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Monday, January 31, 2011

Tenang bah-election wake-up call

BN flag holding on against the strong current

In one TV programme last night, all three panels claimed they expected the majority of 3,707 for BN at the Tenang bah-election.

If the audience only knew of the pessimistic projections made by the various groups in BN the night before polling, the panic and frustration within BN towards the campaign and the rising water, and frantic reaction to an SMS blast claiming to be from UMNO Information Chief, Dato Ahmad Maslan to get more Malay voters to come out to vote in the heavy rain, the audience wouldn't have known that the three panelists were bullshiting.

This blogger differ from the post-election optimism by armchair political analysts and politicians. The "cikgu mala" petaka is not limited to the flood spreading into 4 states but exposed the weakness of Johor as the bastion of UMNO.

Johor Menteri Besar and UMNO Liaison Chief for Johor, Dato Gani Othman should review his "nothing to worry attitude" and start working hard. No more nice guy and boastful pride of Johor the great. The new politics have no room for nice guy.

No more fear of Dato Dr Chua Soi Lek's sensitive outburst. Tell it straight in his face that he better talk less and buck up. He is living in fantasy land and President of no man's land. Deliver first or shut up!

The macro factors the paneliets had expressed are nothing new and merely template political science views.

The happening behind the political campaign, where the real work is done and art of politics is splasing its paint, is the real happening. Did anyone wonder why Felda Chemplak turn back for BN? Why such varied views on Chinese voters? Why racial charged PKR campaign had no impact on Indian voters?

The analysis of by-elections using macro socio-economic and political factors is an exercise of overanalysis that usually lead to paralysis, especially when there are 17 factors enlisted. It means there are too many factors to address.

Any credible analysis must be able to identify and zero in on the critical factors and not try to relate to Sarawak upcoming statewide election to the Tenang by-election.

In a place like Tenang, a small pekan within pekan of Labis and part of the Segamat district, development promises is unrealistic. One young man complaining that Government did not bring development was asked by this blogger, "What do you want?"

After several criticism on the viability of his proposals, the young man realised that urbanising Labis is not development. It is not viable to build a KLCC like structure in Labis. Deliverable of government policies and the caring part of 1Malaysia is more important here.

Other than the pre-election work, the real winner for BN in this by-election campaign was the NGOs and volunteers, and transport team.

There have been an increasing level of non-partisan volunteers in political campaign. UMNO politicians seems to be out of touch with current event, unable to communicate the political message to the voters, and fear debating issues.

This is where bloggers found a significant role to play in any campaign and it has stretch beyond cyber psywar. They were replacing UMNO in generating issues for campaign attack.

Transport team of Sri Gading, Sembrong and Air Itam did a great work to transport Felda voters to the polling station. They delivered and picked up the slack of the whole BN political machinery of Johor.

Frankly, this first by-election in Johor exposed the weakness of the Johor political machinery.

Gani had wanted to be the Election Director and got himself a good lesson in the new politics of the day taught by their own home grown Pas member, Salahuddin Ayub. He should realise now that Johor has the weakest UMNO political machinery and unfamiliar with the new and open political campaign.

Gani had taken charge of the Labis Division whose Division head was the late Tenang Assemblymen, Dato Sulaiman Taha. He rattled on the first few days and the whole machinery was in dissarray.

Matters got worse with Gani's paranoia on the possibility of sabotage that he sidelined the local Wanita, Pemuda and Puteri wings. Peruntukan factor is not considered yet.

MCA worked harder than usual to save face for MCA President Soi Lek but they are best described as "lembab." He maybe the MCA president but he must face up to the fact that he is not accepted by the Labis constituency and MCA supporters.

He must stop being in-denial to the reality that MCA is weak and in need of help. A weaker partner cannot rank pari passu with a more superior partner. He must put aside his ego and be willing to get assistance and take orders from the stronger partner.

BN was able to regain back a slim majority in the Chinese mix areas of Bandar Labis Timor and Labis due to the return of Malay and Indian voters. Chinese predominated area of Bandar Labis Tengah remain a significant opposition DAP stronghold.

A report claimed that Chinese support for BN is only 27 percent which is lower than the 30 something percent of the average national figure in 2008. Chinese support is not back yet.

But this is not a usual by-election but a bah-election. The Chinese turnout was lower than the Malay Felda and kampung turnout. They had waited for the morning heavy rain to stop but it did not and was aggravated further by flood in the afternoon.

The role of the transport team of three Johor Division of Sri Gading, Sembrong and Air Itam was critical to get them to come out and vote early

Most BN forecast except for that of Soi Lek, were forecasting Chinese support at around 20-25%. The 27% support in the unusual rain is good.

Soi Lek claimed Chinese support had improved to 45% But Soi Lek refused to share data and information. He wants to be respected as though he is of equal stature with the "BN Chairman." He wants others to report to him rather than he report and share info with others.

Soi Lek refuse to accept that MCA's house-to-house campaign were not effective and time consuming. MCA avoid big makan-makanfunction for fear of poor turnout will be seen as a sign of weakness exploited by DAP. This aroused the suspicion that Soi Lek was giving Chinese votes on a silver platter to DAP.

It was the BN supporting NGOs coming forward to help the campaign that woe the Chinese voters. Due to the flood, one will never know the true support of Chinese for BN.

However, this blogger was a prudent optimist from the beginning. If not for the bah, the Chinese could reach 40% and BN majority could be more than 4,000 and even reaching 5,000.

Although a similar happening in Tenang Station, Indian support were solid.

The BN component parties of PPP and MIC are squabling with each other over Indian representation and within their own party. In the end, both neglected the Indian communities in the benefit slashed rubber plantations.

During the campaign, the same set of Indian voters were attending free makan political function hosted by MIC, PPP, IPF and split Makkal Sakti.

Again it is the NGOs and individual volunteers that helped BN campaign in the Tenang Station area.

This proves that the Chinese and Indian are still supportive of BN. It is MCA and MIC that they couldn't stand.

For Soi Lek to go around loudly asking, "UMNO buat apa?", he should ask the same question back to himself.

"Is he relevant to his community?"

Labis Chinese support for MCA is for his son, Chua Tee Yong and not so much for him. Soi Lek is in the predicament position of being President of MCA but not leader of the Chinese community.

What face of his is to save if pro-BN NGO of Labis do function with the condition of no MCA leaders presence?

The UMNO that Soi Lek love to criticise are regaining back their support and coming out more superior now after much beating. Where is MCA heading?

If they continue to keep Soi Lek and his bad history and arrogant uncooperative ways, MCA is heading for it's demise.

This is a serious reminder to our MCA friends.

courtesy of Another Brick in the Wall

Mahathir and Singapore Malays

by Terence Netto @www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT The posts at the weekend brought an envelope from a Singaporean friend that had clippings of newspaper columns on Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s comments earlier this month on Singapore Malays.

Bernama, the national news agency, had a story based on the letters that had appeared in the Singapore daily, Berita Harian (BH), whose readers responded to Mahathir’s disparagement of the Singapore Malay as marginalised and repressed.

In the main, the letters took caustic issue with the former Malaysian prime minister, denouncing his views as condescending and outdated. However, one respondent spoke of Mahathir in glowing terms, calling him an exceptional leader.

Singapore newspapers are not available for sale in Malaysia. Neither is ours in the island republic.

While the two countries do cooperate in the intelligence-gathering and law enforcement spheres, their newspaper reading publics are informed and edified separately. ‘So near yet so far’ would be an apt description of the print media gulf that separates the two neighbors whose peoples share blood and other ties with each other.

The value of reading the newspapers of neighboring countries – even if they are not terribly good ones – is that you can get a keener sense of the life lived in them than would be the case if you didn’t enjoy that facility.

This is an advantage to policy formulators and opinion makers. Every once in a while, when a thunderhead boils up on the Malaysia-Singapore front, it’s hard to deny, while the controversy runs its often acrimonious course, the relevance of the proverbial analogy of Plato’s cave.

Like residents of Plato’s cave, the view of the antagonists in Malaysia-Singapore flare-ups is restricted to the shadows they see on the wall of a cave in which they are confined.

That, generally, was the conclusion of two columnists, both Singapore Malays, who wrote on Mahathir’s views on their kin in the January 20th edition of theStraits Times, the country’s leading English daily.

SAF Malay Brigadier-General

Both Salim Osman, a senior writer in ST, and Wan Hussin Zoohri, a former MP, derided Mahathir’s views as uninformed by the facts on the ground and skewed by the former PM’s interest in stoking the fears of Malaysian Malays that a change of government in their country would result in their eventual economic and political marginalization.

Salim opined that the reality in Malaysia was that while poverty has been drastically reduced and that a significant Malay middle class has emerged as a result of affirmative action policies, inequalities have sharpened.

“There is growing dissatisfaction in the community that politically connected Malays have benefited disproportionately from affirmative action policies,” wrote Salim.

“Many also resent the use of public funds to rescue wealthy Malay businessmen,” he elaborated.

Former legislator Wan Hussin Zoohri described Mahathir’s views as “unfounded” and caught in a time warp. Wan Hussin upbraided Mahathir for “looking at Singapore Malays through an outdated prism, seeing them as they were at the time of separation.”

‘Remarkable progress’

As testimony of the progress that Singapore Malays have made, Wan Hussin cited the opinion of a redoubtable witness, the late Abdul Samad Ismail, whom the columnist hailed as “highly respected Malaysian journalist and intellectual.”

Singapore-born Samad, a Magsaysay laureate who died in Petaling Jaya in September 2008, had been to the island republic in the 1990s, to visit relatives and, in 1996, to attend a memorial gathering for Lim Chin Siong, a left wing compatriot of Samad’s in the struggles of the 1950s to free both Singapore and Malaya from British colonial rule.

Wan Hussin said Samad, during those visits, had offered his view that Singapore Malays had made remarkable progress. “He personally had witnessed this on his visits to see his relatives. They had climbed the social ladder and secured respectable social positions for themselves,” said Wan Hussin in his column.

“For Dr Mahathir to assert that Singapore Malays have been left behind, marginalized and suppressed reflects his ignorance of the social transformation happening in Singapore,” he asserted.

“One can detect a false sense of superiority in him every time he indulges in his bashing of Malay Singaporeans. He has to be reminded that the rise of the Malay Malaysians is due more to ‘Malayocracy’ rather than meritocracy,” Wan Hussin concluded.

What I expected to happen

This is what I said three days before the Tenang by-election. Basically, with the majority of the Malay voters coming from the Felda settlements, Umno would be expected to win the by-election. The only question would be by how much.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

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Ageing Umno compromised its beliefs

Looking beyond Tenang, former Pulau Manis assemblyman and Umno member, Mohd Ariff Sabri Aziz, mulls over greying Umno, its relevance as a lead party and the 'bigger picture.'

By Mohd Ariff Sabriz Aziz

Umno won or rather retained its seat in the Tenang by-election. Congratulations to Umno.

I have written of its victory there and I have also followed up with some notes of discomfort at what’s happening on the ground (in the Labis division and in Johor Umno) .

First, I think my observation about Umno infighting in Tenang and Johor remains valid.

My friends, who came from as far as Kelantan to campaign in the by-election, had to actually play hosts at the polls. Local Umno members seemed to want to stand down.

Second, MCA has proven itself to be largely irrelevant.

PAS’ Normala Sudirman may refuse to shake hands on certain principles which she holds as unshakeable – but people refused to shake hands with MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek for other reasons.

When people lose hope in you, you are gone.

While MCA may think itself as stable under Chua, the people of Tenang are sending a different message. What saved MCA from total humiliation yesterday were the floods in Labis.

Bigger picture

I hope Umno will not miss the bigger picture, which is to continue reforming itself. Therefore I don’t intend to stay “stationary” by analysing the Tenang by-election.

Instead, I want to move forward to analyse the bigger picture, which is Umno itself.

Umno is 64 years old. It has passed the age which the Muslims here in Malaysia consider the average life span of a Muslim.

Umno is now into its “walking dead” stage. Yet Umno leadership sashays around as though there are no worries about the world they live in.

If I were to identify one central cause for the emasculation of Umno, I would have to say: it is caused by the absence of a system that hinders the emergence of a confident leadership team.

We have a leadership that bends over to stay loyal to a leadership philosophy that can best be described as feudalistic.

You get onto the pecking “order” by accident of birth. You also get onto that “order” by virtue of the leaders’ instinctive feel that you can be trusted to be compliant and sometimes complicit.

You (Umno members) are just digits in a personal agenda. But this isn’t the Umno that some of us members want.

We think we have the right to be heard because the Umno president pays RM1 for membership fees. We too pay the same.

He (the president) doesn’t own Umno nor does anyone else.

We haven’t foisted a system on Umno that allows Umno to operate as a mean machine, even if and when a particular leader is no longer on the scene.

What is happening now is, if that leader is absent, Umno goes haywire.

Leader with no conviction

Why does Umno go haywire? Because you (leadership) are conviction-less and you measure what you do politically by whether the apologies conform to the approval and wishes of somebody else.

It shows that the leadership has no basic beliefs and no confidence in itself.

When you abuse the underlying principles and beliefs, you come out with a leadership that is conviction-less.

I think we have a leadership that has lost its bearings.

Umno should have become a solid party – very competent, highly organised, having complete confidence in its leadership and ability to engage and deal with the others in Malaysia and
beyond.

Instead we have an Umno and a leadership that overwork to show itself as a very Malaysian Malaysia Umno.

Umno, for instance, capitulated over the issue of the novel Interlok which has been in existence for 40 years and its author selected as a national laureate.

We quarrel over a trivial term used in the novel. People reading the novel can hardly be said to change their views on Malaysian Indians or see them as anything inferior.

I think the main issue here is MIC.

MIC knows it is alarmingly irrelevant to the general progress of Malaysian Indians and to save itself from insignificance, it must do something heroic.

MIC is not the Tamil movie hero.

Loss of confidence in Umno

The inability to deal with this trivia has taken its toll on Umno itself. This is a much weakened Umno not having the spine to engage confidently with other stakeholders in Malaysia.

The only way now, it seems, is that Umno concedes and secedes.

Umno president Najib Tun Razak seems to calculate the efficiency of his policies on the basis of quid pro quo.

Sure, we will give what you want and you give us what we want. It’s “lu-tolong-gua-gua-tolong-lu” all over again.

Umno is a nervous party ceding its basic beliefs. It is going overboard to make itself out as a politically correct party.

In order to show it is a 1Malaysia party, any semblance that reflects itself to be very Malay will be sacrificed.

For God’s sake, the novel Interlok has been in existence for 40 years and the government will form a committee on how to delete a pejorative term that was a work of fiction.

It’s like asking US President Barack Obama to ban the works of Mark Twain because in his novel, Huckleberry Fin, the word “nigger” was used.

Any attempt to have Interlok locked up must be seen as a bigger reflection – that non-Malays have no confidence in anything associated with Umno.

In this Interlok issue, Umno is seen to cower, and when you cower, you are weak. - FMT

Shopping complex owners welcome probe

Spooked Chinese New Year shoppers are avoiding popular Karamunsing shopping complex in Kota Kinabalu after stories about its structural safety hit the Internet.

KOTA KINABALU: As controversy swirls around the extensive renovations and extensions taking place at a massive shopping and office complex here, its management welcomed an investigation by the government into its structural integrity.

Claims that Karamunsing Complex, one of the popular shopping centres in the city, is unsafe have spooked shoppers and tenants as city dwellers rush to do their last-minute Chinese New Year shopping.

Building owner, Crest Megaway Sdn Bhd, has rushed to limit the bad publicity and soothe anxieties by welcoming a state Public Works Department (PWD) investigation on the safety of the whole structure of the seventh, eighth, and ninth floors of Block C tower.

Company president, James Hwong You Chuang, said the management would extend full cooperation to the PWD in its investigation.

“It has always been and shall always be the guiding principle of our management that public safety and public interest is of paramount importance and our management shall not compromise on this fundamental issue,” he said over the weekend.

Hwong said that Kota Kinabalu City Hall had appointed independent consultant engineer, WD Lee, to conduct a detailed structural integrity test on the whole structure of the three floors of Block C Tower of the complex.

Final report

Hwong said that the management took note of Mayor Iliyas Ibrahim’s recent statement that a preliminary investigation by Lee showed no immediate danger of the floor slabs of the three floors collapsing.

“We are made to understand that a final and conclusive investigation report by Lee would be submitted to the KK City Hall on or before March 3.

“We shall at all times abide by, and strictly adhere to, all and any directions, findings, recommendations that shall be made by City Hall and the PWD in the interest of public safety,” Hwong said in a statement.

The complex was built in 1982 by Promet Dikoyu Sdn Bhd under the guidance of Architects Goh Hock Guan & Associates and Civil and Structural Consultants Tahir Wong Sdn Bhd.

Crest Megaway purchased the complex from Danaharta on April 15, 2005.

“In the midst of the on-going controversy, it is only fair and appropriate that the public should spare a thought for the 381 owners and tenants of the complex whose livelihood and businesses have been gravely and adversely affected,” Hwong added.

It was reported recently that tenants and an owner of the complex, Suria Capital Holdings Bhd (SCHB), had complained to the City Hall after the three floors were found to be unsafe.

They claimed that cracking sounds were heard inside the building and vibrations and a deflection of as much as three inches or more were detected on all the three floors.

Detailed inspection

SCHB has since moved out from the complex as it was worried about the structural integrity of the building.

Documents containing minutes of the meeting of a special committee consisting of City Hall engineers and the SCHB consultant engineer have been widely circulated on the Internet over the weekend, including on the social network site, Facebook.

The documents highlighted the report from the consultant who reckoned that the structure was difficult to rehabilitate as “the critical part of the structural system had been stressed beyond its elastic limit”.

Any attempt to add additional reinforcement will shift the mode of failure towards the brittle mode, the report stated.

It also noted that the risk of collapse is considered to be very high if the current loading experienced by the structure is exceeded and concluded that the flat slab floor structures were not safe for occupancy.

After a lengthy discussion, the special committee decided that an independent and approved professional engineer should conduct a detailed structural integrity inspection on the entire complex, including the podium and the two tower blocks.

The Karamunsing Complex is one of the top shopping spots in the city.

City dwellers have commented that the extensive renovation and extension work around the building, including the multi-level car park, was not in keeping with the original building plan.

One contractor familiar with the work said such work may contravene City Hall’s building and safety by-laws. - FMT