Nasional may not be able to deliver the votes if the general election is held within the next month or so.
Ali Rustam seems to feel that Umno ruled Malaysia for 50 years without any help or support from the non-Malays and they can continue to do so another 50 years without any problems. Of late Ali Rustam has been demonstrating his contempt for the non-Malays. His move to kill the pigs in Melaka and drive the Chinese pig farmers out of business is one case in point. He boasted to all and sundry that he wants to show the Chinese that he is the boss, something his predecessors were not able to and did not dare do. The pig farmers and their family and friends command a lot of votes and it is better that the government leaves them alone. All the Chief Ministers before this adopted this policy but Ali Rustam wanted to show them that he decides and he calls the shots. And this is what he told the PPP convention that 15 October, “I decide.”
Ali Rustam believes that the Prime Minister will announce the dissolution of Parliament on 9 November followed by the general election on 25 November. If this happens then the Chinese would be with the opposition. Ali Rustam realises that how much you may court the Chinese it would be futile. Therefore, since you cannot get their support anyway, you might as well whack them. It makes no difference anyway.
Of course, many would ask why whack the Chinese? Well, PPP in Melaka is led by a Chinese and it would be Chinese and not Indians who matter, though the Indian support for PPP is nevertheless strong since it has a large Indian membership.
This is Ali Rustam’s version of keris waving. The fact that he repeated many times, “I was with Najib yesterday,” was his way of telling the world that he is Najib’s de facto number two. This means if Najib goes up to become the Prime Minister then he would be the Deputy Prime Minister. To become the number two in Umno is not up to the voters. It is up to the Umno divisions. So he must come out looking like a Malay hero from Melaka a la Hang Toh Ah and Hang Jer Baht, never mind that these two may have been Chinese rather than Malays. And this ranting and raving about Melaka once being an empire that ruled over half of Thailand and half of Indonesia fit nicely into the theme. But Ali Rustam probably thought that Kayveas and his PPP members are all illiterate rubber tappers who never read history when he said that Malaysia is part of Melaka and not Melaka that is part of Malaysia.
But why the need to repeat so many times that he was with Najib the day before? Everytime he dropped a bombshell he would add that he was with Najib the day before. What was his message here? Was it that he was delivering Najib’s message or that Najib has endorsed what he is saying? Or is it to demonstrate that he is Najib’s number two?
Anyway, whatever it may be, Ali Rustam has made it very clear that Umno does not need anyone. Umno has managed 50 years without depending on anyone and it can carry on another 50 years without them. Is this Ali Rustam’s or Najib’ message: that if the component members do not deliver the votes then they will be kicked out of Barisan Nasional? When MCA did badly in 1969 it was proposed they leave the Alliance Party since the Chinese no longer support them. The only difference this time around is that Umno is telling them before instead of after the general election.
There is much speculation on who will be Najib’s Deputy when he takes over as Prime Minister. This question has been satisfactorily answered on 15 October 2007. Ali Rustam made it clear that he and not the Prime Minister makes the decisions. As far as Ali Rustam is concerned the Prime Minister pengecut, the Perak Menteri Besar is kaki bodek while the Pahang Menteri Besar is gila who does crazy things. Yes, that leaves only him remaining as the most suitable candidate to become the next Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Hmm.....should I seriously consider migrating?