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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hadi Awang a GONE case?

Hadi Awang a GONE case?
In politics, there are always some characters who may have appeared to be rather dull and even mediocre, but may eventually rise to the occasion and establish themselves as statesmen (or women).
One such person is BJ Habibie of Indonesia, handpicked by President Suharto as vice-president and expected to carry on the authoritarian rule of the so-called Orde Baru (New Order).
What happened after the dictator was overthrown in the 1998 uprising thoroughly surprised the world - rather than a seat-warmer or a puppet leader, Habibie went on to lay the foundation for Indonesia’s democratic transition by giving powers back to the provinces (decentralisation), starting the process of sending the military - guardian of Orde Baru - back to the barracks, and paving the way for democratic elections.
Habibie even went a step further when he approved of the referendum that led to the independence of East Timor (now Timor Leste), officially acknowledging Indonesia’s historical wrong in annexing the island state at the connivance of the western powers back in 1975.
Though short his presidency has been (only 17 months in total), Habibie nevertheless achieved far more than the Indonesian populace had expected of him. One of the positive outcomes of his far-reaching reform agenda has been the peaceful political transition - not once but thrice - since 2001, the latest being the election of the people-friendly Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, as the 7th president after the country’s independence from the Dutch in 1947.
Most notably, the Indonesian military has maintained largely neutral throughout the tight and at times acrimonious presidential race, so much so that Prabowo Subianto, the losing candidate and a former lieutenant-general with close ties to the old regime (along with his questionable human rights record), had no option but to challenge the result in the Constitutional Court, which finally ruled in favour of Jokowi.
The fact that none of his former colleagues in the military has uttered a word of support for him speaks volumes of the distance that Indonesia has trodden on the path of democratic reform since 1998.
As Indonesians look back at history, they really should not forget Habibie’s audacity in seizing the historical moment to right all that was wrong with the country, while giving credit also to the people who were determined for change, even if it meant they had to pay with blood.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of Hadi Awang, the PAS president. He, too, was presented with a golden opportunity to help the country rid of more than five decades of Umno that is deeply tainted with nepotism, cronyism and corruption - three issues that consigned Suharto to history - but has only proven himself to be nothing more than a political flimsily calculative and full of vengeful spirit.
Hadi belongs to the generation of idealist Malay youths who, having witnessed student movements around the world, were inspired to change Malaysia through political activism. His comradeship with Anwar Ibrahim actually dates back to the late 1970s when they were both prominent leaders of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (Abim), although the latter subsequently joined Umno rather than the Islamic party, which shocked many.
While he did rise through the rank to assume PAS leadership through hard work at the grassroots level, Hadi lacks the critical outlook and skills that would have better prepared him for national leadership. He was given a chance to prove his worth when Terengganu fell to the opposition following the Malay backlash over Mahathir Mohamad’s persecution of Anwar, only to squander it five years later.
When PAS was entrusted to run Kedah in 2008, Hadi did nothing to rein in the underperforming but arrogant Azizan Abdul Razak despite growing discontent over the latter’s administration, causing the Islamic party to lose in 2013 and, worse, making it possible for the equally uninspiring, run-of-the-mill Mukhriz Mahathir to become menteri besar.
Ill-equipped to adapt to a new era
Like the Ulama wing, Hadi Awang feels increasingly challenged and even threatened by the rise of the professionals within the party. As the Young Turks represented by Khalid Samad, Saari Sungib, Husam Musa and Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad become household names and seek to shift the political discourse from religion to policy as well as ideas of human rights and democracy, the conservative forces, well-versed only in religious rhetoric, are ill-equipped to adapt to a new era.
Granted, one should be sympathetic with those who are confined by their own limitations and hence unable to shine. After all, not everyone could be as visionary as Habibie with the acute awareness that historic chances are hard to come by.
But in the case of Hadi, he has messed things up by refusing to allow a smooth replacement of menteri besar in Selangor out of his personal jealousies and sense of insecurity. That he and his allies in the party are deepening the constitutional crisis by proposing more than one candidate to the sultan is indicative amply of his short-sightedness as a leader.
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has already secured the support of more than half of the support in the state assembly, and there is no reason for the sultan to request more names for consideration. The refusal by PKR and DAP to go along with the condition should not be interpreted as disrespect of the ruler, but a move to ensure Malaysia’s system of constitutional monarchy remain intact and well-respected.
And this is not what small-minded politicians such as Hadi understand it to be. The longer the conundrum drags on, the higher the chances of more royal interference in other states in the future, and Hadi, Khalid Ibrahim and all their ardent supporters could one day be considered as undermining the foundation of Malaysian politics by simply procrastinating in solving the crisis.
Worse, Umno is losing no time in pressing with charges against opposition lawmakers with the help of the Sedition Act, which can have far more damaging consequences than what the defunct Internal Security Act could produce in the long run in that all those found guilty and sentenced could find themselves losing their seat and deprived of the right to contest in an election for up to five years or more.
Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng and the late Karpal Singh remained MPs when in ISA detention, while others continued to run for election from behind bars, but the same cannot be said of the Sedition Act, the conviction of which would carry serious political repercussions.
Lest we forget, Lim Guan Eng lost his parliamentary seat in 1998 after conviction under the said Act and was barred from running for five years, as a result of which he was unable to run in the 2004 general election.
Can we imagine all those opposition lawmakers currently under investigations over their ‘seditious remarks’ are all incarcerated in the next few months? What would happen to the opposition front then?
It is indeed tragic that Hadi and his supporters refuse to tackle the imminent crisis but continue to indulge in their own selfish interests and calculations. Most likely, he will go down in Malaysian history not only as just another has-been, but also someone who, together with Khalid, is responsible for the erosion of constitutionalism in Malaysia. -M'kini

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