Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Arrogance Par Excellence

“Can we have a deal, can we have an understanding or not?”
“The understanding is quite simple…you help me I help you”
Ini bukan tipu…if you deliver me Robert Lau on Sunday, on Monday I will ask the cheque to be prepared.”
“This is our deal tonight…I don’t know how much it cost…okay lah, Robert Lau menang, I ask the 5 million to be prepared Monday.”

These were some of the words uttered by our prime minster in Sibu recently. Our very Najib Abdul Razak, who is, incidentally, most interested in a so-called ‘1Malaysia.’ I have to say, I have been very confused since the beginning about this ‘1Malaysia’ idea of his. Quite frankly, it really struck me as very empty and shallow. I just did not get it how there could be so many policies of this government that were deliberately divisive and discriminatory, but yet he tries to sell us this slogan of ‘1Malaysia.’

But his speech in Rejang Park during the Sibu by-election campaign, where he was unambiguous in his choice of words, clearly captured and encapsulated for me what this government – and his ‘1Malaysia’ slogan - is all about. In his ‘1Malaysia’ we the people and his party are one (meaning together), only when we vote for his party. Apparently, we give him what he wants, and then we are eligible for retribution in the form of a cheque. Alas, he gets the one candidate of his picking, and we get one cheque! Could this be what his ‘1Malaysia’ is all about?

Well, this is about as close as I can get to seeing what his slogan translates into in practice. This got me wondering: under our laws, can a politician actually indulge in such political horse-trading for votes? I know we’ve seen numerous previous instances of enticements and monies distributed on behalf of certain political camps to influence voters. But this blatant, shameless and unadulterated bargaining for votes is truly shocking.

Beyond the mockery that this makes of the election law, it also reveals the extent to which Zaid Ibrahim’s remarks, that the various enforcement agencies are nothing but mere facilitators of the prime minster’s agenda, ring so true.

But closer scrutiny of the prime minster’s horse-trading that day in Rejang Park actually provides more evidence of the frequently heard charge of Umno arrogance. Rather than appealing to voters for why his candidate is deserving of the voters’ trust, like a master teasing his pet, Najib toyed with and mocked the desperation and vulnerability of the voters. Sarcastically asking the crowd if they badly needed funds for dealing with the flooding problem, he dangled them some meat, if they would only roll over, so to speak.   

There for us all to see was a classic moment of Umno’s arrogance on display. He did not see the need to actually make the case of why his candidate was better qualified, more suited and capable of serving the public. Rather, like a master talking down to his subjects (or pets), he stood before them and reminded them of their subservient position: they would get help but they had to first show allegiance to the master.

To this observer, there was no sentiment in his tone or voice of sympathising with the predicament of the residents there. There was not a sliver of understanding of the concerns of the people shown by him. Indeed, not even an acknowledgment of why, despite years of control of Sibu and Sarawak, residents in places such as Rejang Park continue to endure hardships from flooding. He saw no need to atone for BN failures to the people in Sibu. 

Rather, Najib came across as aloof, calculated and cold in his “deal” to them.
Such is the arrogance of the Umno mindset.

Apparently the prime minster has commented that Barisan Nasional lacked “creativity” in its Sibu campaign. I suppose one could say that given his posturing in Rejang Park, indeed he could have been more creative in disguising the Umno arrogance that was on display. But then again, much like the ‘1Malaysia’ gimmick, would we really have been fooled by such “creativity”?

G. Krishnan