Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Trivia - Red Devils book flight to Moscow

I'M NOT sure if Man Utd deserves to be in the final of the European Cup. Their fans would probably think so, but to me, Barcelona was denitely the team which provided more of the entertainment.

That aside, the semi final played at Old Trafford, was a nail-biting 90 minute encounter. Paul Scholes goal separated the two sides, enough to take the Red Devils to Moscow for the finals on May 21.

I watched the game at my own humble Theatre of Dreams, accompanied by a big mug of Nescafe tarik and a half hour nap before kik off. When Rijkaard sent in Thiery Henry, I thought that he was going to disappoint Ferguson and the millions of devils across the globe.

But he didn't. Barcelona is a great team with potential match winners all across the field. Much was expected of Messi, as of Ronaldo, voted this year's Footballer of the Year in England. In the end, United stood their ground and will now atempt to win the trophy for only the third time in their history.

After the game, I received several SMS from United fans, asking whether I've booked my flight to Moscow. I wish...

Monday, April 28, 2008

MPs at work - do us proud or get out!

WE have high expectations of the new Parliament which begins tomorrow. There are 222 MPs sitting in the august chamber, elected by the people to serve the people. How they fare as spokesmen for the rakyat and whether they can advance the rakyat's cause will be scrutinised closely.

We the people are a lot more discerning now than ever before. That is already made known via the recent general election, which has also changed the national political landscape for good. Malaysia has to move forward on this landscape, for better or for worse.

After the ground battle of March 8, our MPs will now lock horns on higher ground. It is our hope that they can raise the level of articulation as befitting parliamentary debate. In the past MPs from the ruling coalition had got away with some dubious behaviour, with supporting casts from the opposition bench.

To expect an overnight change in the behaviour of these MPs may be more of wishful thinking, but one should give them the benefit of the doubt. With so many issues confronting us, I don't see how how MPs can hold or control their tongue and speak without bringing the House into disrepute.

New MPs making their maiden appearances may try to create an early impression, which is fine really, provided they show maturity, depth and finesse in their articulation. I hope they will not emulate the 'name calling and other ungentlemanly conduct' of their seniors, some of whom somehow survived the brutal contest of March 8.

Over the years, we all have seen the articulation (or lack of) within the House to the point that reduced it to nothing more than a school debate. To be fair, there were MPs who speak after doing their homework, conducting research as they argue their case. But their numbers were small and often drowned by noisy lawmakers who knew no better.

Looking at some of the names of our MPs who will be taking their oath of office today, I'm not all that optimistic that we have seen the last of the 'bad boys,' that is, legislators who make up their lack of substance with shameful behaviour. We all know who they are.

I bet you that some MPs will try to 'make news' one way or the other during question time, when RTM will be doing their crossovers for live feeds. He or she who speaks the best or who attracts attention may get free live coverage, if RTM sticks to the philosophy of what makes news.

Providing live coverage is good, but hopefully RTM will make a serious attempt to provide coverage in the true sense of professional journalism. Just because so and so is a minister and is scheduled to speak wouldn't guarantee the rakyat glued to the TV. Instead, it will be an injustice to the amount of money spent on live coverage.

But let's not be presumptious. Proceedings haven't even started. Lets observe and make our conclusion later. At the end of the four or five years sitting from now, we'll make our final judgement on our MPs - that's when we separate the wood from the chaff.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hishammuddin's apology draw criticisms

PEMUDA Umno chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has apologised for his keris-wielding and keris-kissing incident at the party annual assembly of 2005 and 2006. The act had upset many non-Malays who viewed the act as provocative and unfriendly.

I'm not sure how the non-Malays view the apology but some of Hishammuddin's comrades in Umno questioned why the Pemuda chief had thought it necessary to offer the apology.

Soon after news of the apology was splashed on television and newspaper pages, many SMS started to fly: "Why? Why make the apology? It's not going to change anything. The act has already caused much damaged and we saw how this was manifested in the March 8 general election.

"It's a bit late in the day."

An Umno divisional leader said the apology made many party members unhappy. They said the Pemuda chief should instead explain to everyone that keris-kissing is not an act of provocation, unless the person doing it had that in mind.

The keris is a symbol of authority among the Malays. Hishammuddin's act of kissing the keris by itself was not an act of provocation, but when accompanied by fiery rhetorics and inflammatory statements, anyone would view it differently.

While the non-Malays still don't like his keris-kissing act (apology notwithstanding), Hishammuddin now finds his Umno comrades are just as unhappy for making the apology. When he first did it in 2005, there were already criticisms. When this was repeated, the criticisms became more vocal and widespread.

More than a symbol of authority, the keris represents sovereignty, especially in the royal palace. I'm sure we all remember the way His Majesty the King showed his respect of the keris when he was installed as the Yang DiPertuan Agong. It was an act of respect and done with much dignity.

If Hishammuddin had done it the same way, he wouldn't have been criticised the way he did. It's unfortunate. An SMS I received today lamented at the fact that a ritual that's so 'malay' and done within a Malay environment could be heatedly criticised.

Its quite ironical. While Hishammuddin apologised and tried to assuage the feelings of non-Malays, he came under fire from his party comrades instead. Another SMS, from a Johor grassroot leaders, with a tone that suggests disgust and disappointment, questioned whether Hishammuddin is worthy to be voted as an Umno vice-president.

Hishammuddin had already declared his willingness to be nominated to contest for one of the three VP posts in the December party poll. He will have to see whether the apology would have any serious bearing on his bid.

There was another apology that also made its way into the pages of most newspapers. His deputy, Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin, received an apology from news portal Malaysiakini.

This followed news report by the portal which reported that Khairy had initially lost in the contest against PKR candidate Badrul Hisham Shaharin during the general election. The portal had also reported that a recount was held to determine the winner.

In the apology, Malaysiakini said: "We have come to know that such a recount did not take place. As such, we would like to apologise to Khairy for publishing that assertion in our subsequent stories."

Khairy's contest with blogger Cikgu Bard came under the spotlight right from the beginning. The PM's son in law won with a majority of 5,726 votes. His opponent meanwhile has filed an election petition at the High Court in Seremban on Friday, seeking to declare the result null and void.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Perihal baju melayu, 'baju kot' org politik

WAKIL Rakyat yang kalah dalam pilihanraya umum pada 8 Mac lalu menunggu dengan penuh harapan setiap kali talipon mereka berdering. Tetapi deringan ini tidaklah sekerap semasa mereka berkuasa, atau sebelum PRU lalu.

Mereka yang menang terus menerima seribu macam panggilan talipon. Ada yang mengucap tahniah dan syabas; ada yang memberi nasihat; dan tidak kurang pula mereka yang mohon bantuan.

Sesetengah wakil rakyat langsung tak jawab panggilan selepas dibawa arus tsunami politik. Mereka mendiamkan diri, dirundung malang. Ada yang pergi menunaikan umrah, ada yang bertafakur panjang.

Dalam kekalahan, ada yang menarik nafas panjang antara lega dan derita. Bagi yang menang pula, ramai yang diberi ingatan bahawa jangan terlalu gembira, kerana duka boleh menimpa pada bila-bila masa sahaja!

Baru-baru ini, kawan dikalangan orang politik bercerita tentang dua kisah - satu kisah wakil rakyat yang menang dan satu kisah calon yang kalah.

Yang menang sibuk bertanya rakannya: "You tahu kat mana I boleh buat baju kot yang elok? I nak masuk Parlimen ni, jadi kenalah pakai baju kot baru! Lepas tu nak buat baju melayu pula kerana yang lama tu dah lusoh."

Hebat dan gah bunyinya! Harap khidmat mereka kepada rakyat juga sama hebat!

Yang kalah ceritanya lain pula: "Aku dah mula naik boring duduk kat rumah. Baru-baru ni ada kawan ajak pergi jamuan. Aku jadi serba salah. Nak pakai baju kot, nampak tak kena kerana aku bukan lagi wakil rakyat. Kalau tak pakai, nampak sengkek pulak!"

Ada seorang bekas YB pula bercerita bagaimana dia memakai baju melayu setiap hari di rumah, samada untuk bersembahyang atau semasa berihat. Si polan mempunyai banyak baju melayu yang berwarna warni. Maklumlah, semasa menjadi YB dia sering dijemput ke majlis-majlis yang memerlukan pakaian demikian.

Satu hari anak bekas YB bertanya dengan nada yang bersahaja: "Ayah, kan ayah dak kalah dalam pilihanraya dulu. Mengapa ayah masih pakai baju melayu setiap hari? Tak perlu lagi ayah..."

Si ayah tergamam mendengar soalan anaknya. Nak ketawa pun ada, sedih pun ada. Jika dia masih dalam suasana muram, soalan anaknya itu membuat dia tersentak dari lamunan panjang.

Tiga dailog ini mencerminkan betapa jelasnya roda politik itu berpusing tanpa mengambilkira ego dan perasaan pelakon utama di persada siasah. Kita tunggu dan lihat apa lagi lakonan dan dailog bakal muncul, terutama dalam suasana politik yang semakin panas sekarang.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Guan Eng got his man at last!

TONGUES will not stop wagging even when former dep sec of Gerakan Lee Kah Choon quit the party to serve DAP Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng as director of the Penang Development Corporation and investPenang.

When the CM offered him the post, and which he accepted, Lee came under fire from all sides. BN Chairman and PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Gerakan advisor Tan Sri Dr Lim Keng Yeik and Acting President Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon all chorussed their dismay and disagreements.

Even DAP Chairman Karpal Singh spoke against the appointment. It was unbecoming for the DAP CM to offer the important post to a Gerakan card-carrying member - this was the message from the DAP strongman.

In offering the post to Lee, Guan Eng must have thrashed out whatever issues that could have surfaced. It was also apparent that both leaders were trying out new grounds in state administration, one that other states within the Pakatan Rakyat are watching closely.

There was no way Lee could serve the state of Penang, unless he part company with the party he claimed to be loyal to. When he did so, it must have been because he loves Penang more, and not because he loves Gerakan less.

It would seem a bit naive for Lee to think that his political masters would allow him to serve their bitter rival. Guan Eng was probably trying out something new too, and found resistance from in and outside the party. In any case, the CM did get his man, albeit not without some public display of 'negotiations.'

Al-Fatihah for Rustam A Sani

RUSTAM A Sani, blogger-writer and one time deputy president of Parti Rakyat, passed away at 3am today. Rustam was about to launch his latest books this Saturday, one of which is dedicated to his 3-year old grandaughter.

His son, Azrani, said his father has not been well of late. Friends of Rustam said he's not been well for the last couple of years but he could still go out for teh tarik with his regular buddies.

Rustam is the son of patriot Datuk Ahmad Boestamam. He was 64. Apart from his books, one can read his writings in his blogs vox populi and Suaraku. Al-Fatihah.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

RTM's Blog - genuine or window dressing?

I SAT through the 20-minute RTM programme called BLOG and concluded that it didn't do justice to the three items aired - the anchor person, the guest and the topic itself. Shown just after the 8pm news slot tonight, the programme failed to live up to the expectation hyped by the TV station itself.

Host Hasshim Abu Hanifah interviewed blogger A Kadir Jasin (the Scribe) over 14 minutes in what was RTM's maiden show intended to educate and inform viewers what blogging is all about.

Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek must be credited with attempting to shed some light on blogging, but the exercise fell flat and I found it most wanting.

Ahmad Shabery's position on blogs was a complete and fresh turnaround from his predecessor, Datuk Zainudin Maidin, who had a negative view of the new media and its impact and widespread popularity. In fact, the new minister's views on blogs surprised many, which led to a rather heightened expectation of tonight's show.

I get the feeling that both Hasshim and Kadir came out of the studio feeling 'unfulfilled.' I may be wrong, but I thought Hasshim wanted a fast-paced talk show; and that Kadir wanted to spend enough time to talk about the subject.

A viewer who knows nothing about blogs wouldn't get any enlightenment about blogging, which is increasingly viewed as more credible than mainstream media. As a blogger, the slot was nothing more than RTM's window dressing - that it has begun to engage bloggers; that it's more open; that it's as relevant as ever.

Even though 20 minutes were allotted to the show, the actual 'engagement' was only 14 minutes. The six minutes were given to questions from viewers via phone-ins and pre-recorded interviews with people in the street on their perception of blogs.

It is interesting to note that 94 per cent of those who responded to RTMs survey during the programme like blogs and found them to be potentially effective as a the new media's approach to information dissemination. The finding was shown at the end of the programme.

While I won't agree with some friends and observers who described the talk show as "pathetic, unprofessional and lacking in depth and dimension," there is merit in their argument that the show lacked sufficient knowledge by the host and TV station.

It showed, rather clearly I must add, that RTM appeared to be clueless about blogs. There are many well-informed people at RTM and they do know and appreciate what blogs are all about. But somehow, this didn't come through tonight.

Which leads to the question - why only 20 minutes? Was it because there was some apprehension about having Kadir, a vocal critic of the establishment, on the show? A live show at that!

I believe the inaugural programme would get better in due time. It's impossible to think otherwise because the station have much resources at its disposal. After all, this is the station's 62nd year in existence! I'm optimistic that the show will get better and stronger. But on tonight's show, I doubt if RTM will get a decent rating at all.

I hope the new minister will not be discouraged by what was shown. There's much room for improvement, and he deserve a pat on the back for trying. Heck, I'd give him C plus for effort!

My next question - will RTM be calling ex-MB of Selangor Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, Datuk Seri Ali Rustam the CM of Malacca, MP Jeff Ooi, YB Shahril A Samad, Raja Petra, Sheih 'Kickdefella,' Ahirudin 'Rocky;s Bru' Attan, Anwar Ibrahim, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhd Taib, Lim Kit Siang and a host of other high profile bloggers to appear on the show?

If this happens, I can bet you that the show's rating will hit the ceiling in no time! But let's not put our hopes too high. In any case, it's still early days. One advice though - if you don't put your expectation too high, then you can manage your disappointment better.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Trivia - nasi lemak bungkus in Gurun

STRANGERS can really be friendly sometimes. I parked at the Gurun rest area along the North South Highway just before 8am today. After about five hours on the road since 2am with a couple of stops earlier, we are all hungry.

I saw several men tucking into nasi lemak packed in the traditional way - banana leaf and all. It looked too good to resist. I went round to all the stalls but couldn't find anyone selling them.

As I passed the four men, I asked them where did they buy the stuff. "We brought from home Abang...specially cooked for breakfast on the highway!"

Wah! Must be really good, I thought. Sheepishly, I walked away and got a table and was ready to tuck into some boring sandwiches and meehoon. How I wish I could get one of nasi lemak bungkus for breakfast, I said in my heart.

Lo and behold! One of the four men walked over with one bungkus for me! He didn't feel good and insisted I have one. What can I say. Malaysians are friendly. And sharing is one of their many qualities. Which is why this is a great country, say what you like!

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NST pg 13 - TV/papers no longer credible

JUST a quick one before work starts full steam today - Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek said TV and newspapers no longer have the credibility that they once commanded. That's what one newspaper said today.

The NST says the public are more skeptical nowadays, and even demand to know who owns the newspapers and who the editors are. This was not the case before, the minister said.

If what the minister says is true, then something must be done to rectify this. A lot of tax payers money are being spent on state-owned television and radio stations, and they can't all be that bad. As for mainstream newspapers, people do still read them and advertisers can't ignore the considerable following they command, albeit a reduced one at that.

One question though - could this erosion in credibiluty be the reason why many politicians, including those from Umno and the BN are turning to the blogs? Even former Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek has come up with his own blog with his first posting on media freedom, or the lack of it.

But you and I know that politicians from Pakatan Rakyat have had their blogs much earlier. And they have interacted much better with their constituents.

The minister made this comments after opening a media workshop at Universiti Malaya yesterday. After the opening, it was my turn to speak to the 30-odd journalists from Malaysia and other countries.

My take on this is simple - if the mainstream media remain professional, their credibility will be restored. And one immediate step to help them stay professional is to remove whatever hold politicians have on the media, be it institutional or personal.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Muhyiddin: "Time for change."

UMNO vice president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin didn't say it in so many words. But it's quite clear that the leadership change within Umno should take place as soon as possible considering the party is now in a 'dangerous zone,' one that it may not recover from if drastic measures are not taken.

In fact, he says the leadership change can take place at any point in time, and need not be at the annual assembly scheduled for December. Muhyiddin's open and frank views can be read in today's Mingguan Malaysia.

In a one-page interview held just before Johore Umno met Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in JB last week, Muhyiddin said: "If we don't take urgent and drastic measures, we will be swept away. I'll even go as far as saying that we may never recover our political power if we fail to act now."

I was alerted of the interview on Saturday by a couple of friends. Mingguan Malaysia is known for political interviews, making it a better read for Malay readers on a leisurely Sunday. Muhyiddin's interview is titled 'Time for Change.'

In recent weeks, Muhyiddin's name has been bandied about as a likely candidate for the party top post. This follows a seemingly innocent mention of his name by former party president and Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, at a forum in PJ about two weeks ago.

I can only assume that Muhyiddin's name was highlighted after some statements he has been making which reflected a more independent view, away from the sound bytes made by other Umno leaders which echoed that of Pak Lah's feelings and opinions.

A sidebar of the interview was devoted to one question on Dr Mahathir's repeated criticisms of the present leadership. Muhyiddin's response was simple and straight-forward. He said Dr M's criticism can be painful and bitter at time, but he says so out of love for the party.

Whether you agree with him or not is another matter, but you cannot ignore his views. Maybe there's a blessing from all his criticisms, Muhyiddin said. Many Umno leaders are still hesitant to speak out, and the others who did appear to be still on a denial mode hangover.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Umno div chiefs: 'We don't want Pak Lah'

THE SMS have been coming thick and fast, as do reports on various news portals and blogs - the majority of Umno division chiefs in Kedah and Penang yesterday said they don't want Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi to continue to head the party.

Today, division chiefs of Johore Umno meet Pak Lah and will make known their feelings to the Prime Minister. The Kedah and Penang chiefs gave their views loud and clear to party deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak.

Since the closed-door meeting was with Najib, the division chiefs could speak freely and candidly. And they had asked Najib, who led a small delegation which include vice presidents Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, to convey their views to Pak Lah.

The Johore meeting may be a bit more tricky since they will face their boss directly. How would they convey their views to him, and if they do, how would the boss react?

But there's no way the Johore chiefs can avoid not mentioning their true feelings to the Prime Minister. Losing five states and not able to maintain their two-third majority are too much to stomach for Umno leaders, who now aren't able to walk with their heads held high. If you ask me, some of them deserve to be defeated because of the high and mighty disposition they choose to adopt.

The momentum for change seems to be very strong, and it moves very fast too. The groundswell that is felt on the ground is mounting and many voices are heard demanding change. I doubt if anyone in the party hierachy can stop the call for change, given the continous statements of denial from some top leaders.

The grassroot leaders have had enough, and they are now launching their own internal tsunami. Which explains why the Kedah and Penang chiefs are demanding their state liaison chief and deputy to vacate their positions. It looks like Umno members have their own version of makkal shakti!

Events in the next few days and weeks are going to be very interesting, if not potentially explosive. The Prime Minister is not without support. As the incumbent, Pak Lah has the full might of high office to defend his position.

But as we all know, politics is about perception more than truth. The voices from Kedah and Penang are now heard all across the country, and one can expect echoes resonating loud and clear.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Umno Johor & isu babi PR jadi tumpuan

ISU politik saban hari menjadi berita utama di akhbar dan televisyen arus perdana. Begitu juga di laman web dan blog, yang mengikuti setiap langkah perkembangan terutama selepas berlakunya tsunami politik sebulan lalu.

Hari ini saya terbaca laporan akhbar Singapura yang menyebut bahawa Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi akan 'dipujuk' untuk meletakkan jawatan. Kerja memujuk ini dibuat oleh Umno Johor, menurut laporan itu lagi.

Saya belum lagi terbaca penafian terpeinci dari pemimpin Umno Johor. Mungkin ia akan menyusul selepas pertemuan Pak Lah dengan pemimpin Johor besok (Jumaat). Nampaknya, tumpuan politik Umno berpindah sekejap ke Johor, apatah lagi dengan kunjungan Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah yang dijadualkan berucap di Muar Ahad ini.

Rata-rata politik menjadi buah mulut. Beberapa usahawan yang saya temui khuatir kerana terlalu banyak masa dihabis kepada politik dan mereka tertanya apakah ini tidak akan menjejaskan pentadbiran, terutama dari segi kerja-kerja pengisian masyarakat selepas pilihanraya.

Umpamanya, Kerajaan Negeri Terengganu hanya baru tertubuh dengan penuhnya selepas ahli EXCO mengangkat sumpah semalam. Banyak masa terbuang dengan politik, kata mereka. Mereka berpendapat politik akan terus menguasai agenda negara setidak-tidaknya hngga akhir tahun apabila Umno mengadakan perhimpunannya.

Tetapi di Selangor lain pula. Kerajaan Pakatan Rakyat sedang berhadapan dengan isu keputusannya untuk meluluskan projek ternakan babi berjumlah RM100 juta. Sudah pasti perkara ini memaksa Pas sebagai komponen Pakatan Rakyat bergelut dengan rakan kongsinya. Apapun, Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim bertegas untuk meneruskan projek itu.

Kesediaan Pas untuk menerima projek itu walaupun ia tidak bersetuju dengannya sebelum pilihanraya membuktikan bahawa parti komponen PR benar-benar sedang berusaha mencari titik pertemuan dalam barisan mereka yang setahun jagung itu.

Kita boleh membuat andaian bahawa isu sensiviti tidak langsung menjadi faktor dalam keputusan projek ini. Kerajaan PR melihat ini sebagai pelaburan besar yang menjamin pulangan besar. Soalnya, apakah PR sanggup mengenepikan perasaan pengundi Islam semata-mata mahu mengejar laba? Tidakkah PR khuatir bahawa mereka akan kehilangan pengundi Islam di masa depan?

Disebaliknya, apakah PR akan kehilangan pengundi bukan Islam pula di masa akan datang? Ini adalah satu-satunya cabaran awal kerajaan PR Selangor. Mungkin ada baiknya jika Kerajaan Selangor mengkaji semula projek itu, terutama dari segi saiz dan jumlah pelaburan. Mungkin kerajaan Selangor berhasrat mengekspot babi ke negeri lain, atau ke luar negara.

Usaha menternak babi dengan kaedah baru menggunaklan teknoloji moden memang ada. Antara lain, teknoloji ini boleh menyekat pencemaran alam dan menjamin ternakan yang lebih teratur.

Soalannya - apakah kerajaan Selangor benar-benar memerlukan projek sebesar ini? Mengapa tidak buat yang kecil mencukupi untuk keperluan Selangor sahaja? Kita tidak mahu melihat kerajaan Selangor mengutama keuntungan sambil membelakangkan sensiviti pengundi dan rakyat.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

When Prime Ministers lock horns...

WHEN Prime Ministers trade barbs, even if one is no longer in office, the bruises are there for all to see. The on-going argument between Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad goes to another level after last Sunday's war of words.

Both of them had separate speaking engagements - Pak Lah at PWTC and Dr Mahathir at a hotel in Ampang. Pak Lah's do was organised by the Information Bureau of Umno and Dr Mahathir's was by an Umno branch.

The mainstream newspapers and tv networks showed the PM taking Dr Mahathir to task for various faults during his 22 years in office. Dr Mahathir, on the other side of town, continued his call for Pak Lah to step down and take responsibility for his action.

Dr Mahathir has been at Pak Lah since the latter lost five states and the two-third majority in the Dewan Rakyat following the March 8 general election. Dr Mahathir has expressed unhappiness over the erosion in credibility and control of Umno and the Barisan National in national politics, just four years after the resounding victory in 2004.

Pak Lah, hitting back at Dr Mahathir, insisted that now is not the time to speak about quitting from his job. Now is the time to close ranks and make every effort to consolidate the party and restore members' confidence. Pak Lah attributed the loss to 'saboteurs' who betrayed the party by various means.

In the midst of all this, a small town Umno Branch Chief called me and lamented that his members are clueless as to what is happening to the party whom he had supported since childhood. He said there are many others like him at the grassroot level who's confused, angry and disappointed after the poll.

His contention is simple. With all the allegations and counter allegation, someone has to be right. He is of the opinion that Umno's future will not be any brighter if party leaders ignore the plea from the grassroot that wrong strategies were the main reason for what he described as the most humiliating defeat in the party history.

Coming from a state now under the rule of Pakatan Rakyat, the branch chief has not been able to walk tall in his town after the election. His members are not regrouping, prefering instead to go their separate ways to lick their wounds.

He refused to pin the losses on Pak Lah alone, echoing the party president's statement that he can't be made to be solely responsible. The past is the past, he said, arguing that some serious and drastic solutions are needed to ensure Umno's continued relevance. Let's have some fresh ideas, and fresh leaders too.

He follows closely developments within the party, more from direct discussions with fellow grassroot leaders rather than from the mainstream newspapers. Some reports in some newspapers linked to Umno and the BN contributed to the losses, he said, asking whether would the mass media be also guilty of sabotage.

I wouldn't give too much attention to a branch chief but he was so passionate in his articulation. He said the people has spoken. He now wants his voice as an Umno member he heard, to be allowed to make a choice as to who he feels should lead the party and restore its credibility, respect and confidence.

He is sure that Pak Lah have his own band of supporters and followers, as do Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak and all the top names in the party. Rather than skirting round the bush, my friend said point blank:

"Let the members decide once and for all who should lead the party. Let there be free contests so that everyone has a say in whom they want. All this talk about quotas and call for stepping down and finger pointing are just academic. Pak Lak have his own merits, as do Ku Li and whoever else who want to join the fray.

"Let us show our BN component members and the Pakatan Rakyat that Umno is serious in wanting to reinvent itself via its own reforms."

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Pemilihan Umno - calon mula atur langkah

APABILA Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein membuat keputusan untuk melepaskan jawatan Ketua Pemuda Umno, soalan spontan yang datang ialah - dia nak bertanding jawatan Naib Presiden ka?

Soalan lain yang timbul ialah - siapa jadi pengganti beliau di Pemuda? Dan bolehkah Hishammuddin mengisi satu dari tiga kerusi naib presiden yang ditawarkan?

Pengumuman Hishammuddin minggu ini bukan sesuatu yang mengejutkan. Malah, di kalangan ahli Umno dan pemerhati politik, pengumuman itu memang sudah diduga. Beliau tidak pula menamakan siapa yang harus menjadi pengganti, dan ini meningkatkan spekulasi bahawa ramai dikalangan jawatankuasa pemuda yang mungkin mahu mencuba nasib.

Dua nama yang sudah menyuarakan minat untuk merebut jawatan itu ialah bekas Menteri Besar Selangor, Datuk Seri Mohd Khir Toyo, yang juga ahli majlis tertinggi Umno. Ahli Parlimen Jerlus, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, yang mendapat undi tertinggi semasa pemilihan AJK Pemuda di pemilihan lepas, juga mengumumkan minat untuk bertanding.

Naib Pemuda, Ahli Parlimen Rembau Khairy Jamaludin yang juga menantu kepada Perdana Menteri dan presiden Umno, belum lagi membuat keputusan samada akan bertanding atau tidak. Menurut berita yang tersiar dalam akhbar, Khairy akan membuat keputusan selepas menemui penyokongnya dan ahli akar umbi Umno.

Mukhriz, anak mantan Perdana Menteri dan presiden Umno, dan Dr Khir, adalah antara dua pemimpin yang mencetuskan kontroversi dalam tempoh satu tahun yang lampau. Mukhriz, selepas menang kerusi Jerlun, menulis surat kepada Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi supaya berundur dari jawatannya akibat prestasi buruk Umno dan BN pada pilihanraya umum ke 12 8 Mac lalu.

Dr Khir pula hilang negeri dan kemudian melepaskan jawatan ketua perhubungan Umno negeri Selangor atas alasan bahawa beliau bertanggungjawab atas kekalahan Umno dan BN di negeri itu. Nasib orang politik begitulah - ada naik, ada turun, ada puji, ada keji.

Mereka yang marah dengan Dr Khir kerana memberi penyapu kepada seorang kakitangan kanan negeri itu kerana penurunan prestasi, berkata: "Dulu Dr Khir beri hadiah penyapu kepada setahnya. Tetapi, rupa-rupanya dia yang kena sapu."

Saya percaya ada beberapa nama lain yang akan timbul sebelum pemilihan Pemuda akhir tahun ini. Dan adalah tidak mustahil juga salah seorang dari dua nama yang tertera setakat ini mengundur diri dan membeli laluan kepada rakannya. Yang pasti, akan bermulalah kempen dikalangan calon. Soalnya, setakat mana kempen ini akan berjalan dengan jujur tanpa menjejaskan imej parti?

Begitu juga perebutan untuk kerusi naib presiden. Buat masa ini, jawatan itu dipenuhi oleh Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin dan Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, Ketua Menteri Melaka. Tidak atau belum ada tanda kedua mereka akan melepaskan jawatan ini.

Malah, ada ahli Umno dan pemerhati politik yang tertanya-tanya apakah yang dimaksudkan oleh Dr Mahathir apabila menyebut nama Muhyiddin sebagai salah seorang yang layak memimpin Umno. Dalam percaturan politik, perkara sebegini mungkin ada muslihatnya tersendiri.

Apapun, selepas pilihanraya umum, kegiatan politik akan masih menjadi tumpuan utama setidak-tidaknya hingga akhir tahun ini. Besok (Ahad) Pak Lah akan berucap kepada ahli Umno di PWTC, dan sama-samalah kita tunggui intipati ucapannya.

Jika tak silap saya, Dr Mahathir juga akan mengadalan perjumpaan dengan ahli Umno bahagian Cheras dalam satu pertemuan pagi. Dan semalam, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, mengadakan mesyuarat di bahagiannya di Gua Musang dan beliau juga berucap tentang halatuju Umno dan masalah yang melanda parti itu sekarang.

Tahun ini ialah tahun penting bagi Umno. Sejauh mana ia boleh mengukuhkan kedudukannya sebagai tonggak dalam BN bergantung kepada sejauh mana parti Melayu itu berjaya menghasilkan muafakat yang televan, telus dan padu.

Jika dahulu ahli Umno tidak boleh memandang Pas atau PKR dengan sebelah mata sekalipun, hari ini keadaan sudah berubah. Dalam pilihanraya yang baru tamat, sudah ada ahli Umno yang mengundi parti lawan atas pelbagai sebab - protes, kecil hati, kurang yakin dengan kepimpinan, dimungkiri janji, hilang setiakawan dan entah apa lagi.

Apakah pemilihan parti akhir tahun ini dapat mengubat hati luka mereka? Tunggu dan lihat.

Suddenly, blogging is important, necessary

WHEN new Information Minister Datuk Shabery Cheek started engaging bloggers, and thus debunking his predecessor's negative perception of the cyber-journalists, little did we know that this was the cue Umno politicians was waiting for.

After former Selangor MB Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo started hs blog towards last March, another colleague of his started one. This is the Malacca Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam. The two must have gotten over their fear of being described liars, goblogs and monkeys by their Umno brethren.

It's early days yet, but Dr Khir's blog appears to have received tremendous response since he started. "It's impossible to respond to every query. But I read every single comment submitted."

The two joined several Opposition bloggers who have been writing much earlier. They include MPs Jeff Ooi, Wee Choo Kewong, Husam Musa, Elizabeth Wong, Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang.

These people did not blog just for the fun of it - they blog because they want to engage their voters, and blogging give the voters direct access to their wakil rakyat. Four or five years down the road, these MP-bloggers would be in a better position to try and convince voters to vote for them.

While Dr Mohd Khir's blog seems to be flourishing with comments from readers, Ali Rustam's three postings have yet to receive a single comment from readers. This could be because the blog is more of a mirror of the CM's political statements and press releases.

Someone must tell him that he needs to do better than that to nurture a following. It's not a lie Datuk, it's the truth, believe me!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Umno bosses bury their head in the sand

SADLY, many UMNO top brass prefer to discuss party problems only within the confines of the party headquarters at PWTC. When an Umno-linked news portal, KMU.Net, organised a one-day forum discussing the March 8 general election, many top leaders chose to stay away and watch from a distance.

Some sent their representatives over, and they would later brief their bosses what transpired. Only former Selangor Menteri Besar and fellow blogger, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, came as a panelist in the open forum. As expected, Dr Khir was asked numerous questions and often his responses were drowned by the jeering from the crowd.

It's a credit to Dr Khir for turning up. And this was after his Liaison Chief, new Minister Tan Sri Muhamad Haji Muhamad Taib, had advised him from attending. This is something many just couldn't understand. A Ketua Cawangan called me to ask if the so-called advice was true.

When told that it was, the veteran grassroot combatant said: "When will these people learn! They are still in a state of denial. They'd rather behave like an ostrich and bury their head in the sand. With this kind of attitude, forget about wanting to regain the state!"

A committee member of a division in Kuala Lumpur abided by the advice and stayed away. Later in the evening, she asked when she could get a copy of the VCD of the forum proceedings! There are many like her who are eagerly waiting for the VCD, and it's only a matter of time before they turn their backs on their leaders and continue their struggle elsewhere.

If these leaders had attended the forum, they would have seen the anger the ordinary members feel about the outcome of the election. This sense of anger and deep disappointment is not likely going to go away, and it's possible that it'll resurface at the year end general assembly. In fact, I won't be surprised if the anger will manifest itself at the branch and divisional meetings soon to take place.

Such meetings were generally routine affairs in the past, though there were instances of fisticuffs in isolated areas before. I don't think this year's meeting will be a tame affair. Let's wait and see.

It would also be interesting to see what could happen when the Gua Musang division headed by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah hold its EGM this Friday. Ku Li, who is trying to get enough support to call for a national EGM to amend the rule in the constitution governing contest for top posts, has invited other divisional heads to his big do.

I haven't heard it yet, but I expect similar advice from party headquarters to discourage other divisional heads from attending. This is one attempt of alienating Ku Li from the Umno masses. We'll know if it works in the next day or two.

While Umno leaders huddled in private meetings in their homes or offices, top leaders of the Gerakan, MCA and MIC had already initiated their own analysis of the election. Each of them are trying to determine their relevance on the national political landscape - not an easy task I can tell you!

On the day Umno top brass bury their head in the sand, the DAP, PKR and Pas sat down to announce the formation of Pakatan Rakyat, an alliance which they hope could be the foundation of an enduring pact among themselves. As of now, Pakatan Rakyat is on trial in Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Federal Territory.