Sunday, 29 July 2012

Power never takes a back step - JOSH HONG

Josh Hong

So, High Court judge Rohana Yusof quashed Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein's order last year declaring Bersih unlawful. In other words, the umbrella group that is made up of more than 60 NGOs can now function as a legal entity with head held high.

It is vindication for the Bersih 2.0 steering committee, especially for Ambiga Sreenevasan, Pak Samad Said and Maria Chin Abdullah.

And also a small victory in Malaysians' long and tumultuous walk for political freedom.

Of far greater significance are Justice Rohana's remarks that "in my view, the decision is tainted with irrationality... The decision to declare Bersih unlawful was made without taking into account some relevant facts or by taking into account irrelevant facts".

This is a damning verdict on the home minister who claims to hold a master's degree in law from the now not-so-prestigious London School of Economics.

In plain language, Hishammuddin is simply kepala angin and his paranoid behaviour before the two Bersih rallies - July 2011 and in April this year - was nothing but befitting a mad dog.

Then again, the quality - or the lack of it - of this particular Umno princeling  has always been highly controversial, and his keris-waving antics were a major contributing factor to Umno's losing Malay votes that remain vivid in the minds of many.
No amount of whitewashing will be able to erase that racist and jingoistic image of his from public memory.

NONEWhen a group of cow-head protesters hurled insults at the Hindus in August 2009, Hishammuddin - whose father is fondly remembered as a gentle statesman - rushed to their defence by arguing pig heads had been used to stir up Muslim sentiments.

Still, any seasoned lawyer will know two wrongs never make a right, and the correct approach was to condemn both, instead of practically endorsing the act of either of them by appealing for ‘understanding' in front of the media.

Persistently high crime rates continue to plague Hishammuddin's records. He and the inspector-general of police may blame them on ‘perception', but facts speak for themselves. Car parks in shopping malls are no longer safe, while break-ins are as banal as one's frequenting a mamak stall across Malaysia.

Tell missions to remove travel advice

Who are now the best people for the home minister to consult as to whether the rising crime rates are merely a public perception? Malacca state exco member Latiff Tamby Chik and Faizah Shuib, widow of the late former deputy home minister during Mahathir's era?

If the government is so certain that KL is as safe as Singapore or Oslo, perhaps it can tell the foreign missions, such as Austria and Ireland, to remove their travel advice over street crimes in our capital.

NONEOne may ask how on earth the worst-performing and internationally notorious home minister has been able to keep his job until now? It has to do with the fact that removal of Hishammuddin from cabinet will entail severe consequences for Najib Abdul Razak, the apprentice prime minister who is best known for being adverse to taking risks.

Najib may look popular according to surveys, but he has no faithful allies in government, thanks partly to his vainglorious wife. Given Hishammuddin's fleeting loyalty and opportunistic character - who once praised Mahathir profusely as his ‘idol' and conveniently forgot his own father's and grandfather's contributions to forging ethnic unity - even kinship ties can become fragile before the temptation of power.

As Malcolm X put it succinctly: power never takes a back step - only in the face of more power.

Hishammuddin now sees himself just two steps away from Seri Perdana, and any attempt to block him will likely result in a concerted effort to engineer an early downfall of Najib involving Muhyddin Yassin, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (another infamous fence-sitter) and, no doubt, Mahathir Mohamad, who has been scheming for his son Mukhriz to be fast-tracked into cabinet.

So, expect him to stay put.

But the docile, almost slavish mainstream media are equally responsible for sustaining Hishammuddin in his position. Other than Utusan Malaysia, the New Straits Times, Berita Harian and The Star that are now completely written off for their propagandistic deception, the Sin Chew Daily, too, is in the habit of back-scratching.

Don't forget: on the eve of the Bersih 2.0 protest last year, several Sin Chew senior journalists spin-doctored the rally - which was in full compliance with our constitution - as being unlawful and an attempt to subvert the ‘rule of law'.

Now that the High Court has chastised Hishammuddin for his reckless behaviour, the self-congratulatory Sin Chew must issue an apology for distorting the good intentions of the Bersih 2.0 steering committee or make itself a laughing stock with its own assertion to ‘uphold integrity'.

So must Hishammuddin.

Or maybe it does not really matter any more, since a large segment of the Malaysian electorate is ready to punish him and his cohorts through the ballot box.

JOSH HONG studied politics at London Metropolitan University and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A keen watcher of domestic and international politics, he longs for a day when Malaysians will learn and master the art of self-mockery, and enjoy life to the full in spite of politicians.

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