August 31, 2009
Voters Drawing the Line
by Dr.M. Bakri Musa
In the heyday of UMNO the joke was that the party could field a dog as an election candidate and it would still win. The party leaders must still harbor that delusion for in the recent Permatang Pasir state by-election (August 25, 2009) they fielded a disbarred lawyer. This time however, voters wisely drew the line at the dog.
The surprise was not that Rohaizat Othman successfully hoodwinked UMNO leaders to secure the nomination rather how easily those senior leaders were taken in by this shyster. Now that their candidate has been thrashed, those UMNO leaders were belatedly bemoaning the fact that their chosen man had been less than truthful to them. That is the quality of UMNO top leadership, folks!
Even after the sordid details of the man’s sleazy professional past and checkered personal life had surfaced, UMNO leaders still vigorously defended their choice. They had the nerve to suggest that those critics were trying to smear the UMNO candidate. Those UMNO leaders obviously did not realize that their man was already soiled.
Reflection on Muhyiddin
Consider UMNO Deputy President and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s comments. He went to great lengths defending the integrity of his party’s standard bearer. He likened the Bar Council’s sanctions as nothing more than a traffic violation! I recognize that traffic in Malaysia is terrible, but really! I wonder what it would take to be branded a crook and thus be disqualified by Muhyiddin’s reckoning. I am making a huge assumption here, that is, the man has some standards.
A commentator in the mainstream media reported that Muhyiddin was apparently livid on hearing the details of Rohaizat. Only his severe poker face belied his anger, so she claimed. If Muhyiddin was truly angry he sure did not reveal it in his actions; he was ‘gung ho’ right to the end. That commentary revealed more about the writer – ‘sucking up’ to Muhyiddin so early on. She should try a better excuse next time.
It is a recent tradition with UMNO that its deputy leader be in charge of by-elections. This Permatang Pasir election was the first to be under the direct leadership of Muhyiddin. Hence his comments and actions bear scrutiny.
Muhyiddin’s decision to continue with Rohaizat’s candidacy despite all the revealed blemishes says volumes on the judgment as well as ethical standards of Muhyiddin. Not to scare readers, this character is also Deputy Prime Minister, and going by our recent history, he could very well be Prime Minister one day.
If a two-bit disbarred country lawyer could easily dupe Muhyiddin, imagine him as Prime Minister negotiating with his counterpart across the causeway on selling our precious fresh water, or his participating in crucial international treaty conferences! That is a scary thought.
The brief Permatang Pasir election campaign revealed more than we ever wished to know about this crooked lawyer and his equally slimy personal life. While Rohaizat was disbarred by the Bar Council, he could still practice in the Sharia court. This is the same court that recently sentenced a young mother to be whipped for drinking beer. That should tell us something of the ‘Islamic’ (at least the Malaysian variety) standard of ethics.
To me, the Permatang Pasir campaign revealed more about UMNO, specifically its culture and top leaders. What has been revealed should scare all Malaysians who are concerned with our nation’s future.
Muhyiddin’s ethical blind spot was disturbing enough. More reprehensible was his performance during the campaign. He fell into the predictable pattern of past ambitious UMNO leaders-in-waiting. There he was, freely and irresponsibly playing up the race card, eerily reminding me of Najib’s and Hishammuddin’s brandishing of their kerises. Aspiring UMNO leaders like Muhyiddin have this primitive urge to display their chauvinistic manhood during tough election campaigns. That is their culture.
Unfortunately, as the party still garnered over a third of the votes (presumably Malay votes), UMNO leaders will continue with their bigotry. Now they are blaming non-Malay (specifically Chinese) voters for abandoning Barisan.
UMNO of The Future
To be sure there were a few – very few, in fact only two – UMNO leaders who spoke out against Rohaizat, and did so early. Mahathir wondered out loud whether a liar could be a people’s representative. Tengku Razaleigh was much more forceful, “… UMNO is projecting the image that it lives by a different moral code from the rest of Malaysia.” “Either that, or this is the best we can do,” he continued. Indeed!
Alas, both Mahathir and the Tengku represent UMNO’s past. To gauge UMNO’s future, look at the leaders of its Youth and Puteri wings. They not only endorsed Rohaizat but aggressively campaigned for him. I would like to ask UMNO Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin specifically whether he feels that a disbarred lawyer and a man who lied about his wife is a worthy representative of UMNO.
The situation with UMNO Puteri is even more interesting. I wonder how those pretty young girls in their distinctive pink baju kurong feel about campaigning for a man who took a second wife secretly, and then lied about it publicly. The Puteris’ stand-by-your-man stance may be praiseworthy in other circumstances but not when your man is a cheat and a crook. Instead of campaigning for him, Puteri members should be contacting the second wife to see whether her man had been providing for her.
The Permatang Pasir by-election could have been a splendid opportunity for UMNO to shine if only their leaders had been smarter and pursued a radically different tack. Imagine if upon knowing the sordid details of Rohaizat, UMNO leaders publicly admitted their mistake and demanded their candidate withdraw on pain of being expelled from the party.
Yes that would give PAS a walk-over, but that would not have changed the end results. Besides, UMNO had done this a few months earlier in the Penanti by-election. Think, however, the message the party and its senior leaders would have sent to their members and Malaysians generally, and the impact that would have on all. UMNO would have won a great moral victory. As it is, UMNO lost the election as well as the moral high ground. The party had set a new low on what is acceptable.
Judging from the post-election comments by UMNO leaders, from Najib Razak and Muhyiddin on down, UMNO has yet to learn this pertinent lesson from this latest debacle. The party still harbors the delusion that even its flawed candidates could still win.
The next time around expect UMNO to reach even lower to a new bottom in their search for talent. I must admit it would be difficult to find someone more unworthy than a disbarred lawyer. Trust me,however, UMNO will find one.