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Dishonesty in Bagan Pinang

Strange (and dishonest) BN math

THERE is a ubiquitous campaign billboard in Port Dickson now. It says, “For 63 years, Barisan Nasional (BN) has protected you. Don’t destroy the country’s security.”

The arithmetic is baffling. The BN was officially registered as a coalition in July 1974. As at October 2009, this would make the BN only 35 years old. Yes, the BN is only as old as Posh Spice a.k.a. Mrs David Beckham. Former US President George W Bush is 63 years old, not the BN.

But the number quoted on this billboard is intriguing. Perhaps a cursory look at the BN’s three biggest peninsula-based parties is in order. We can eliminate the MCA from this equation since it was formed in 1949, making it a youthful 60 years old only. Both the MIC and Umno, however, were formed in 1946. Just on a hunch, the billboard is probably not referring to the MIC. No, the billboard’s subliminal message seems to be that Umno is the BN, and voters had better not forget this.

Setting aside the subliminal message, such dishonesty is only a small part of the BN’s Bagan Pinang by-election campaign rhetoric. Take BN candidate Tan Sri Isa Samad‘s campaign trail. He piggybacks incessantly on government functions as part of his campaign platform.

For example, on 4 Oct 2009, he attended a function at Politeknik Port Dickson and delivered a campaign speech. The event was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry’s entrepreneur funding body, Tekun.

The minister was there, as well as the Negeri Sembilan menteri besar. But when journalists asked Isa if his appearance at the function was an abuse of power and an election offence, he said no. “I am actually part of the agricultural development council for the Teluk Kemang parliamentary constituency, so I have a role to play here, too,” he explained calmly.

PR banner “bringing up” Isa’s history of corruption — “wo ai ni” translates as “I love you” in Mandarin

Does this explanation even hold water? Isn’t it the point that election campaigns should never abuse government amenities and public funds? And Isa’s dishonesty does not stop here. When the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) brings up his history of corruption and negligence as menteri besar, he throws up his favourite red herring. “Ask them to look at Kelantan first and say whether Kelantan is more developed than Negeri Sembilan,” he says.

This is another non-answer, because never at any point is he actually being transparent about responding to allegations of negligence and corruption. Instead, he diverts attention away from himself by pointing fingers at and making fun of his political opponent.

Isa is also not averse to playing the religious card. He criticises PAS leaders for not Islamising Kelantan, and Terengganu from 1999 to 2004, enough. The thing about Isa, though, is that he is such a charismatic, funny and approachable figure that these seem more like witty retorts than the deceit and manipulations that they really are.

And in this corner …

But is PAS, and by extension the PR, any more honest and congruent than the BN? One just needs to look at how the coalition purports to tell voters the whole truth about issues of public interest. These include Isa’s abuses of power, Isa’s corruption, and a tainted electoral roll, in addition to the tragic deaths of political secretary Teoh Beng Hock and suspected car thief A Kugan.

And yet, the PR seems uncharacteristically silent about other public interest issues that point at deeper problems in the coalition. There is not a peep about PAS’s support for the whipping sentence against Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor for drinking alcohol, its Selangor commissioner’s campaign against the minority Ahmadiyah religious community, its youth wing’s obsession with banning concerts, and cracks within the Selangor PR government. There is not even an attempt to explain the coalition’s side of the story regarding these issues. Why?

Hadi Awang

Like Umno, PAS also cannot help pouncing on religious rhetoric as part of its campaign. In an informal meeting with retired army personnel on 6 Oct, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang could not help but spin the army’s main role as defenders of religion first and foremost.

Out-Islamising continues

The battle between PAS and Umno in this constituency is indeed escalating, but it abuses facts and evidence. Instead, both parties seem to be resorting to religious legitimacy to gain the upper hand. And in this battle, it seems as though Umno is willing to stoop lower than PAS.

After all, it is in PAS’s political DNA to politicise religion. The party is an Islamist party, for heaven’s sake — if it honestly does not want to Islamise Malaysia or impose Islamic laws, then that would be news. That it is trying to walk the tightrope of upholding the PR’s non-communal, democratic vision is a breathtaking lesson in the art of the double discourse — one discourse for anti-BN Islamists, and another for anti-BN multiculturalists.

Poster by BN lambasting building of temples by PR
Anti-PR flyer. Doesn’t fit into 1Malaysia concept. It’s a
mystery who put it up.

But what is Umno’s excuse? Could it not, in theory, be the secular, or at the minimum, non-Islamist Malay Malaysian alternative to PAS? Could it not clean up its act in terms of corruption and misrule and yet not take the Islamic bait in its campaign rhetoric? This is the million ringgit question. It is a strategy Umno has not even thought to try in recent memory.

The question is, why? Are Umno leaders equally intent on setting the Islamic agenda on their own terms? Or are they merely using Islamic rhetoric as a political strategy to steal votes from PAS?

Whatever their motivations, it seems to make virtually all contests between Umno and PAS degenerate into an orgy of dishonesty and holier-than-thou Islamism. Perhaps this is what Malay-Muslim Malaysian voters want and enjoy, and what non-Malay, non-Muslim Malaysians are willing to put up with in their quest to choose the lesser evil. But is it good for the future of democracy in Malaysia? This is a question too big for Bagan Pinang alone to answer, but it must be asked nevertheless. favicon

See also: 
High stakes in Bagan Pinang 
Zulkefly Omar’s dilemma 
Campaigning in Bagan Pinang

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10 Responses to “Dishonesty in Bagan Pinang”

  1. pakkarim says:

    I beg your pardon but, Ahmadiyah is not a minority religion.

    It is an organisation based on the teaching of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) who claimed to be the a prophet of Islam, knowing well that Muhammad s.a.w., is the final prophet proclaimed by the Qur’an.

  2. Nicholas Aw says:

    There is more than meets the eye in Bagan Pinang. Pakatan wants to maintain their unbeatable run in by-elections whereas BN desperately tries to break the stranglehold. The latter cannot afford to lose; it’s a do-or-die mission as a loss reflects the people’s sentiments towards BN/Umno which would probably “threaten” its grasp at the federal level.

    The winds of change that came in March 2008 still blows in gales and BN/Umno is aware of a second tsunami come the 13th GE. Despite the cosmetic programmes introduced by Najib such as 1Malaysia, economic liberation of 30% bumiputra participation and other plans, somehow these have not really gone down well with the people, aggravated by allegedly racial issues such as the cow-head incident, the TBH inquest and police double standards.

    The BN/Umno government in spite of strong public support for English to remain as the medium of instruction for the teaching of Mathematics and Science, reverted its policy for reasons best known to them.

    In my opinion, English, although it opens up doors to borderless knowledge, has become a backlash for the government. Many young English-educated citizens, due to exposure to the outside world are now more aware of their rights and would openly protest against government policies if they feel these policies are not good. They show their protest at the ballot box and this is a cause for concern for the BN/Umno government. Perhaps, the hidden agenda is to let the people at large, especially in the rural areas, remain simpletons and what better way then to remove English from their education palate.

    Whatever it is, like a drowning [person] who would clutch at a straw, BN/Umno will go all out to win even to the extent of fielding a tainted candidate.

  3. Hazrul says:

    “And yet, the PR seems uncharacteristically silent about other public interest issues that point at deeper problems in the coalition. There is not a peep about PAS’s support for the whipping sentence against Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarnor for drinking alcohol, its Selangor commissioner’s campaign against the minority Ahmadiyah religious community, its youth wing’s obsession with banning concerts, and cracks within the Selangor PR government..”

    Anybody cares to enlighten me which part(s) of this represents dishonesty? EVERYONE knows where PAS stands on these issues. There are disagreements among the parties, obviously, but I’ve heard somewhere that disagreements are healthy for democracy.

    “There is not even an attempt to explain the coalition’s side of the story regarding these issues. Why?”

    My wild guess is, as a coalition that is serious about WINNING the elections, perhaps they are understandably trying to focus on their strength, rather than on their weakness. That’s common sense, really.

  4. Shahid Bangalore says:

    There is no such thing as an Ahmadiyah religious community. It is the “Ahmadiyah Movement in Islam” whose beliefs are nothing less OR more than the pure and glorious teachings of Islam. Mirza Ahmad (AS) is nothing but a subordinate prophet under the prophethood of Muhammad (saw), who has come to revive faith.

    The sole reason why the Ahmadiyah movement is persecuted is due to its rapid growth, which has made dents in other sects in Islam and among other faiths.

    No where in the Holy Quran is it mentioned prophet Muhammad (saw) is the last prophet. Allah cannot be unfair to his creations by stopping his blessing upon us, by putting an end to prophethood.

    In fact, Allah has kept his promise of continuing prophethood by sending Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (AS).

    Please try to understand what Ahmadiyah Islam is before you judge based on what other people tell you. Use your logic and be rational. At the same time ask Allah in your prayers to show the right path sincerely.


  5. soul survivor says:

    It is not about PAS or Umno, but about justice, truth and faith. This blessed country of Malaysia has been under BN for so long and we can see the destruction of our values going by the minute! Umno’s narrow-hatred nationalism must go once and for all if we [are] to see [a] better Malaysia for […] future generations.

    Do we just stay quietly and do nothing watching how BN/Umno leaders rape our wealth again and again till all is gone? Don’t we want justice for Teoh, Kugan, [those who were in Memali], Jalil Ibrahim, Altantuya….?

    […] Umno [isn’t] and never [practised] true Islam. Umno’s narrow-hatred nationalism has been [an] outright [contradiction] of what […] prohphet’s teaching. [The] Quran clearly states for Muslims to celebrate and respect others. Nationalism is evil […]

    Look [at how] this country has gone […] from bad to worse. Come this Sunday, given a choice between Zulkifly and Isa, I would go for the former, at least that’s for now. To attain your ideals […], let’s do it together slowly and surely but it has to be with Zulkifly! To do it with the Isa guy…sorry a big no [way], Jose! His […] trademark [is] proven and the same goes [for] his party, Umno!

  6. global says:

    Malaysia’s market is too small, people in Bagan Pinang.. should realise and not waste time politicking…. we are moving to [a globalised] world… globalisation is inevitable…. People in Bagan Pinang… please don’t be so obsessed in campaigning.. I can bet you… [neither] [party] is prepared for globalisation by looking at their “cheap agenda”, nothing is about globalisation or knowledge-seeking ….. all about spoon-feeding and slanders….

  7. JINJANG JO says:

    Thank you, Shanon. But the fact is, Umno is more racist and there [are] more extremists in Umno than PAS.

    The people in PAS are true Muslims. They don’t take [the] rakyat’s money and cheat them. There [are] 100s of scandals by Umno and everytime something pops [up], they use every system available to cover it up and pretend as if nothing is wrong.

    Not only that, law [enforcement] does not take action on the wrongdoer but they go all out on the [whistleblower]. This Umno[-led] government is actually cheating the rakyat of billions and there is not even one Mr or [Ms] Clean in the entire Umno. In contrast, there are many honest and honorable people in PAS. They are definitely better people to be trusted with public funds and safe governing. Of course they are more religious. [Truer] Muslims than these Umno jokers who only exploit the religion for their own pockets.

    We all should give the Pakatan Rakyat a chance to prove [itself]. Let’s work together for the sake of our future generation. Come let’s join hands to chase Umno […] back to their cage where they belong. Let’s change the government. I am a Selangorian; ever since the Pakatan Rakyat took over, I pay much less, at times not at all on the water bill. Who is benefiting? The rakyat, the ordinary people like you and me, and not just some cronies like in the case of Umno.

    If […] Umno had won the last elections in Selangor, for sure we would be paying more for water as actually, they wanted to raise the water tariff after the elections. Also be reminded about the difficulties the present Selangor government had to go through to pass this benefit [to] the rakyat. The amount of trouble the Umno federal government gave to the Pakatan to [thwart it] [in] this water project.

    In conclusion, […] let’s go for change, let’s vote out Umno and BN for good.

  8. Sean says:

    “Could [Umno] not clean up its act… ?”

    Can or not? It could imprison all its members who [have] broken the law or [have] solicited or procured wrongdoings. It could unleash the media and expose all the incompetents to criticism, encouraging them to take their rightful place scolding their families from their living room sofas. It could expose the ones with worryingly counter-productive attitudes to the finger-pointing of the righteous, encouraging them to start their own splinter party of misogynists, racists and spiteful sociopaths.

    But how is Ku Li to run the country on his own?

  9. James says:

    Sadly, this is the situation that our beloved Malaysia is in even after 51 years of full independence. Hell, even a much younger nation would have done much better than all this hypocrisy both in the ruling and opposition camps. I believe this is all the fault of the education system which is still going down the big longkang. Obviously all the PMs are responsible for this sad state of affairs since they have served the portfolio. Each and every one of them […] have put in their poisonous knives to destroy the education system. Why? Perhaps they are the true devils that religions speak of.

  10. Dokter Lap says:

    PR is full of pseudo-truths. And Malaysians are not really observant.


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