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Friday, August 29, 2014

Mining Musa for lessons on intramural feuds


COMMENT Former deputy prime minister Musa Hitam should not just confine himself to strike-and-retreat tactics to foil expedition ‘Get rid of the incumbent’ now under way in Umno, courtesy of perennial wrecker Dr Mahathir Mohamed.

A sustained argument rather than guerrilla-like hit-and-run sorties - of which Musa is fond - is what is needed to baulk Mahathir in the latter’s campaign to replace Umno president and Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The public will be edified by a detailed exercise in explanation and would surely prefer Musa's (right) to the tedium of listening to inanities Umno flunkies are presently spouting in defence of Najib.

Compare the latter with how Musa in one punch line said: “He will only be satisfied if there is a Mahathir clone as the top leader in Malaysia” - has summarised the essence of the former PM's beef against the current one.

If, as they say, brevity is the soul of wit, felicitous statement must  serve the same edifying purpose in political discourse.

What’s more a fleshed-out argument, as distinct from periodic broadsides, would accord with Musa’s belief that what he has called “digital democracy” in Malaysia, spawned by the internet, is an unalloyed good.

It's opened the shutters, shed light on obscure corners of the public domain, and helped bring closer to the surface truths about political life in the country that would otherwise lie submerged.

Musa must know that there are forces in Umno - this includes the recurrent subversive of the Umno status quo - keen to impose curbs on the internet.

Musa would be opposed to these curbs, just as surely he would take a dim view of the spate of indictments filed against mostly opposition politicians for sedition.

So a sustained blast against Mahathir would not only go a long distance in reminding the Malaysian public that it has tolerated this pernicious politician long enough, it would also serve additionally beneficial purposes.

These are keeping the lid firmly on discarded and obsolete laws, such as the ISA, stop the misuse of laws like the Sedition Act, which should have been consigned to the historical dustbin a long time ago, and keep access to the internet, once pledged as inviolable, free.

Carving up opposition

Musa, in his 80th year, would add gold to his sunset years not only by venting useful insights on existing and past perils, he would also beneficently advance the growth of the two-party system which he welcomes, judging from his lament on the way Pakatan Rakyat has handled the crisis in Selangor with respect to the replacement of its resigned incumbent, Khalid Ibrahim.

Here is where Musa can be of considerable benefit to both incumbents and aspirant replacements, just by delving into his experiences, drawing lessons and sharing them with the younger set of politicians on either side of the political divide.

It is now an undeniable fact of Malaysian history that a failure to collaborate between potent rivals Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Musa had enabled an autocratic Mahathir to carve up the opposition to him within Umno and bring a once dominant party to its current anaemia.

Both had the smarts to see that Mahathir was a danger to Umno's foundational ethos which was to make the Malays the first among equals among the country's diverse peoples and the party similarly so among its (first) Alliance and (later) BN allies.

Both cooperated in one, albeit, expedient move to oust Mahathir in the April 1987 party elections and then went their separate and, ultimately, for Umno, self-destructive ways.

Not just sporadic but sustained collaboration between Musa and  Razaleigh was imperative, if there existed any hope of checking Mahathir, after both erstwhile collaborators had failed to unseat the Umno strongman in 1987.

But instead of collusion between rivals who knew that a larger danger impended, there was only ease for Mahathir as he moved to split the forces arrayed against him because the latter were not alert enough to the lethality of the threat they faced.

The upshot: an unduly protracted premiership by Mahathir during which the country was built up physically and emasculated morally.

Both BN and Pakatan parties will face the perils of internecine feuding from time to time. Sometimes this feuding has give way to collaboration by jousting rivals to ward off a bigger danger.

Because Musa is likely to be more candid that Razaleigh about the past simply from his penchant for self-deprecating humour, it's his take on the fickleness of their collaboration against Mahathir that would yield the more valuable insights on intramural feuding for the younger politicians in both BN and Umno.

Much would be gained from a candid narrative of this phase of experience in his career.



TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for more than four decades. A sobering discovery has been that those who protest the loudest tend to replicate the faults they revile in others 

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