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Time to save the BN

(© Alan Snelling/Dreamstime)

MARRIAGES get into trouble. Even political marriages like the Barisan Nasional (BN) face tough times.

When (as opposed to “if”) marriages get into trouble, there are a few options available. The trendy option is to divorce, but like all trends, it comes with a hefty price tag. The boring approach is to save the marriage. Another option is to stay in the marriage and try to exasperate each other to death, which may make for some interesting drama but does no good to anybody.

So, should this political marriage known as the BN go with the flow and divorce? That is unlikely, given the many years and even decades its members have invested in this marriage. And while we sometimes forget, despite current choppy times, the BN is still the government in power.

Assuming the BN parties do not choose to exasperate each other to death (which remains an assumption for the moment, judging from past conduct), that leaves us with the boring option of saving the BN.

What? Save the BN? Are you out of your mind? I can almost hear the screams streaming through the pro-opposition internet lines. (Incidentally, just for the record, the internet lines were yet another project by the BN government.)

(© Thiago Miqueias/
The drugs don’t work

Ironically, for over half a century, we have been bombarded with the propaganda that it is the BN which has been saving us. They struggled for our independence (“oooh”). They struck the deal to allow us immigrants safe haven in Malaya (“aaah”). They resisted the dreaded communists who were hell-bent on creating havoc (again, “oooh”). They keep different races at peace despite our most vicious attempts to kill each other (you know what to do… “aaah”). We can go on and on. One could almost reach a climax reciting praises about the BN.

Somewhere along the line, the propaganda started to lose its appeal. By 8 March, enough people had woken up to the fact that reality far differs from propaganda. The result was the tsunami that followed. Parti Gerakan Rakyat, being embedded in the coastal state of Penang, felt the tremors the worst, and was nearly wiped out as a result.

Supporters of Gerakan candidates prepare to hand out campaign
leaflets outside the assembly hall where the national delegates
conference was held
Before the party’s national delegates conference over the weekend, we heard a crescendo of voices clamouring for Gerakan to leave the BN.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim continues to work towards getting the mandate of at least 31 MPs in order to topple the BN government. Apparently, they have the numbers already, but like a pre-motherhood Britney Spears, they remain coy about their bedfellows. The fundamental assumption seems to be that the collapse of the BN would be imminent, and would ultimately be good for Malaysia.

The collapse of BN (if at all) would of course be good for the Pakatan Rakyat, but would it be good for Malaysia?

An idiot-proof system

I am reminded of an American management theory as I ponder this question. Of course there is much that is wrong with American management, hence the state of their economy today. But like it or not, they have the sexiest slogans in the management world, which make their theories appealing and memorable. And one of the theories propounded by the barrage of American management gurus is the idea that “the system is the solution”.

(© Jan KratÄ›na/
In other words, don’t solve problems by recruiting a genius. Solve problems by creating a system, and use idiots to operate the system at the lowest possible cost. If a system is idiot-proof, that means it is a genius of a system which can be franchised to the rest of the world at a ridiculous price. That’s the apparent secret behind McDonald’s, the ultimate system to transform teenagers who have never fried an egg into restaurant operators all over the world.

If you haven’t figured out by now, the so-called genius under current perceptions is Anwar Ibrahim. Of course, some would name the leading nominee to the Umno throne as an alternative. But usually such a suggestion only comes late on Friday nights after many, many rounds of beverages, and that, too, is followed by huge guffaws.

Anwar, on the other hand, is our rising star. He is our Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama rolled into one. He is the one who can do no wrong, even on 16 Sept when he did no right. Anwar Ibrahim is, for lack of a better word, our saviour.

There is a slight problem with saviours of nations. Sometimes they turn out well, like Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. Other times, they turn out less satisfactorily. Mao Zedong and Robert Mugabe spring to mind. Although at least one of them is still drawing foreign direct investment into the country by way of ticket payments for visits to his mausoleum.

(Images public domain except Anwar Ibrahim, ©The Nut Graph)

The US seems to have gone down a better route, whereby instead of saviours, they have thrived on putting systems in place. In this way, the US flounders along regardless of the personalities of their leaders. Hence, despite Clinton and in spite of Bush, the US remains the global leader that it is. The systems are sufficiently well-developed to ensure that no president would do too much good, but neither could any president do too much harm. Whether Obama or McCain, the country ends up the winner.

Defend the two-party system

A strong two-party system would be a great place to start for Malaysia, and for the first time in a long time, we have a coalition that has the potential to be an alternative to the BN. Hip, hip, hooray! That’s tremendously good news, provided (and only provided) the BN continues to exist.

The problem with a two-party system is that it requires at least two competitive parties to thrive. Without the BN, we would have no two-party system. In that event, the Pakatan Rakyat would merely stand for more of the same old one-party nonsense.

If you have any doubts about this, consider the fact that to date, Pakatan has failed to take any concrete action against its MP, Zulkifli Nordin. Zulkifli infamously broke up the recent Bar Council forum, purportedly in defence of Islam.

Compared with the Pakatan Rakyat’s non-action, the weakened Umno at least suspended Ahmad Ismail for three years. After all, the last thing the Pakatan wants is to see 31 MPs crossing the floor in their direction, only to have one of their own cross the other way. Unfortunately, until the leadership tussle is over, the Pakatan Rakyat needs every one of its MPs more than its MPs need the Pakatan.

Yes, the BN is weakened, and there are many things wrong with it. However, it is precisely these wrongs that have helped the Pakatan Rakyat ride its present wave of popularity. In a most ironic way, the BN, in its pride, may have helped to speed the evolution of a two-party system in Malaysia. If that comes to be, we can perhaps credit the BN for finally living up to its long-declared propaganda of saving Malaysia after all.

Chan Kheng Hoe is an advocate and solicitor cum mediator. He would love to tell you much more about himself, but alas, that is as much as is allowed by the Legal Profession (Publicity) Rules.

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2 Responses to “Time to save the BN”

  1. Daniel says:

    We need a system that puts attention back onto the people. Given the number of corrupted or failed leaders in history, why bet on just one leader/saviour?

    Check out what Mrs. Elliott did in her classroom. She has a system/game that shows the flaw of another “system” and I think in the end, it points us back to the simplicity of the Golden Rule.

  2. Siva Thanenthiran says:

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you mention system change. Although many hold the opinion that Malaysians are looking for leadership change, my take on the situation is that they are actually looking for a system change. And the change from a one-party system to a two-party system is only one aspect of the larger change that Malaysians desire.

    In fact the two-party system (now put in place by the people) is one way of ensuring accountability and transparency. And it is actually a manifestation of the greater need for accountability and transparency. However, the only way the Malaysian masses can effect this system change is through voting i.e. by changing people. Hence, March 8 has always been interpreted (too easily ) as asking for merely ‘leadership change’.

    So the real question is, do you think Malaysians are looking for a ‘people change’ or are they looking for a ‘system change’? And if it is a system change they are looking for – is a two-party system (as important as it is) enough to satisfy the need for accountability and transparency?

    And if the two parties are, more or less, birds of the same feather, is it really a two party system at all? Because other than the fact that BN and Pakatan Rakyat occupy different sides in the House, what is it that really differentiates both these coalitions?

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